The Fall semester has just ended and I can finally keep up with my blog. Its been certainly an intense semester with the beginning of thesis and my incursion with Computing Graphics, but an incredible learning experience. I want to share my thesis process and my outcomes so far. You will be able to get a peak at my character design progress, playing with forms and shapes and how to make them interchangeable, and most importantly, testing these prototypes amongst a tiny and smart group of toddlers.
This concept grew from my inexperience and lack of opportunities back at home to actually approach electronics at an early age. I’ve been impressed by how advanced children in the States are in these areas, and wondered the kind of impact it would have had on me if I had played with electronics as a kid.
Along with my interests in soft circuits, character design and early childhood education, I arrived to my thesis question… Can 4-5 year olds begin to learn about the principles of circuitry through the building of characters?
IN A FEW WORDS, MY THESIS IS…
A DIY kit for children that serves as a first approach to basic circuitry through character design.
As a daughter of an electrical engineer, I remember how every school project was an opportunity to team up with my dad and work for hours during the weekends. Still, I was never intrigued by the electric part of his profession. Visually, electronics did not appeal to me, and frankly, the visual complexity scared me. In my mind I always thought, “where can I draw?”
But what if I had experienced circuitry in an artistic way? What if circuitry could be combined with art, acting as the trigger to explore?
The goal of my thesis project is to engage art-driven toddlers (ages 4-5) with circuitry in a simple, intimate, and playful way. It is an alternate way for children to experience electronics; that is, through narrative and character design in the context of parent-child play.
My thesis proposes the creation of a DIY kit that parents can co–build with their children. The purpose is to help kids understand through the construction of characters, how some parts of the puzzle enable a circuit to be complete, and hence, light up an LED. This will allow children to discover the basic properties of circuitry through engaging them in a playful hands-on activity. So far I’ve been designing two possible paths: one in which the child can actually draw/paint on the puzzle and another one in which he just builds.
This process has been as much of a learning experience for me as it was for my little niece who tested some of the prototypes you will see. It was profoundly enriching and it allowed me to observe and test the capabilities of a four-year-old child. I hope next semester’s user testings will guide me to better solutions that will hopefully engage little people into circuitry.
I leave you with photographs of all my prototypes so far, starting with my first approaches and user tests. Some are cardboard prototypes (I used glow in the dark paint with some to test on them) and other are acrylic and wood. Enjoy!