Deep Dive

The Fossil Pit

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer
The spectacle of a completed dinosaur skeleton re-animating into a life size, roaring, stomping, dinosaur

A Digital Fossil Dig

In the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer park, the team really wanted to create a unique fossil digging experience for families – one that allowed several people in a group to work together in a sort of scavenger hunt, teach the group a little about how real fossil digs work, and to reward the team effort by bringing a dinosaur to life – at life size!

To be sure this attraction was operationally sound, we determined we could not use props of bones, so we needed a digital solution. I used wireless RFID technology to create an entertaining, one-of-a-kind fossil hunt experience, where guests from around the park enjoy the spectacle of a completed dinosaur skeleton re-animating into a life size, roaring, stomping, dinosaur on the massive projection screen.

Software Engineering

As Creative Technologist on the project, I prototyped the RFID system, writing in C while developing an Arduino-based RFID check-in system, in which I deployed 320 unique Arduino units in the facility. I also developed a Node.js (JavaScript) check-in system based on the Raspberry PI, which allows multiple people to scan RFID wristbands at one time.

To connect the Arduino-based and RaspberryPI-based systems with the Unity3D software I directed, and Unreal Engine projection system, I wrote a Node.js-based server and published a robust API that was used by the 15 park-wide attractions and many vendors on the project.

Experience Designer, Creative Director, Concept Team, Interactive Director

Shenyang, China  
Metepec, Mexico

iP2Entertainment, Amsterdam


Research & Concepting

As part of the core-concept team, I began to design this attraction with sketches, building up to a guest flow that I felt could work to satisfy the requirements... and be fun!

I did extensive research into guest flow, building limitations, and learned a lot about dinosaurs and paleontologists.


The focus of the prototyping for The Fossil Pit was centered around how the 120 digital fossils would communicate to the 15 touch-screen stations that were planned in the experience. I prototyped the server component in Node.js, wrote the Arduino code to drive the digital fossils, and wrote the API that the touch-screen application used to communicate to the server and the Unreal engine running the large projection display.

Creative & Technical Direction

Part of my duties for the entire park concept was acting as creative director, as well as technically directing all the digital activities and attractions.

For The Fossil Pit, this included creative-directing the visual theming of the attraction, writing the character scripts, the development of a custom PCB for the digital fossils, developing the brand, the wristband designs, creative and technically directing the touch-screen experience (Unity) and the large projection display (Unreal), technically directing the development server functionality, choosing the correct material to simulate dirt in the pits, guiding the marketing teams in China and Mexico, creative-directing the development of related merchandise, and much, much more.

A nice place for families. The attractions are fun for everyone! It's a very good approach for kids to science.
- Park visitor in Metepec, Mexico

Interactive Direction

As a digital creative director and creative technologist, I have a broad view of how all the digital interactive, and practical pieces fit together, so when the touch-screen portions of an attraction need to be designed, and guided from UX through development, I find that my experience is key to getting all the team members (and teams) to deliver on the visual, technical, and experiential promises we make to the client and guests.

For the Fossil Pit, I directed the UX and the visual design of all the digital portions of the attractions, as well as technically managed the teams integrating all software.


I spent 5 weeks in Shenyang China, and 5 weeks in Metepec Mexico, directing teams of technical and creative contractors to assist me with installing the components for The Fossil Pit (among other attractions). I creative-directed theming contractors on execution of props and physical components of the attraction space, and personally installed and oversaw installation of all electronic and interactive elements of the attraction, configured the servers that run the attraction, configured each station in the attraction with a unique set of digital dinosaur skeletons, and trained park staff on operating procedures.


After years of planning, concepting, prototyping, designing, coding, and months of install and testing, the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer park opened in Shenyang China, with The Fossil Pit attraction becoming one of the most popular attractions in the center, with its booming T-Rex that can be heard (and felt) throughout the entire park several times a day! The Metepec Mexico location opened a few months later.

I really loved seeing this project - after years in the making - come to life. Watching kids and their families enjoy playing together, laughing, being surprised and excited by the life-size dinosaurs stomping into the park, this was the highlight of the project for me!