It had been open to the public less than 10 minutes before there were young kids pushing buttons and flicking switches.
And as the noises, colours and dynamic images of the newest installation at Victoria International Airport made impressions on young eyes, it might also have instilled some understanding among older visitors about the kind of technological innovation Victoria has inspired for more than a century.
That’s by design, said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council, the driving force behind the Tectoria Innovation Station, unveiled in the arrivals lounge Monday.
Gunn said the $50,000 display — which has the feel of a mad scientist’s lab a century ago — is what happens when you ask the tech sector how it would like to show itself off.
“I said I’d build an exhibit that was fun for kids while being enlightening and informative for adults,” he said, adding that the early branding exercises that established the Tectoria name and efforts to promote Greater Victoria’s tech sector highlighted the region’s natural and historical advantages.
“We wanted [the Innovation Station] to do that and tell the story of innovation and entrepreneurship on top of that,” Gunn said.
The display, which takes up about 330 square feet of space at the northeast end of the arrivals area, is an interactive exhibit that takes people on a journey through the region’s technological history.
There are diagrams and timelines showing the length and breadth of the region’s history of flight and ship-building enterprises.
Light boxes and dioramas highlight such star innovative companies as Axys Technologies and Viking Air, along with links to a website (whYYJ.ca) offering information for anyone considering Victoria as a new home or place to invest.
“A lot of people come to Victoria and fall in love with the climate and lifestyle, and they get a sense of some of the character and feel of the place, but they often don’t understand the opportunity that exists here when they leave,” Gunn said.
Like the tech sector itself, which operates fairly quietly, the display is understated. That too is by design.
“It’s not an overt or blatant shouting message. It’s just a: ‘Hey, did you know?’ And those ‘hey, did you knows’ tend to get repeated a lot more than any shouting message,” Gunn said.
Artist Russell Papp started work on the design in April 2016. He wanted to create something that would intrigue people of all ages.
He also wanted it to be dynamic and capable of being changed and adapted to suit new events with the evolution of the tech sector.
The project is a result of a financial partnership including the South Island Prosperity Project and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
Emilie de Rosenroll, executive director of South Island Prosperity Project, said the steam-punk-inspired laboratory showcases the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in Greater Victoria.
It highlights history that might come as news to many people, de Rosenroll said.
“We are particularly proud of the website, which is a way we can make some conversions here for people that might come and take a look and see [Victoria is] a place they can come and work,” she said.
“They may not have seen this place as somewhere with so much opportunity.”
The space was donated by the airport authority, as something of a thank you to the tech sector.
“This is a great way of showcasing the tech sector in the region. And if there’s a way we can do that and give back, it’s the right thing to do,” said airport chief executive Geoff Dickson. “We are more than happy to [donate space] because tech has been a big reason and driver behind our growth.”
Dickson said Victoria International Airport sees more than 1.86 million people come through its gates annually, and has witnessed 20 per cent growth over the last three years.