Mission to STEM is an interactive app which weaves historically significant NASA artifacts together in a single mission. The app uses augmented reality, virtual reality, video production, and interactive game design to involve visitors in meaningful interactions with gallery artifacts .
The Mission to STEM app brings the museum's Apollo space capsule to life with 360° panoramas. Visitors examine parts of the capsule which are typically inaccessible to the public while completing a mission-critical task.
Visitors use augmented reality to "find" a rover tucked inside a gigantic and historically significant artifact: the Mars Airbag Landing System. An identical set of airbags cushioned the fall of the Pathfinder rover and allowed it to land safely on Mars.
Sensor Zone invites visitors to explore sensors of all kinds - pressure sensors under foot, light sensors in walls, and distance sensors overhead - to trigger light, sound, and motion in whimsical and real-world settings.
The Sensor Maze challenges visitors to explore sensors along a winding path through the museum by trying to make it through the maze without tripping any sensors or by deliberately finding and setting off all of the hidden sensors. Stoplights change from red to green and back again, sound effects blare, and lights flash as children navigate the maze.
Sensors embedded in furniture and hidden under the rug transform a living space into a whimsical form of home automation. Children trigger music and lights, and even cause a disco ball to spin, simply by moving about the room. Spontaneous dancing is a frequent occurrence in this wacky, high-tech clubhouse.
Hellenga Projects was awarded Patent #9,782,686 for a "kit for electrifying a system of bricks in a brick building system." This "Brickwiring" system can transform LEGO baseplates into functional circuit boards and breadboards. It enables the creation of quick-connect circuit blocks for the classroom and offers more durability than wiring kits sold for use in lighting up LEGO creations.
Electrical components can be attached to - or embedded in - an assembly of bricks without soldering and without wires. The clutch power of LEGO is sufficient to make a good electrical connection. Bricks press the conductive tape against the electrical contacts.
The storytelling power of LEGO gives children a compelling reason to master circuit layout as they build original LEGO creations with hidden electrical paths and connections.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR – 2012 to Present
Perform strategic planning, conceptual development, fundraising, and project management for clients pursuing major exhibition initiatives. Manage in-house teams and external design resources to deliver compelling learning experiences which engage audiences, attract funding, and drive attendance. Collaborate with museum associations to communicate best practices in publications and conference presentations.
Great Lakes Science Center – Cleveland, OH
Oversaw Mission to Mars project. Led multimedia vendors and in-house staff in story development and beta-testing for mobile app. Space missions in the NASA Glenn Visitor Center guided visitors through completion of augmented reality and virtual reality challenges featuring NASA mission artifacts. Wrote exhibit description for successful $1-million NASA proposal.
The Discovery Museum of Acton – Acton, MA
Articulated experience goals and translated master plan into exhibit concepts for several projects opening in the new facility, March 2018. Led story development and early conceptual planning based on key research findings on early brain development, math anxiety, best practices for inclusive design, and creative outdoor play. Won four consecutive grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services totaling $500K.
The Works – Bloomington, MN
Researched and developed strategic planning recommendations for engineering museum’s Board of Directors. Outlined key trends in technology innovation, engineering education, and museum visitation. Mentored staff from concept through installation of Sensor Zone, which invited visitors to explore sensors by triggering lights and sounds in a life-sized maze, a high-tech club house, and other exhibit stations.
Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education – Washington, D.C.
Managed team of senior museum professionals to produce The Principal Investigator's Guide: Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Education, an online guide for informal STEM education projects. Presented findings at the National Science Foundation convening (2012).
Other clients include DuPage Children's Museum, Science Museum of Minnesota, Association for Science-Technology Centers, Association of Children's Museums, Harold Washington Public Library, Aurora Public Library, Glen Ellyn Public Library, and Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts.
PROFESSIONAL MAKER AND INVENTOR – 2014 to 2019
Invented and patented paper-thin circuits which snap under bricks. Used storytelling power of LEGO to make DIY electronics more appealing and meaningful to children (especially girls). Presented interactive prototypes at Maker Faires and LEGO conventions, and at conferences hosted by LEGO Education, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association of Libraries, and the Association of Science-Technology Centers.