Meet Rachel:


Rachel is a precocious 8-year-old who loves to draw and read. When we met with Rachel to talk about designing her artifact, we asked her to draw whatever came to her mind. She first started with things that she might like to have, such as a robotic sort of hand that could turn the pages of her books, or a hat covered in candy:



But when we talked to her a little more, she revealed that she most loved to tell stories. She drew for us an elaborate world comprised of egg-shaped characters called Puggles and an exquisitely detailed world in which a Puggle family would live.


Puggle House

What sort of artifact might we design Rachel to help her tell stories, we wondered? She had mentioned that her favorite toy was a card game called Whoonu, wherein players try to guess their fellow players’ favorite items by presenting them with candidates to be ranked. We thus decided to make a card game, called Storyboards, wherein the goal is to present not items but stories.

One central player, we decided, would have a “story card,” with some evocative image to serve as premise for a story. The other players would “complete” that story – how, we were at first not sure. We thought of maybe doing an ongoing sort of narrative thread like the telephone game, but dismissed that in favor of the simplicity and flexibility of starting each round afresh. We were uncertain with which content the players would complete stories – with an item? a phrase? a full story? In the end, we decided to leave this unspecified, to make the game more open-ended. Players would write or draw their proposed resolutions/next developments/punchlines on some scratch paper and hand them to the first player to be ranked. He whose ending was the favorite would get to draw next. We also toyed with the idea of computationally enabling the cards, e.g. by fiducials on their backs, such that the story once specified by the players could be read into the computer and animated, but decided it would be better to just make a card game so that it would be self-contained.

We based the cards upon a lovely, thick paper stock. With some experimentation at the controls of the laser cutter, we figured out how to etch images upon cards while simultaneously cutting them from the stock. For the images themselves, we recruited our friends within our dorms to draw all manner of strange and amusing images.


Premises 2

Cards on the Cutter

We designed a box in Illustrator and then cut its walls from wood again using the laser cutter. The walls were then assembled using wood glue. The box was designed with two components for story cards and blank cards (so that Rachel could define her own premises), as well as a space to hold pencils. (We could not find golf pencils on short notice, so we took regular full-length pencils, snapped them in half, and then sanded down the broken end.)

Pieces of the Box

Box in Progress

Rachel was overjoyed to be presented with her game. Her dad Ira has since told us that he thought that our product was the “most market ready and fully designed product of the class” and that she loves playing with it. While her family has an entire cabinet devoted to board games, Storyboards occupies a space of honor upon their table. Our design decisions to make Storyboards self-contained and constructed with quality materials paid off, in that it costs little to play or to bring with you, to keep in your thoughts or on your kitchen table. It is an objet d’art.


Cards in Box

Cards in Hand

Storyboards on YouTube

assn 4 – creating a netlogo model



Instead of building a model, we built a game. Both users place their turtles in any of many pre-made worlds of “object” turtles and “recruits.” Users both get a set number of “dummy” turtles and “smarty” turtles. “Dummy” turtles bounce off obstacles and walls, causing every recruit they touch to become a dummy of their color. “Smarty” recruit dummies in the same manner, but they make a direct path for the first closest recruit.

We were inspired first by “Liquid Wars” a game in which two groups of turtle-like objects flock together and battle. If two turtles meet head-on, there is no effect. If one meets the back of the other, the one facing-away is converted to the color and under the control of the one pursuing it. The game is over when the turtles are all of one color, all on the same team. We ended up implementing a version of this. The biggest issue with this game is that, while the flocking-behavior seems to be determined somewhat emergently, most of the gameplay is very top-down. The game we’ve created is better in this respect. Because there is no live control over any of the turtles, the outcome of the game is largely emergent: the synergistic result of the limited, local rules of the smarties & the dummies.

We named the game “George” in homage to it’s muse, George Hokkanen.


