Anything's Possible Climber Scale Model
By Michael Nelson
We were challenged by the new El Paso Children's Museum and Science Center to create a scale model of a feature attraction of the museum, a-one-of-a-kind, four story climbing structure that will challenge kids of all ages.
Type: Commercial, Social Impact, Artistic, Education
What inspired you or what is the idea that got you started?
We were first approached to work on this project by a local philanthropic organization, The El Paso Community Foundation. The Foundation is the driving force behind the new El Paso Children’s Museum and Science Center project. They contracted renowned design firm Gyroscope, Inc, and award-winning architecture firm Snohetta to design a state-of-the-art museum for the El Paso Borderplex. We at Fab Lab El Paso were asked to design and build a scale model of the four-story “Anything’s Possible Climber” structure that would be a focal point of the museum. Based on the complexity of the structure, the teams wanted to showcase and explain how the structure would fit within the museum footprint, and show potential funders and the community the amount of effort going into the world-class museum. This would be a perfect opportunity to showcase our maker skill sets and inspire students to reach for their dreams and goals, as we will be part of the museum overseeing the onsite makerspace.
What is your project about and how does it work?
Our project was completed in over a year, beginning in early 2020. We held many virtual meetings with Gyroscope's design staff to go over the structural renderings and architecture blueprints and fully learn what they expected. The idea was to create an unconventional architectural model; to feature a level of detail that would showcase the different specialty materials used throughout the actual build, allow viewers to understand the project's complexity, how sections connected, and show the immense size of the structure. We were also asked to create a display podium and travel case to house the model as well. We spent the first months prototyping and testing processes, then Cad modeled every part, and prepared files for 3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC machining. Over two months, we completed the main portion of the build including hand finishing and painting, then we 3D scanned children and printed scaled versions of them to add to the model.
What did you learn by doing this project?
This was the first large-scale maker project for Lead Engineer Adam, and myself since we began working at Fab Lab. This was a major learning experience for both of us, from working with clients, managing budgets and time tracking, to the full scope of fabrication; 3D modeling, FDM and SLA 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC machining, post-processing, hand finishing, painting, assembly, and 3D scanning. We quickly learned the difference between industry-standard file formats that were totally different for design, architecture, and fabrication. We learned many new techniques and processes for creating complex geometries, like flattening out parts to print over fabric, then assembling the pieces to create mimic the appearance of metal and fabric meshes that will create the actual climbing structure in real life. We also covered basic woodworking skills and acrylic welding to create the transport case and display podium.
What impact does your project have on others as well as yourself?
This project shares our love of education and making with our community. The name for the new museum is “La Nubé” Spanish for The Cloud, with the tagline “The Shape of Imagination” The idea of a cloud has many connotations. Just like the clouds, perspective and imagination is unique to the individual observer, the museum aims at having space for every learner to imagine, play, and grow. La Nubé sits on the world’s largest binational bilingual borderplex situated on the international border with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The new museum will be fully bilingual and features exhibits, learning experiences, and challenges like the Anything’s Possible Climber which allow learners to grow at their own pace. Clouds soar to amazing heights and know no boundaries. We are a border community that spans both sides of the border, and we dream that our students flourish on both sides. Viewing the model, we hope students' imaginations will soar to new heights in anticipation of the museum opening.