Once the exhibit space for Science On a Sphere® has been designed according to
the guidelines in the First Steps document, the next step to
take is selecting the equipment to be used. All of the equipment for Science On
a Sphere®, with the exception of the sphere itself, is off-the-shelf equipment
that can be purchased from numerous sites. A generic list of
equipment is available, however the needs of each site vary,
so it is important to discuss with the SOS distributors the equipment needs for
There are very precise computer specifications for the
computers that operate SOS. Sites are encouraged to buy two computers - one
operational computer, and one spare. Both computers are configured identically
for easy replacement should the operational computer encounter any problems.
The computers generate a fair amount of heat, so it’s important that the
computers are kept in a well ventilated area.
The computers are connected to one another through a private gigabit network
that is used to sync the computers. An 8 port gigabit network switch and Cat 5e
or Cat 6 cabling are required to connect the computers to the network. The
projectors can also be connected to the network to allow for remote control
through the main SOS computer and iPad remote app. It is important that the
right cabling be used to ensure proper system operation.
Typically the computers, network switch, and components are stored in one
central location, along with a keyboard, mouse, monitor and KVM. DVI video
extenders with Cat 6a cables are used to connect the
projectors to the computers. The cable length for the video extenders needs to
be less than 200’. DVI cables are used to connect the extenders to the
projectors and the computers, so make sure to have enough DVI cables. When
considering a computer location, temperature and air flow of the space needs to
be taken into account. The computers generate a fair amount of heat and need
to remain cool, so they need to be stored in a location with good ventilation.
Conditions with poor ventilation can lead to overheating for the computers
which can cause failures in the hard drive, motherboard, graphics cards,
processors and other components. It is convenient, though not required to be
able to see the sphere from the computer location for programming purposes.
An audio system serves to enhance the Science On a Sphere® exhibit by allowing
the site to play narrated pieces and use microphones for presenters. The
details of the audio setup are left up to each site, but specifications for a
reference audio system are provided. This
basic system includes a mixer, a microphone, and four speakers. The speakers
are typically mounted near each of the projectors and are positioned to point
in towards the sphere. When designing the SOS exhibit, it is important to
consider how sound will travel between the SOS exhibit and any surrounding
exhibits, and to plan accordingly.
In order to perform projector alignment of the sphere and give live
presentations, a remote control is required. The remote control available for
SOS is an iPad app. For this to work there, there
must be Wi-Fi access to the SOS computer. Either an existing Wi-Fi network can
be used, or a dedicated network can be set up for SOS. For the most reliable
connection, a dedicated Wi-Fi network for SOS is recommended.
The projectors draw about 20 amps and the rest of the equipment, including the
computers, draws about 7 amps. A UPS is suggested for the computers to protect
them from power spikes and bumps. Sites should consider putting projectors on
UPS units as well, especially if the site has unreliable power. Power should be
readily accessible from each of the projector locations, as well as at the
central computer location.
Another nice feature to add is an internet line. This serves several purposes.
First, it allows the site to automatically download real-time data for display
on the sphere. It also lets the sites automatically download weekly updates to
the data catalog and stay up to date with software upgrades. Second, if the
site’s security permits it, it allows for remote support. Internet speeds of at
a minimum 3-4 Mbps are suggested. A Wi-Fi router is part of the equipment list
so that a wireless network can be set up to allow for remote control of the
sphere with an iPad.
Many sites choose to customize their Science On a Sphere® exhibit through the
addition of touch-screen kiosks. A kiosk from the NOAA SOS team is available.
More information about the NOAA SOS Public Kiosk is available in the Public
Kiosk User Manual.