Designing Toy for Child Assignment

Interview: When asked about his dream toy, Tayo was at a loss for words. In fact, after the question was asked, silence filled the room for 5 minutes, besides the occasional “umm.” It was not until his mother stepped in that Tayo began brainstorming, and once he started, his imagination quickly jumped outside the box. After another 5 minutes, this time filled with wild, outrageous, great ideas, Tayo finally narrowed his ideas down. He wanted a dragon that could fly and shoot fireballs.
Hope you like our ideas Tayo!
Construction: We built the dragon out of wood, a few plastic tubes, some rubber bands, ribbon, super glue, and ingenuity. We engraved the wood with scales from a dragon we found online, and had help designing the head. The picture of the dragon came out really well; we spent a lot of time brainstorming about the dragon (approximately 2 hours) and then made a prototype dragon out of cardboard and other materials. After we were able to construct a relatively successful prototype (that is, we still needed to rotate and mirror image some of the body parts, namely the torso, head, and legs) we were able to move onto the next phase of the project. We utilized the laser cutter to drill into the wood; again engraving the wood with scales and eyes and other parts of the dragon. Meanwhile, Demetric was clever in building the little projectile cannon that would be used to shoot fireballs. The cannon was made using rubber bands and a plunger; the plunger would apply physical force to make the cannon fire the little fireballs that we spraypainted red. That way, Tayo could go and shoot red colored objects all over the place. Furthermore, he placed the cannon in a specific area on top of the wings; Tayo could press down on the cannon in an area that would allow him to simulate the flapping of wings. Combined with the fact that the dragon now has the ability to fly and move his wings, the dragon can now fly and zoom through the air. Although the dragon cannot physically or actually fly, it is light enough for Tayo to simulate the act of flight while shooting his fireballs at the same time. We had a great time making the toy and were VERY pleased with the aesthetic results. It made us want a dragon toy of our own (although we are very happy to give this one to Tayo.)

Designing for kids


We began this project excited to make a unique toy that captured a child’s imagination, whether that be educational or unique (like the LED-handed dinosaur). Lindsay recruited her 7-year-old cousin Hannah from Redwood Shores. The interview was super cute, and you can watch it here. She also drew a picture.

Unable to upload mv4 video (will show in class, if possible)

Lindsay was surprised that Hannah was not too demanding and asked for a white pony with flappy wings that she could decorate. To take on this realistic toy dream, we first found pictures of pegasi online, selected one that was fun and similar to the one she drew, and then used CorelDRAW magic. We encountered some difficulty with the wings, which Nicole suggested inserting in a slot behind the pegasi frames. The wings are on a rod, allowing it to move forward and backward. As for the rocking part, which was not requested, we at first thought it would be nice to incorporate the idea of center of mass for some educational intuition. Here is Nicole with our prototype.

We used Foamcore for our prototype though, and ran into some trouble when we reconstructed everything from acrylic. First, the rod part no longer worked because we could not just stick the wooden point into the sides of the pegasus. Second, for some reason, the laser cutter or CorelDRAW scaled our pegasus down, when we were laser cutting. That is why we have a Mama Pegasus and a Baby Pegasus.

Lastly, to account for Hannah’s request of decorating the pegasi, giving it makeup and dressing it up, we created different shapes as stickers. We cut these out in different colored vinyl, and Hannah can pick and recycle as she desires. The two versions include fun shapes and body parts.

Hannah cannot make it to class on Friday because she has a ballet lesson. However, Lindsay will be returning this weekend to present Hannah her gift. We hope she likes it!


Optix slate toolkit


Jenelle, Nicole, Andrea


For our SLATE project, we decided to create an optics toolkit. The pieces in our toolkit are targeted to teach four main optics concepts: reflection, refraction, divergence, and convergence. The kit contains mirrors of three different shape

s: a plane, a triangular prism, and a semicircle. Through positioning the mirrors at different angles, a user can learn about the relationship between the angle of incidence and the angle of reflection of a beam of light. The kit also has a glass prism. Since glass has a different index of refraction than air, the prismrefracts the light at different angles as it passes through the glass. Finally, there are three types of lenses: double convex, planar convex, and double concave. The convex lenses converge two incoming rays of light to a single point (the focal point of the lens) whereas the concave lens causes the divergence of a single light beam into two. Nicole had some background in optics, and her knowledge was very helpful as we were trying to come up with interesting shapes for the pieces. The challenge for the user is to combine these elements in such a way as to direct a beam of light from the laser to the bulls eye on the “goal” piece.

This idea makes use of an affordance of the vertical surface that may not be immediately obvious—because of the way we oriented the pieces it is impossible for the user to direct the laser beam up or down, potentially causing eye damage. This was one of the most difficult parts of the project. We realized that when we were laser cutting the bases for the lenses and the laser, we had to ensure that the centers were all lined up, and the laser beam was exactly parallel to the surface of the board. We discovered that even slight variations in the angle of the laser caused huge deviations in the way the light beam hit the various components, so Jenelle spent a long time holding the piece steady while the epoxy dried. Unfortunately, just as were finished making the pieces and testing them out, we learned about a disadvantage of the vertical surface. One of the lens pieces wasn’t properly connected to the magnet, and it fell and broke!

Meanwhile, Andrea took care of the software aspects of the project. We created images for each piece using CorelDraw and scaled them appropriately, which took longer than expected.

