The Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory is the first lab of kind in the southern hemisphere. Currently under construction, it will sit 1km beneath the ground and serve as a space for research into particle physics, astronomy, and 21st century underground mining technology. 

Sure to attract swathes of researchers and visitors, the ground-breaking lab needs a visitor centre to educate and engage its guests. It can’t be housed underground for safety reasons. So, ideally, it will ideally simulate an underground environment at an above-ground level.

Stawell Underground asked Design Factory Melbourne (DFM) students to design an immersive, engaging experience for the visitor centre. The design had to:

  • provide an engaging, interactive experience to guests 
  • enable guests to learn about astronomy, dark matter, underground mining technology and other scientific themes 
  • help visitors feel as if they were to travel to the actual lab 1km underground
  • include multiple exhibitions or installations, which can be periodically refreshed.

The solution

Four DFM student teams provided designs in response to this unique challenge

Team Academic Pandemic discovered that hosting a variety of exhibitions allows for a diversified audience. As a result, their concept focused on providing multiple experiences:

  • an art gallery
  • a virtual reality experience
  • a guest speaker auditorium
  • a restaurant.

As all are housed within a three-story circular building, guests can enjoy an open, flowing journey through the centre.

The team hope that the centre will educate, entertain and inspire guests, potentially benefitting the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory through supplying additional funds to support their research and encouraging the next generation to pursue professions in science.

Team Blue Pandas identified that the ideal market for the Immersive Visitor Centre is school groups and catered their solutions to this audience.

They came up with the SUPL band, an interactive wristband which uses an NFC chip, LED lights and haptic feedback to create personalised journeys for students as they interact with the installations. Narrative-driven sections, such as an infographic-filled ramp leading to a simulated replica of the underground lab, further add to the students’ immersion. Lastly, a guideline provides staff with suggestions on curating engaging and memorable installations.

These solutions combine to form an interactive, entertaining experience for guests, and the increased revenue they may provide would sustain the operations of the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory.

Team Straya United sought to provide an experience which minimises boredom and maximises curiosity. Visitors can choose how they navigate and interact with the centre, with a logical flow design reducing congestion and maintaining guest immersion.

The design is eco-friendly and packed with exciting technology and spaces such as virtual reality, Bluetooth-connected headphones for navigation, motion picture rooms, planetariums, game areas and indoor gardens.

Team The G’s final concept consists of multiple elements that help to provide guests with an enjoyable experience:

  • The layout of the centre is constructed with curiosity and accessibility in mind, allowing all visitors to interactively navigate the space.
  • A smartphone app equips users with connectivity and navigation tools.
  • A website provides resources and a place for community.
  • The guest experience includes an augmented reality helmet, providing immersion and entertainment. 
  • DFM-Stawell-Underground2
  • DFM-Stawell-Underground6
  • DFM-Stawell-Underground3

Contributing students

  • Alan L Meideta (Innovation & Design)
  • Brian Kabuki (Entrepreneurship & Finance)
  • James Davies (Entrepreneurship)
  • Kezia Soesilo (Entrepreneurship & Finance)
  • Nadira Kinarisa (Entrepreneurship)

Keep on exploring

  • DFM-Carelink1


    A smart mattress that detects and prevents incidents in aged care homes.

  • DFM-TOM_Untapped3

    Money & Me

    Swinburne Design Factory Melbourne students collaborated with TOM:Melbourne and Untapped Group to improve banking accessibility for neurodiverse people.

  • DFM-XS310-2

    The XS-310

    A lightweight manoeuvrable airtube sprayer for the French viniculture industry.

Subscribe to our events and updates

Have any questions?

Get in touch with us to see how we can help with your innovation efforts.

Contact us