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National Children’s Museum: Dream Machine Designed and Engineered With SkyCiv

SkyCiv and its modules are a powerful set of tools from which users can model, analyze, and design. Due to its intuitive and powerful 3D modeling and analytical capabilities, SkyCiv 3D allows for multitudes of variability for structural engineering projects.

In the case of John Marhoefer, P.E., Managing Partner of Entech Innovative Engineering, the capabilities of SkyCiv provided a robust and adaptive platform for important engineering decisions related to a large children’s climbing structure built within the Ronald Regan Building, the new location of the National Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C.

Dream Machine Project, National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C.

Type: Institutional

Engineer: Entech Innovative Engineering

Entech Innovative Engineering, founded by John in 1993, is a design, engineer and build company providing specialized structures and mechatronics for industry, science, art, and entertainment clients. Building a special climbing structure for the National Children’s Museum on schedule and within budget, John needed a powerful structural engineering tool to make founded engineering decisions with alacrity.

“SkyCiv is well designed for the practicing engineer, including straightforward interface and clear results with very friendly and adaptive features,” John said. “Using SkyCiv we are able to develop, optimize, share and document our engineering designs quickly and efficiently. SkyCiv has become an indispensable tool for us.”

About the Project

Located at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C., the new location for the National Children’s Museum is between the White House at one end and the U.S. Capitol Building on the other. The Dream Machine is a three-story children’s climbing structure, the creative idea of Gyroscope Studios of Oakland, California, and is THE iconic statement of the museum. It is the large, high profile structure that all the visiting children want to interact with time and time again and keeps them coming back.

While the Gyroscope team defined the creative intent, it became the job of Entech Innovative Engineering to develop the creative design into an engineered and buildable structure on time and within budget.

Dream Machine Skyciv drawing

The Challenge

The National Children’s Museum is tenant - occupying approximately 25,000 square feet of the existing General Services Administration (GSA) Ronald Regan Building originally completed in 1997, the second largest government building in the country. The creative design was developed with simply a passing regard to the constraints and demands of actual engineered structure. To work in the tenant’s space, Entech had to engineer a solution that met the creative and operational objectives while accommodating the constraints, demands and capacities of pre-existing space. This required a considerable amount of iterative engineered design. In more than one instance, as new design developed, new constraints emerged requiring ongoing design re-configurations.

Dream Machine National Children's Museum

The Dream Machine design called for unorthodox 3D design details and non-orthogonal framing that SkyCiv was able to accommodate. Toward that end, John adds, “SkyCiv is a powerful and readily accessible analytical and design tool. The relative simplicity of the platform belies the power it can provide. SkyCiv was easily able to handle atypical geometries and curved members and surfaces which helped us make important design and detailing decisions to assist in maintaining our budget and schedule targets.”

Using SkyCiv, the Entech team was able to accommodate design changes expeditiously, knowing that the structural developments each time met the engineering requirements for them.

Dream Machine National Children's Museum

How it was Designed

Entech was able to model each of the major assemblies that comprise the system, as well as separate models where necessary, to investigate local details. The SkyCiv curved member and surface modules were particularly of use in determining designs optimized for constructability.

SkyCiv dream machine rendering

The documentation capability of SkyCiv, including the “hand calculation” feature, was an important part of the engineering quality assurance that went into the design.

SkyCiv dream machine rendering

SkyCiv offers a multitude of design modules and features that improve design decisions by being able to quickly assess different form factors and assemblies.

Furthermore, the strong and easily accessible tutorial underpinning within the SkyCiv eco-sphere made integrating new design team members straightforward and quickly productive.

How SkyCiv Helped

When asked how SkyCiv helped, John’s answer included several benefits, including the ease of understanding the tools and interface, the clarity of the results, the cloud-based aspect, the on-line educational tutorials and the customer service.

Of those, John said SkyCiv’s accessibility, the on-line tutorials and understandable and usable GUI’s and robustness of the design modules underpins Entech’s continued commitment to SkyCiv.

“I hired several new engineers recently and while none had prior experience with SkyCiv, all of them within a short period of time were highly productive with its use,” John said. “Using SkyCiv, we were able to develop a robust, buildable, cost effective iconic structure for the client and document all of our engineering decisions clearly and concisely,” John stated.

To read more about the Dream Machine and other specialty engineering projects designed, built and installed by Entech Innovative Engineering, visit


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