Designing an interactive Rocket and a wall panel that makes sounds

Our new Little Play Station for under 5s is proving very popular with our youngest visitors. Creating the area was an exciting challenge and involved working with several external companies to bring our ideas to life. One of these companies was Paragon Creative.

Our previous collaboration, a large track building exercise, was a hit

Our previous collaboration, a large track building exercise, was a hit

We had worked with them in the past to create our popular ‘Build a railway track’ activity and so we approached them with two new ideas for the Little Play Station; a ‘Build Stephenson’s Rocket’ interactive and an interactive ‘trains wall panel’.

Alex Clarke, Modelmaking Department Manager at Paragon Creative, who worked on creating our little Rocket, said:

Our brief was to provide an exhibit which would allow and encourage both children and those with learning difficulties to assemble a replica of George Stephenson’s iconic ‘Rocket’ locomotive. The interactive had to be as faithful to the original as possible and be large enough to allow the builder to climb aboard and take control of the locomotive.

We designed the ‘Rocket’ in 3D CAD software before the components were extracted and machined prior to being assembled by hand. We employed the use of high density polyethylene (HDPE) as the main construction material which provides superb durability and low maintenance demands.

Being designed in the CAD software

Being designed in the CAD software


The completed model, before assembly

“The interactive was to be designed and constructed to be both safe for the target age group to successfully use, as well as tough enough to withstand them using it! The ‘Rocket’ presented us with interesting challenges, particularly in trying to keep the overall weight of each removable component as low as possible while ensuring maximum durability. By drawing on our experience in constructing child-oriented interactives we were able to produce an engaging, dependable ‘Rocket’ that visitors can enjoy for years to come and, we hope, George Stephenson himself would be proud of!

The Rocket being subjected to proper testing!

The Rocket being subjected to proper testing!

Our little Rocket is certainly a favourite with children visiting the Little Play Station.
Chris Nutall, Head of Interactives at Paragon Creative, was involved in creating our interactive ‘trains wall’:

“For the Trains Wall, we were asked to design and build an exhibit that would appeal to young children and aid with early literacy learning, whilst providing a sensory experience through touch and sound. We worked from the National Railway Museum’s beautiful concept design, which uses bold colours (greens, blues, yellows and reds) against a white background for a nice contrast, whilst making each letter unique in its design. From this we designed and built the tactile wall that would display the word ‘Trains’, with each letter accompanied by an image and a speech bubble spelling out what each letter stands for, encouraging emerging readers. The letters A and N both have push buttons that trigger fun sound effects, linked to that letter when pressed.

The wall was designed in 3D CAD and produced by applying a digitally printed graphic. We then added the individually cut letters and items to the wall for a nice three-dimensional effect. Speaker systems and illuminated touch-activated buttons were then wired up into the back of the wall to add the audio effects.”

This interactive is also proving popular with the under 5s (and parents), especially the sound effect buttons!

The finished train wall

The finished train wall

We are really pleased with both the activities and thoroughly enjoyed working with Paragon Creative to develop them. To see them in action pop down to the Little Play Station, open daily, free.

About rozymacaulay

Rozy is Learning Content Developer for the National Railway Museum working on family and schools projects. @rozymac
This entry was posted in Events and Exhibitions, Learning and education and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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