Ten teen girls recently presented a showcase of their work designing Augmented Reality (AR) Experiences to a standing-room-only crowd of 30 people in the Fallout Shelter at Waterfall Arts.

The AR Girls project is a collaborative effort among the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Oregon State University Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, University of Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and Waterfall Arts.

Augmented Reality is a cutting edge technology in which users engage with hybrid media content, delivered through a computer or mobile device that has been programmed to coordinate and/or overlay over images from the real world, like Pokemon Go.

The AR Girls began working on their interactive digital stories in August during a two-week Summer Intensive where they learned to work in teams with science professionals to design games and create all the graphic and media content to program interactive stories.

The girls worked with local community professionals Tom King from the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, John Tipping from Lotic, Stacia Hoover, independent science researcher, and Rebecca Clark Uchenna from the Island Institute to learn more about a variety of natural and environmental phenomena.

Art Educator Heather Marlow led them through the process of designing storyboards, writing content and creating all the media art that they simultaneously programmed in an AR tool developed at the University of Wisconsin's Field Day Lab.

The girls spent the fall working on a slideshow presentation about their experience designing their interactive games called Lobster Quest, Plastic Punchers, Beach Cleanup and The Fish Game.

On Oct. 20, they presented their slideshow, explaining how they learned to create hybrid digital stories about place-based topics relevant to their local community. They also invited the audience to play the games they made.

Afterward, members of the audience were invited to walk down to the footbridge on the Passagassawakeag River, where the girls led tours of their AR experiences via iPhones and iPads. The girls also collected feedback about their work, confirming both the challenges and successes of their games, as well as their ability to communicate the topics and ideas that were important to them.

One member of the audience expressed surprise "to learn that so much plastic is not recycled!" Another audience member said, "It was inspiring to see how easy it is to make a difference," and "these kids are passionate about the earth."

Stay tuned to learn more about the AR Girls as they continue to meet into December to learn more about interactive digital art and meet with design professionals actively engaged in that work.

To learn more about the program, visit mmsa.org/ar-girls.