Beckman Helps Make Virtual River Cruise Come to Life

Thanks to a generous gift from the family of a former civil engineering professor and the work of the Beckman Institute's Hank Kaczmarski, Champaign's Orpheum Children's Science Museum has a new exhibit that gives kids and other visitors a tugboat pilot's eye-view of Illinois waterways.

Orpheum Children's Museum
The Museum has announced the dedication of the SS Ackermann, a virtual, interactive tugboat that lets visitors take the captain's seat and sail along a simulated, changing river scene.

The exhibit was created with a $15,000 gift from the family of the late William C. Ackermann, a civil engineering professor at the University of Illinois, head of the Illinois State Water Survey, and leader in the field of water resources and other hydrology issues.

Kaczmarski, head of Beckman's Integrated Systems Laboratory, said the exhibit is an example of how educational outreach programs and collaborations with partners outside the University of Illinois and the Beckman Institute can benefit everyone involved.

Hank Kaczmarski"The SS Ackerman is more than a visualization of travel down the Mississippi River, it is a metaphor for collaboration at the University," Kaczmarski said. "With hardware from the Beckman Institute and software from the NCSA, the tugboat touches on all four pillars of the University: it educates through the realistic hydrology underlying the imagery, it involves research into advanced data visualization in a non-academic setting, it provides outreach to the community beyond the bi-annual Beckman Open House, and it has economic development aspects by using patented UIUC software."

In addition to piloting a virtual tugboat using a control panel, visitors to the SS Ackermann can listen to recordings of an actual tugboat captain, tune to live weather broadcasts, and learn about geography, water safety, and navigation.

The Orpheum Children's Science Museum is located at 346 N. Neil in Champaign.