Centennial Railway Garden, San Diego Model Railroad Museum

An interactive outdoor pavilion that unlocks the past with playful tablets and a whimsical mobile site

 Centennial Railway Garden, San Diego Model Railroad Museum  An interactive outdoor pavilion that unlocks the past with playful tablets and a whimsical mobile site

Centennial Railway Garden, San Diego Model Railroad Museum

An interactive outdoor pavilion that unlocks the past with playful tablets and a whimsical mobile site


About the Project:

Role: Digital Production Manager, BPOC Technology: Processing Partner: Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego

To commemorate the centennial of Balboa Park, The San Diego Model Railroad Museum (SDMRM) teamed with BPOC to imagine an innovative homage to the past. The result is an intricate model featuring scale reproductions of Balboa Park landmarks and interactive elements controlled by visitors through a trio of clever tablet-based quizzes. Visitors can continue the experience—and learn more—by playing on their mobile phone as well. The Centennial Railway Garden strives to spark visitor interest across disciplines. SDMRM highlights engineering aspects of model building in much of their work, and collaborated with local MakerPlace to 3D-print details on the garden’s models. To balance the engineering focus, SDMRM wanted to incorporate humanities-based historical information about the 1915 Exposition. BPOC designed a web app for iPads placed in front of three of the garden’s models, which shares historical facts and quizzes visitors on trivia about buildings in the Exposition. The web pages on the iPads are served by three small Raspberry Pi computers running a Node.js webserver, which are wired to amplifiers and electrical relays to trigger lights and sounds on the model when a visitor correctly answers a question. The bell tower rings; the fountain turns on; the Spreckels Organ lights up and plays a tune from an archival recording. Incorporating these responses into the physical environment serves not only as a reward for learning, but a delight characteristic of the wonder of the original Exposition.

 


How We Did It

Our team designed a web app for iPads placed in front of three of the garden’s models, which shares historical facts and quizzes visitors on trivia about buildings in the Exposition. The web pages on the iPads are served by three small Raspberry Pi computers running a Node.js webserver, which are wired to amplifiers and electrical relays to trigger lights and sounds on the model when a visitor correctly answers a question. The bell tower rings; the fountain turns on; the Spreckels Organ lights up and plays a tune from an archival recording. Incorporating these responses into the physical environment serves not only as a reward for learning, but a delight characteristic of the wonder of the original Exposition.