REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (June 29, 2022) – The National Museum of the United States Army is the first of its kind. And the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Army Game Studio is honored to have been part of creating the only comprehensive portrayal of more than 247 years of Army history.
And not just its software, Army Game Studio built the hardware for multiple displays in the museum, located adjacent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Originally scheduled to open in June 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening to Veterans Day 2020. But AGS’ involvement goes back a decade further -- some would say by accident and some would say it was serendipity.
“When the Army was designing some of the interior features of the museum, Army Game Studio caught their eye because of our work on the ‘America’s Army’ game,” said Jay Olive, AGS project manager. “Their call was unexpected, and the beginning of a great collaboration to contribute to a once-in-a lifetime project for the Army.”
AGS might be best known for America’s Army, a series of video games developed for the Army, but their portfolio is much more expansive. The team had worked with museums in the past but the scope of the National Army Museum project would be unlike any project they had undertaken.
Initially, AGS was tasked with providing the software for the Experiential Learning Center, a high-tech, learning space that provides hands-on geography, science, technology, engineering and math learning activities exploring Soldier skills used every day in the Army. As the design and planning for the museum progressed, AGS work expanded to develop Fort Discover, offering G-STEM activities designed for the museum’s youngest visitors. AGS also created and constructed the Army Theater, the Medal of Honor Experience and the Nisei Soldier Experience. The studio also continues to run the museum’s website, which is a mission in and of itself.
Building the Army Theater, a 300-degree, immersive theater experience with state-of-the-art projectors and surround sound, was particularly rewarding – and challenging, Olive said. AGS integrated vibration motors into the seating platform and fans into the ceiling to further support video effects, such as a helicopter wash and tanks rumbling past. The structure was built in the project subcontractor’s parking lot in Los Angeles and then taken apart and transported across the country to the museum and reassembled.
“The theater space in the museum couldn't support the weight requirements from the ceiling or wall structures, so we had to fabricate a superstructure out of steel and build a room within a room to support all of the sound and video equipment,” Olive said. “The interactives we created were in our wheelhouse, but the theater and the Medal of Honor Experience were a whole new experience for us.”
The Medal of Honor Experience was especially poignant for the team, Olive said. The AGS team worked closely with Army historians to ensure even the smallest details were accurate. That level of care was present throughout the project with the museum being the largest mobilization for the AGS to date.
“The amount of effort and the care that the museum team invested in crafting this museum was obvious and wonderful to be a part of,” Olive said. “Now it is exciting to see visitors engage with these different experiences and it’s rewarding for AGS to be part of preserving these Soldier stories about service and sacrifice.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.