Week 3- Quarters and Plans

Our team poses for the camera at Quarters.

Our designs truly began to take shape this week as our Quarters walkarounds took place on Wednesday and we crystallized into one idea in the latter half of the week. We’re starting to see how this will all come together, and that’s really exciting!

Miscellaneous Updates

Our team logo is now finalized, and comes in two versions: with and without our team name. Well done to Ivy!

We now have a production schedule, and have all decided to go to IAAPA. This means that in place of the week before Thanksgiving, we will work during Fall Break for a Week 7.5 of our project. We’ll need to plan ahead for faculty and staff having time off; for instance, it would be prudent to have any technology purchases made well before Fall Break so that we aren’t relying on the IT team to receive them in the mail and help us set them up. 

Our physical production schedule in the project room.

The BQ Era (Before Quarters)

Our plan going into quarters was to present the three ideas we landed on at the end of Week 2, each emphasizing a different aspect of the project. Because they were all so different, it allowed us to get faculty feedback on many different aspects of the project without one singular detailed design. 

As presented at Quarters, our three ideas were Cookie Gnomes, Bee Lab, and Dragon’s Exam– our story-forward idea, our interactivity-forward idea, and our hardware-forward idea, respectively. View our slide decks for each idea below! As a note, these are renamed versions of the Keebler Elves Dystopia and Magic Summoning from last week, and a retheming and expansion of the Alienpunk Rave from last week. 

To prepare the presented ideas, we created narrative synopses and storyboards for each one. At the advice of our project instructors, we decided to have each group of faculty walk around the room, where each of our three ideas would be at a separate workstation. Even though we had quite a lot to present, this helped the energy of our Quarters walkarounds stay up, and helped each idea feel different, despite similar aesthetics of each presentation. 

There wasn’t a clear favorite idea among the faculty, which is exactly what we wanted out of our Quarters. Rather than consider feedback for each idea as a binary yes or no, we were able to see what worked for different ideas, and what aspects of each idea made different faculty members like or dislike them. 

We found that each idea had strong components that we needed to synthesize into one idea. With our brains spent after a lengthy presentation and feedback process, it wasn’t until Thursday that we truly settled on one idea. 

The AQ Era (After Quarters)

Our whiteboard, showing a Beat Sheet for this updated dragon experience, from Queue to Post-Show. It also has some notes on what's needed for the project and MVP, and some basic throughput math.

We liked the theming of the Dragon’s Alchemy most, but at Quarters, the faculty strongly encouraged us not to build an animatronic dragon in the middle of the room. An animatronic is simply too high of scope for one semester, never mind one that’s close enough for guests to touch. So, we transformed the dragon animatronic into a dragon puppet, and modified the flow so that the dragon would not appear until near the end of the experience, mimicking what worked about the Cookie Gnomes idea. Our first iteration of a Beat Sheet felt like a huge breakthrough for our experience.

Our classmate Tuesday Becker points a magic wand and smiles in our project room.

We chose to pursue wand-waving based interactions using programmable wands to add a more tactile experience like the Bee Lab. We found a programmable wand educational toy that we are able to code with Python. It uses accelerometers to read what motion the guests are using it to make. On Friday, Ivy brought in her Harry Potter wand from home to see what kinds of interactions feel natural to our classmates and faculty.

One consistent faculty favorite element throughout Quarters was the idea of having small RFID-based interactives throughout the ETC to tie into the main experience in our project room. Using our dragon idea, we’re visualizing these as dragon scales that guests would receive at the end of our experience and tap at touchpoints to see projected dragon animations. 

Going forward, we’re going to need to focus in on the authenticity of this idea. Why are guests doing magic in a dragon’s lair? What kind of magic world do they live in? What are consistent elements and themes we can use throughout the experience? We’re also going to need to decide which of the two available rooms will house the main part of our experience. We hadn’t settled a specific story direction by the end of the week, nor a specific piece of technology, and that’s going to be key for us to make progress next week.

Christine Barnes smiles at the camera.

Luckily, we have an industry expert on our side now. Christine Barnes, an ETC alum in the themed entertainment industry, met with us on Friday, and agreed to keep serving as a resource for us throughout the semester! In just an hour, we got a huge amount of feedback and inspiration from her. She will actually be in Pittsburgh in just a few weeks, and will be spending several days with us working on all aspects of the project. In the short term, her advice to think of the narrative design in a more modular way will help us immensely to iterate the story without breaking it. We also got a lot of ideas for show elements that we can incorporate into our magic system, and spent some time thinking about specific props that Christine can help us fabricate. We’re looking forward to meeting with her on an ongoing basis, and especially to her ETC visit in two weeks!

Next week, our goals will be to take this idea we’ve settled on, and start running with it. We’ll need more detailed concept art, a puppet design for our dragon, a story that feels authentic and complete, a better sense of what will work technologically, a detailed production schedule… we’re facing an uphill battle going into our fourth week, for sure. But given the amount of progress we’ve made this week, we feel confident that our production will get off to a good start. 


At our Quarters, we were able to synthesize feedback from our three presented ideas into our final idea: a Bluetooth wand, RFID, and puppetry-based collaborative experience set in a mystical fantasy world, with a climactic encounter with a dragon. With the help of our alumni industry resource, Christine Barnes, we’re going into a concrete planning stage and the beginnings of production next week.