Tu Delft Stories on Infrarium

Forty-five minutes of stress in a sea container that has been transformed into an infrarium filled with physical and mental challenges. How do you go about laying energy cables without disrupting industry or energy suppliers? How can you work with others in a small space filled with smoke, flashing lights and incessant noise? What effect do stress and emotions have on decision-making? The Energy Grid Game simulation reveals the challenging decisions that the energy sector will face during the current energy transition. This case focuses on the Port of Rotterdam. The game was designed by Igor Nikolic, associate professor of participatory multi-modelling, and Geertje Bekebrede, associate professor of serious game design. The goal is to allow participants to experience, both physically and emotionally, the urgency, cohesion, mutual dependence and complexity of the energy transition. 

A piece in the TU Delft stories has been published about Infrarium!

In dutch:


In English


New steps in design and development

Both the design of the game and the development of the container are still progressing! Because of the modularity of the setup the building process is continuing fast, even while the design isn’t crystallized yet. Figuring out how to best design this new type of game takes some trying out in drawings and modelling, but as time progresses everything starts to become clearer.

The three roles will have their own space, puzzles and challenges, but need to communicate and time their actions together to complete their goals. The actions and elements they can interact with are the focus points right now.

The development of the container starts to focus on decor and scenery. The modular panels have all been painted to look like metal, and props are added to increase the industrial look. Next to that, the back-end of the container is progressing with elements like speakers for sound, piping for ventilation and a server to run all elements.

Hardware donation Siemens

In order to make Infrarium communicate the realities of infrastructure development better, we aim to reuse as much of old infrastructure materials as possible. Below impressions of the gracious donation of old car charging stations by Siemens Netherlands, with many thanks to Dick van der Veen for organising it.

Building progress

To get the Infrarium up and running a lot of work has to be done. Starting with an empty container provides a base to mount everything to. A wooden framework makes it easy to make nice panelized walls. On many of the panels we can choose to put things like screens, buttons, sockets and decorative items. Behind the panels there is room for cables, a computer, an audio system, circuit boards and more. Sound proofing on the ceiling and the area in the back, which holds the larger machines needed for operation, makes it a more pleasurable experience for the users of the Infrarium.

The Infrarium has to be safe too. All of the bare wood is treated with a fireproofing solution, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit is provided and a ventilation system which sucks out air above the players in each section is to be installed. The electrical installation is protected by multiple residual current circuit breakers.

Decorative items are being collected from different sources. Siemens has already donated some nice EV charging stations which holds very nice parts we can re-purpose for the Infrarium. Some things came from my personal collection, other parts are found on marktplaats, but we need some more! Especially things we could use to make parts of the container look more like an HV power plant Nicola Tesla could have built. Some HV insulators, big knobs, things like that. The other parts have to look like an old oil refinery control center and a harbor control center. It does not have to be modern or accurate, parts that even slightly may add to the overall scene are welcome too! And some heavy cables/hoses and electrical/air/hydraulics/liquid connectors and sockets are extremely welcome.

Hardware and software has to be designed to make interaction possible. An array of circuit boards, connected by an RS-485 bus, can drive LEDs, displays, the audio system, analog meters and more. It also reads out buttons, switches, dials and connected cables. A set of python scripts on the workstation will handle all this data and connects to the scientific model. It also will show progress data on a screen. The screen will help the players in keeping track of what they are doing and it will show what the consequences are of their decisions made during the game.

Design log #1

To design the infrarium experience, we use several approaches. First we do a thorough analysis of the system, in our case the energy infrastructure of the Rotterdam harbor area. For a game this system has to be simplified heavily and made into a model with a limited amount of adjustable factors. We had several talks with experts in the field, both in-house and external. The result so far is a diagram with the stakeholders, the infrastructure and the choices for the stakeholders on their assets and infrastructure.

On the other hand the design needs to be drawn with the physical space in mind, in our case the container. Where will the players stand and how will they interact with each other and the game? Using simple maps of the space help out with this. In a previous post you can see that the physical space, the container, is already worked on as well (based on this map).

To bridge the gap between the model that led out of the analysis and the physical space we turned the model into a usable prototype. Using ethernet cables and switches, the model became interactable and the experience becomes more clear.

The experience will be made with recycled materials and cables from the energy sector, so we are also searching actively for those elements. Next to that, we will incorporate a digital model to support the game system and calculate the results of player actions. Lastly and most importantly, the whole of the experience is set up to support several types of research, which influence the game design process heavily.

All these approaches will be combined in the near future so that testing can commence and development of the container interior can be finalized.