There are many extensions we’d like to make to this project. Ideally, the kit would include two lasers, so the user could practice using different combinations of the lenses to make them converge to a single point on the bulls eye. The laser pointer was expensive, so we only bought one for the prototype. Also, the board really should have walls around the sides, to take care of safety concerns for observers and also to make it easier for the user to see where the light is going if it is not hitting an object on the board. Finally, it would be awesome to create a software component that actually traced the path of the laser beam as it travelled around the different components.


Watch our video demonstration:


Tangrams Twist


Tangrams, meaning “seven boards of skill,” is an ancient dissection puzzle (or transformation puzzle) that originated in China.  Its seven shapes can be arranged in over 5,900 configurations.

For children (and adults) of all ages, this puzzle offers the challenge of creating a geometric shape(s) by arranging and utilizing all seven pieces.  Some educational and intellectual challenges revolve around:  geometric principles and properties (congruency, symmetry, area, perimeter, geometric shapes), math vocabulary, visual-spatial stimulation, and logic skills.

To begin our process, we found the generic shapes of tangrams online and began playing with the scope and size of the individual pieces by creating laser cut cardboard pieces.  Then, we laser cut the proportional seven pieces.  We glued four layers together to give them some tangible heft, making them easier to manipulate (i.e., rotate).  We then affixed them to the connector pieces which were created on the laser cutter as well.

Although we decided to make the pieces large, we purposefully chose to use different colored acrylics to add a bit of challenge to the puzzle.  By not making them all the same color, users have to use their visual-spatial skills to envision a total geometric shape versus seven separate ones.

With SLATE’s library of tangram images, the puzzles can increase in difficulty, tracking the students’ progress.  Users will embark on a discovery process by matching the tangram pieces to the shadowed image displayed on the SLATE.  Once the pieces are assembled correctly, the image will blink (and a sound could be played).

The SLATE board allows for instantaneous feedback.  If a user does not assemble the pieces correctly, s/he will not see a blinking image.  If needed, there could be a function that allows the SLATE board to give feedback with each piece placed.

The images then can be SAVED for

further review/use.



Users can access the HELP button, and with a slight turn of the wrist, they can get seven degrees of help as one of the seven shapes is revealed turn-by-turn.  Sometimes all one needs is a slight hint, while sometimes one needs a step-by-step solution.



Users can use the

FREE PLAY button to create their own unique puzzle and save it to the library for others to solve.



With the CHALLENGE button, users can change the size of the puzzle, thereby altering it from the exact size of the tangram pieces.  Therefore, a user’s spatial abilities will be further challenged by trying to match a smaller or larger version of the puzzle.

The verticality of the SLATE board allows for several affordances:

1.It’s vertical surface provides an easel-like surface on which kids can experiment.  They can step back and assess their work, all without losing perspective on this visual-spatial puzzle.

2.  Ideal for small group work, the SLATE surface invites creative collaboration for solving tangram puzzles.  Many children can gather around the board without altering their access to the images portrayed.   Additionally, they can further their “math speak” by having to explain to one another their strategies and solutions.



1.For inspiration, the SLATE board could display a “real” image from the real world which the user could then try to replicate or symbolize with the seven tangram pieces.  What would your version of a sleeping dog look like?

2.   The SLATE board could display a background image to inspire a user’s creativity.  For instance, stars could appear prompting a user to create a spaceship, an alien, or a cosmic body of some sort.

3.   For an additional challenge, a time element could be added.  Users could set a finite amount of time within which a puzzle would have to be solved.  A digital display could provide the countdown.

4.   Sound could be added to alert the user to a correct/incorrect answer, as well as add to the creativity of the new puzzle.


We made a power point to explain our idea better.


and here is the demo video



Daniela & Darri

Battle Geometry Pieces

Battle Geometry


Nicole, Jamie, Bertrand


Our toolkit for the SLATE board is called Battle Geometry, which is a Bejeweled-style game for two players. We aimed this application toward younger children who are beginning to learn about geometry and shapes; more specifically, the goal is to understand and modify the different features of the a shape to make it match its neighbor. The game takes place on the vertical board of the SLATE toolkit, where a grid filled with different shapes is displayed.

We designed different levels, where the difficulty progressively increases; for instance, in the first level the two players have to match the shapes based on their orientation. To achieve this, they have to use the “rotate” tangible (first piece on the left on the picture bellow):



On the second level, the players have to add or remove shapes to existing geometrical figures in order to create new ones. To do so, they have to use the triangle, circle or square shape. On more difficult levels, several rules apply at the same time: for example, to match a neighbor a figure may need to be rotated, modified and flipped.

