During the Spring 2023 semester, twelve students worked alongside CMLTD Senior Lecturer Yoo Kyung Chang and built a hands-on learning experience at the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys Factory. At the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum, visitors can do things like journey through over a millennia of seltzer history and add personal memories to the Seltzer Milestones and hold a real seltzer siphon and spray it into their mouths. 

The Brooklyn Seltzer Museum sits inside one of the oldest seltzer works in New York City and is located in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Originally founded as Gomberg Seltzer Works Inc. by Moe Gomberg in 1953, the company is now known as Brooklyn Seltzer Boys and remains a family-run business in its fourth generation. The Museum celebrates the cultural importance of seltzer, teaches visitors about the science and production of seltzer, and reminds the community of the value of local business. 

Several old siphon bottles displayed at the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum

After participating in an initial design jam, a site visit, and a pitch competition, the two teams with the winning pitches merged to engage in a roughly 10-week process of learning design to create an immersive learning experience for the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum. The process of creating exhibits included a needs assessment, design, and iteration, largely in accordance with the design-thinking process students learn in the Instructional Technology & Media degree program. The team also employed constructivist principles in this process. Constructivism is an approach to learning design that assumes learners actively construct knowledge, building upon prior knowledge, rather than simply passively taking in information. 

The exhibits that the team developed surrounded four key themes, which were derived from the two winning pitches: feel, build, connect, and memory. The “feel” theme comes in the form of a spritzing stand, where visitors are able to sample seltzer. The “build” theme involves interactive puzzles, signs and 3D digital models which take visitors through the technical process of making seltzer. By telling the story of Brooklyn Seltzer Boys via three videos that showcase the unique siphon bottle, the eco-friendly nature of the factory’s selter work, and how seltzer brings everyone together, visitors are able to “connect” to the history of the business. And finally, a “Customer Storybook” full of customer testimonials and a memory board for visitors to add their experiences at the museum speak to the “memory” theme the team came up with. They even created museum mascots — Spritz and Lil’ Spritz!

Two members of the design team posing in “Spritz” and “Lil’ Spritz” photo stand-ins at the opening of the Brooklyn Seltzer Museum

CMLTD Instructional Tech & Media students and Project Managers Helen Song and Yi Chen spoke with me about what they learned by leading this project. Helen discussed the value of getting hands-on experience in real-world aspects of instructional design projects: “I really liked that we got to practice project management. These are skills that we don’t exactly get to practice in classes.” Yi added, “Making a timeline, managing a budget — these are very practical skills that aren’t a part of a class project.” They also discussed the work of balancing their team’s capacity with the client’s needs: “We also created an agreement between ourselves and the client to narrow our scope. We wanted to manage our capacities while also making the client happy.” 

In addition to Yi and Helen, the students who participated in the final project development included Keying Chen, Yifan Chen, Stella Guan, Zihe Liu, Xichen Li, Yiran Ma, Shiyue Peng, Xiaoyan Qin, Anqi Wang, and Jacky Wu. Helen and Yi described the team as extremely kind and eager to collaborate. Despite sometimes having differing ideas, the team was always collegial and found ways to compromise, combine ideas, and innovate together. They also appreciated having the guidance of Dr. Chang, who was always available to help them problem-solve. After such an enriching experience, the team even has ideas for future projects! We look forward to seeing what comes next for these students.

Three members of the design team enjoying egg creams!