Dr Anne Le Brocq, a glaciologist at Exeter University, wanted a way to explain to school-age children how seabed scanning technologies are used in Antarctica.
We conceived and built Ocean Scan - a metal box on top of which a lego ship sits. Surrounding the ship is a projected image of the ocean surface. Via glazed panels on the front of the box, users can see that the box contains a seabed made of lego. When the ship is dragged around, a depth map of the seabed below is projected in its wake.
The extruded aluminium box houses a carriage suspended above the seabed. A magnet in the ship pulls the carriage freely around the horizontal plane. Ultrasound scanners in the carriage sample the distance to the seabed as it moves. A Raspberry Pi collates this information and generates the images projected onto the container's surface.
We were delighted that the overall reaction was positive. It was great to see teenagers engage and really understand the concept. As we explained the idea, we could visibly see the kids having a "light bulb" moment. They would stop, look for a moment and then take over the explanation - nine times out of ten, they were right!