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TECHNOLOGY ON A TEAR

What's happening at Orlando Science Center's Otronicon

Dewayne Bevil on Attractions

Theme Park Ranger

9:54 AM EST, January 17, 2013

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A conglomeration of robotics, virtual reality, video games, digitally produced art, laser tag, career forums plus some "Star Wars" and "Tron" action in January can only mean one thing: It's Otronicon weekend at Orlando Science Center.

The eighth annual event, which runs Friday-Monday, is "a celebration of technology in all forms," says Jeff Stanford, the science center's vice president for development.

It's jampacked.

"There's probably more content going on in Otronicon than you can experience in the short time that we're doing it," Stanford says.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Stanford helped us out with a sampler of Otronicon features that could inspire you to attend.

Digital duels

Video-game competitions are back at Otronicon.

The contests had various forms through the years, including on the giant screen of the science center's Dr. Phillips CineDome.

"What we found over the years was that the science center itself didn't have the infrastructure to run these competitions the way that the public really wanted," Stanford says. Otronicon took a hiatus from video duels last year.

"Our audience really noticed, and we got a lot of feedback: 'Where are the competitions?'" Stanford says.

This year they'll be under the eye of Longwood-based Powder Keg Games, which puts on such events year-round. For a $5 entry fee, folks can compete in four games: Black Ops 2 on Friday, Halo 4 on Saturday, Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Sunday and Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition on Monday.

All access

Otronicon opens doors.

"You can't walk down to Lockheed Martin and knock on the door and go, 'Hey, you see that flight simulator that the Navy trains on that you're prototyping? I'd love to climb in that and look around,' " Stanford jokes.

For example, EA Sports will be on hand with designers and current games, including augmented-reality selections. And Quantum 3D will show off virtual reality simulators used for military training.

"You get access to this stuff that you would never get to otherwise," Stanford says.

Stay in school, kids

There's an educational vibe, of course.

"The thing that we want them to take away from all this is that there is science driving all of this," Stanford says. "If you enjoy video games and you want to be a video-game designer, you need to have a good understanding of physics. You need to have a good understanding of math. You need to pay attention in your science and math classes. You can't just be awesome at Halo and be a good video-game designer."

Hometown heroics

Otronicon reinstated its "Made in Orlando, Played in Orlando" slogan. And that dovetails with the thought that Orlando is a hotbed for tech-driven jobs.

"You don't need Silicon Valley, you don't have to go to Austin, Texas, you don't have to go to Seattle," Stanford says. "You can do it right here in Central Florida."

dbevil@tribune.com or 407-420-5477

Otronicon

Where: Orlando Science Center, 777 E. Princeton St., Orlando

When: 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday and Monday

Cost: $27 general, $20 ages 3-11

Phone: 407-514-2000

Online: Otronicon.org

More news, notesabout Otronicon

•Otronicon visitors get access to current Orlando Science Center exhibit "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination." And "Star Wars" attendees have access to Otronicon. It's all the same price for all exhibits this weekend. "There is some synergy" in those two demographics and the exhibits, Stanford notes.

•The newly remodeled Digital Adventure Theater will have a limited run of "Tron: Legacy 3-D." The 2010 Disney film, starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner and Olivia Wilde, will be shown at 5:10 p.m. all four days of Otronicon and also at 7:50 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, and Saturday, Jan. 19.

•Also in the Digital Adventure Theater will be the MagicWorks Trivia Game, with questions about technology, video games and Otronicon itself.

•The SunTrust Terrace will be the site of laser tag presented by Battlefield Live Orlando for eight hours each day. Games will run eight minutes with a dozen or so players at a time.

•Classic arcade games will be found on the ground floor. "You can't have Otronicon without going a little old school," Stanford says.

STEAM, a gallery of digitally produced artwork, will be presented. (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math.)

•Returning is the Virtusphere, a big cage/globe that uses virtual reality techniques. And it's here to stay. The Orlando Science Center purchased one with designs on it being a permanent exhibit. "It gets its big coming out party during Otronicon," Stanford says.