Pirate Navigator

Overview | Team | Role & Responsibilities | Skills


We designed a museum exhibit that engaged participants in 17th Century navigation techniques. Set in the form of a pirate treasure hunt, participants found artifacts and learned little-known facts about historical pirates. The project took seven weeks to complete.


We started by visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis to find out for ourselves what qualities engaging various exhibits had on people. We found that:

  • Immersive environments made for highly-engaging experiences (especially role-playing)
  • Engaging experiences led to higher educational value
  • Immersive and engaging experiences were highly enjoyable

As this project required full consideration for universal accessibility to our exhibit, we also researched and prototyped three different disabilities (cataracts, tinnitus and ADHD) that each team member would experience in order to draw design insights.


From our observations, we determined that the core of our design would need to be immersive,  enjoyable and educational, as well as incorporate role-play. After brainstorming various themes, we decided to do a pirate treasure hunt using navigational techniques employed by pirates and sailors of the 17th Century.

First Prototype

After researching various historical navigation techniques, we made a quick prototype of an indoor exhibit that employed a modified version of “dead reckoning”: navigation by “the stars” and determining distance by human paces. After several rounds of usability evaluations, we realized that our method would require tools similar to those used in an actual dead reckoning technique, as pacing distances varied from person to person. We also realized that familiarity with the space we were using for our prototype skewed the participant’s experience.

Second Prototype

We decided to provide participants with a compass and a spool of knotted rope (inspired by a chip log) , and relocated our prototype to an outdoor location. We tested two pairs and a group of four to determine collaborative qualities in the experience. The tests were done both in the day and night to determine the prototype’s feasibility in various lighting conditions.

The results were very favorable; teams enjoyed the experience, and suggested that we expand the scale and difficulty of the treasure hunt, improve initial training of the navigational tools, and introduce mini-puzzles to be solved before revealing clues.


Chris Basham
Pan Yue

Role & Responsibilities

Facilitator – led the team through the design process
Videographer – shot and edited experience design video


Usability testing
Video editing/animation