The year is 1967. The government has requested your skills to help locate a downed plane somewhere near hostile territory. After getting the mission details in the briefing room, you embark on a journey through the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, looking carefully at various artifacts and discovering clues that will lead you to the downed plane. Test your powers of observation, your problem-solving skills, and your decision-making abilities as you take on the role of intelligence analyst. The game will engage you through hands-on activities and secret codes that lead to an ultimate conclusion. The fate of top-secret technology and missing pilots is in your hands.
The National Air and Space Museum’s new alternate reality game, Smithsonian TechQuest: Eye in the Sky, focuses on four Cold War-era artifacts, two of which were top secret . The game is a new effort to engage younger visitors and direct them to interact with key artifacts. While it targets upper elementary and middle school visitors, Smithsonian TechQuest has proven popular with older visitors as well. Alternate reality gaming is gaining in popularity and other museums and historical venues, such as Colonial Williamsburg and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, have had success with this type of programming. While Smithsonian TechQuest is a self-guided game, meaning players set their own pace, a short introductory briefing is required and is offered at various times throughout the day. Play length is about 60-90 minutes and includes three hands-on activities. At various points in the game, players interact with the Museum's Explainers, high school and college-aged students who engage visitors and add a personal touch to the game. A debriefing at the end allows players to test their map skills and recommend a recovery plan. And they might receive the ultimate award, a medal for service to their country.
Staff from the Museum's Education department developed Smithsonian TechQuest: Eye in the Sky over many months. The hardest challenge was deciding on a storyline. Should it focus on aviation? Space? What time period? Staff settled on the topic of aerial reconnaissance, which allowed them to combine aviation and space artifacts. They consulted museum experts and docents who had personal experience with the featured artifacts. Smithsonian TechQuest promotes active learning and encourages a closer look at the museum’s amazing collection of artifacts. Ultimately it is an adventure that will help players learn about observation and practice critical thinking and have fun in the process.
Eye in the Sky is the first in a planned series of games that will explore National Air and Space Museum artifacts through an engaging storyline and creative use of technology and gaming techniques. Smithsonian TechQuest: Eye in the Sky - a new way to experience the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Tim Grove is Chief of Museum Learning at the National Air and Space Museum. He was assisted by intern Madison Carper.