Emerging Tech Takes Flight at the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum
After acquiring Muriel—the world’s last remaining Lockheed Electra 10-E and identical model to the plane Amelia Earhart piloted on her final fligh—the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation’s longtime vision for a first-of-its-kind museum took flight with Dimensional Innovations (DI) in the pilot’s seat.
Foundation stakeholders turned to DI and DI Build, as well as content partners Turnkey Education and Museum EXP, to create the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum (AEHM), a tech-focused, educational, and inspirational exhibit inside the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport.
Visitors of all ages are invited to explore Earhart’s remarkable story while immersing themselves into the nostalgic art deco era and early years of flight. Rooted in ambition, curiosity, and adventure, AEHM dares visitors to dream big like Earhart to unlock their own unique potential.
While she may look like the real deal, this lifelike portrayal of Earhart took over 1,000 combined hours of extensive research, artificial intelligence (AI) technology, and cutting-edge computation to create. To bring this unique experience to life, the DI team used innovative technology that combines archival photos and videos with human talent to ensure this animated portrayal of Earhart was as charismatic, authentic, and realistic as possible.
Inside the gallery, the journey begins where Earhart began hers—as a young girl with a pioneering spirit and hunger for adventure. Real-life stories, audio interactives, digital kiosks, and imagery tell the educational and comprehensive story of Earhart’s curious youth. Visitors can flip through a digital scrapbook, listen to accounts of Earhart’s relatives using an antique telephone, or read what some of her most famous friends had to say about the aviation pioneer.
After a young Earhart was told she couldn’t ride a roller coaster, she went home and built her own. Always seeking another thrilling adventure, Earhart experimented with her homemade roller coaster, making the appropriate adjustments to achieve a longer ride. A modern roller coaster, although much more complicated than Earhart’s roller coaster, sits on the gallery floor where visitors are encouraged to manually crank the cars up the track and watch them glide down and around for a visual lesson in physics and mechanics.
The digital, augmented reality (AR) interactive, Careers, invites visitors to visualize themselves in numerous historical and modern-day professions that Earhart employed to support her passion for flying. Whether choosing a pilot, nurse, fashion designer, or mechanic, participants step in front of a gesture-reactive screen. Then, a digital image of their face is overlaid on a lifelike avatar that not only mirrors their movements but shows how they’d look in those professions’ uniforms.
Cleared for Takeoff
A comprehensive timeline wall and 3D holograms illustrate the evolution and mechanical innovation of flight—all in comparison to Earhart’s life. Visitors can explore the ins and outs of two aircraft engines through a capacitive display. When participants touch one of the mounted engine pieces, an animated illustration will appear on the screen above to showcase how it functions. Visitors ready to see it all in action can simply press the button to watch and hear the engines roar!
Visitors can put their precision and mechanical eyes to the test in an interactive quest to restore Muriel. Players must use the prop rivet gun to hover over each blue “ice box rivet” until it turns white before moving to the next. Whoever secures the most rivets with the most precision wins.
Visitors can also crouch into the pilot’s seat inside an imitation Muriel cockpit equipped with flight controls to get a real sense of Earhart’s cramped flying quarters. Outside the flight deck is a real-life Garmin G1000 avionics suite and touchscreen dashboard where visitors can see the advancements since Earhart’s era. The nearby “Feminine Feats” section features women in aviation who continue to prove their passion and conviction for flight.
Above the Clouds
The hangar’s mezzanine puts visitors amongst the stars for further exploration through digital, visual, and hands-on interactives. Amelia’s Guiding Lights unveils how Earhart’s navigator, Fred Noonan, used constellations and celestial cues to navigate flight paths.
Visitors can learn and practice celestial navigation using a replica sextant, analyze different cloud and atmospheric layers, and get an up-close look at some of the authentic tech and tools of her time.
The mezzanine also explores the age-old question—what happened to Earhart on that fateful flight? Popular theories of her mysterious disappearance line the wall, ultimately leaving visitors to vote in real time on which theory they believe using the touchscreen monitor.
Fly like Amelia
Finally, visitors can put their flying skills to the test in a virtual reality (VR) flight experience. Each station is equipped with two steering yokes and VR headsets. Players embark on a digital yet lifelike flight path of Earhart’s, piloting to either land successfully in Paris, France or reroute to Derry, Ireland.
The journey concludes inside the museum’s mini theater, where closing video channels AEHM’s key message of inspiration, dedication, and perseverance. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to dream big, challenge the status quo, and reach for the sky—just like Earhart did.
Learning Through Play
DI wanted the museum not only to be innovative and inspiring, but also historically accurate and educational with an emphasis on STEM disciplines. We worked alongside Turnkey Education to collaborate with student and teacher focus groups to better understand how the museum could engage students of all ages, particularly those in remote, rural communities while meeting National Curriculum, Kansas Curriculum, and Missouri Standards of Learning.
As a result, two teacher resource documents are available pre-visit. Every element of the museum is designed to be a fun and academic experience that takes students’ knowledge of flight and dreams of possibility in their own lives to new heights—an opportunity they can’t get inside the classroom.
“Partnering with DI on this state-of-the-art history and STEM museum, we’ll be able to help give a glimpse into her [Amelia Earhart’s] life in a way never before experienced,” concluded Karen Seaberg, AEHM founder and president.
Utilizing VR, hands-on learning, interactive games, and more, the museum’s blend of immersive exhibits transcends the typical educational experience. It draws visitors into Earhart’s bold world of exploration, curiosity, and wonder for an adventure they’ll never forget.