My family and I just got home from vacation through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi and though I didn't get as much caching is as I would have liked, they were kind enough to visit the GPS Adventures Exhibit: U.S. Space & Rocket Center http://coord.info/GC510BJ in Huntsville, AL with me while we were on the road.
We spent a good portion of our morning and early afternoon there. The kids and wife did the events (rides, rock climbing, g-force, IMAX, etc...) and I did all the caching stuff but they did humor me by doing the GPS Maze with me and since they had previously done one in Tennessee a few years ago they breezed through it.
I enjoyed the maze and was able to meet a few geocachers and promote our "hobby/obsession" with a few non-geocachers who seemed interested based on the discussions and caches hidden within the maze as well as the four "non-smiley" caches hidden at the Space Museum.
I spent a fair amount of time educating (at least one member of the) museum staff on what geocaching was and how it worked. Honestly I was frustrated that they knew little about geocaching and they shared with me that they were largely just "thrown" into the exhibit with little to no training at all about geocaching. Honestly, it was a bit embarrassing that this was the case when there were so many kids seemingly interested in the maze and this "thing" called geocaching.
I did meet, within the maze, a couple of cachers from the Atlanta, GA area who drove over that morning for a day trip to visit the exhibit and knew without a doubt I was a "real" cacher when they found me writing down trackable codes from the bottom of trackables in a sealed case which were in most cases not visible otherwise. I'm pretty sure they shared a bit of frustration with me in the lack of knowledge around us, as we spent a fair amount of time chatting and found the geocompany refreshing! (Kind of like a mini event or something!)
Anyway, long story short (as if I can do that, HA!) I'd like to bring this exhibit to Houston!
With as many geocachers as we have here in the Houston area, I'm thinking we could easily volunteer our time and truly make the event what Groundspeak intends for it to be.
I've found some very old threads (pre-2009) here from some that I guess have done some research on the topic previously but would like to refresh the topic here and now (in 2014).
First, I think we need to determine the amount of interest there might be in bringing the event to Houston, and also determine who can volunteer some time to helping make it happen. I know we are all limited on time, but I'll try my best to dedicate some time and research efforts to coordinate the effort if I can get some help in securing funding and a location, etc....
Second, it does appear that location is very important. We need a museum spot that affords space for the exhibit, and it appears that the traveling event is roughly 3 to 5 months in span. So we'd need a museum, preferably a children's type museum (I guess) or at least an activities based exhibit type hall to host the event, where there are other activities that can be partnered with so that it's not just the maze. I'm sure there are cachers that will drive for the event (and the smiley) but if we want exposure in the community at large, we'll need to be an attraction as part of a larger attraction. I would think we would largely want the event to be located in an area that is also heavily populated with "real" caches that are unique and some of the better examples of what caching is all about.
Third, there appears to be a large funding need, payable to Minotaur Mazes for the event. I've not officially requested info from them, nor from HQ but plan to do that as soon as I finish this post. From the last search on our forum, it appears the cost was somewhere around $50K back in 2009 (Did I read that correctly?). This of course by itself is very prohibitive, but with a grant or corporate sponsorship, we could probably make it work!
ANYONE out there good with grant writing (or requesting grants)? Surely we have someone in our ranks that does this for a living!!
Fourth, and as mentioned in the first item, we would need volunteers. As I mentioned the museum staff in Huntsville, AL was completely (to no fault of their own) uneducated as to what geocaching was and how it really worked! They knew the basics but that was all. It seems they were given a list of about 6 things to say, five of which applied to the maze (1. get your card, 2. figure out the code to get through the doors, 3. stamp your card, 4. move on to the next stage, and 5. find your final location given the coordinates on your card on the big map) and the last one about how there were 4 "boxes" hidden within the park/museum "that really didn't count anyway." So there was honestly little to no information shared with the public about what geocaching was all about, and certainly no excitement nor passion for it.
Further when I did go to find the four "boxes" (non-counting caches), I found coordinates were way off (finding an ammo box should NOT require using the hint!) and the caches weren't even closed in most cases (i.e. ammo can lids "unclamped" and contents on the ground or spilling out as soon as the container was removed from its hiding spot) and certainly not very well maintained (even in their temporary status). I think we as a geocaching community could really knock this out of the ball park and if done right have local cachers volunteer to take individual caching tours of interested folks around to find the caches and educate in the process about what caching is all about (just a thought)!
We may have truly just been there at the wrong time but as frustrating as it was for the museum staff, it was frustrating for me in that our hobby/obsession wasn’t getting a fair shake to those who were experiencing it for the first time and were seemingly interested in it.
Finally, this may all be a bust as far as effort is concerned, as I certainly cannot do it alone, however with this most awesome geocaching community here in Houston (and surrounding areas), I'm thinking together we could make it happen AND make it happen in a most awesome way!!
Please weigh in and give me your thoughts!! Anyone interested in making this happen?
I will post more specifics as I get them, regarding requirements, costs, etc...