The process of creating the tangible pieces was somewhat circuitous. First we designed our pieces in illustrator – simple shapes with rectangles for sides. We struggled with the laser cutter, whose driver had gone MIA, but eventually cut out our pieces. A few hours and some acrylic glue later, we had ten 3-D pieces. When it came time to attach the pieces to the existing magnets, we had a lot of trouble figuring out the proper direction of the mini-magnets. After multiple cycles of inserting and removing the magnets from our connectors, we realized the initial magnets were facing both directions (5 out and 5 in). We were glad to realize we were not just crazy and finished assembly soon thereafter.


SLATE Toolkit Video


Geographix: A Slate Toolkit


Geographix is a tangible toolkit designed to teach children geography. The pieces are made out of colored acrylic. We chose the South Africa region because the pieces are fairly regular in size, which is necessary when using the Slate backings. This region also works well for puzzle solving because the country borders are not straight lines (unlike in the US). This provides a scaffolding for learning what each country looks like on a map, because each country has a clearly unique shape. It also helps children learn where countries are positioned in relation to each other. We added the name of each country in each vinyl to the acrylic piece, which provides more scaffolding because this way they can realize which way is up, and can also connect the country name with the shape.

We prototyped our design in cardboard, which made us realize that our pieces were too small; Zimbabwe was not wide enough to encompass of the backing. We then enlarged our design by 150% and cut the pieces using the laser cutter.

[we would load images but we reached the upload limit…]

Our toolkit is suited to Slate’s vertical surface because it mimics real maps, which are traditionally displayed on walls instead of desks, and they are drawn so up and down correspond to north and south. In addition, it is easier to collaborate on puzzle solving when the pieces are mounted vertically. Finally, it’s easier to track your progress because you can stand back from the surface and still see the whole thing.

When people feel puzzle pieces, they will gain an appreciation for each country’s distinctive shape. For example, Namibia has a distinctive “dongle” on its northeastern border.

There were a few resources missing from Slate. There were no easily programmable objects, nor were we able to make relationships between objects. For example, we originally wanted to make a simulation of a plant growing, where the tangible parts of the toolkit included a watering can, clouds, fertilizer, etc. We soon realized there was no way to make a virtual plant grow, nor was there a way to make that virtual plant react to the watering can. We also felt limited by the criterion of vertical affordance: apart from physics simulations that require gravity, there is very little that is distinctive about a vertical surface. The vertical surface worked well for Mechanix, but limited our create options when designing a toolkit meant to work with Slate.

If we had more time, we would like to add extensions to Geographix. Our challenge mode would be a timed mode, to see how fast you can put together the puzzle pieces. Another challenge possibility is to add additional, fake country pieces to the set. Children would have to sift out the fake pieces from the real pieces to put together the puzzle. For our free play mode, we would like to create a custom background that has the outline of the African continent, as well as blue for the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as further educational scaffolding. Lastly, we’d like to add support for a 2-player mode. This mode would include pieces for 2 continents, and each player would receive a random assortment of country pieces, some from each continent. The two players would have to work together to fit their pieces in with their partner’s.

Geographix demo

Circuit Components

Electronix SLATE toolkit, Jenny and Shima




Jenny & Shima

As electrical engineers, we were really excited to create a tangible toolkit to teach circuits as this week’s SLATE assignment. Dealing with a circuit and analyzing its voltage and current is not a fun task for one who has problem diagnosing the basic electrical concepts. This Symbolic “one” unfortunately could be the representative for a large population of students even in higher education level.

Several facts has been counted as reasons for students’ difficulties in dealing with electrical concepts, among them there is one which is heard here and there most often, “It’s just too abstract!” Even in BBL session one of our TAs started to explain a simple circuit by saying “Current is an abstract entity has been created to make circuit analysis, possible!”

That is true for a considerable number of students; they do not have any real notion about current and voltage. For these students, they are just abstract concept represented just as numbers on their science problem, or ones to be read from a voltmeter. Even though a student gets close to picture DC current and voltage and makes them more concrete for himself; there is a great chance for him to be lost in AC world.

The tragedy discussed above is the reason for us to appreciate making a tool which makes learning electrical concepts more tangible and visual; the tool that brings circuit and its properties from abstract world close to the grounded concrete world.

As a first step of designing our Electronix toolkit, we drew basic circuit components with Coreldraw. For some of these components like resistors, it took awhile to design a satisfactory, artistic shape of them. Jenny redrew several components after finding that she needed to make them more consistent with the same size wire extending from the component. Finally, we came up with a consistent shape and design for each that is appealing to the eye. The next step was choosing color of the acrylic sheet. We decided that all components would be the same color except the lamp in order to unify the shape of our circuit.



Cutting out connectors for the components was our next step. However, this step was a little bit challenging; it was hard to set power and speed of laser cutter in a right level in order to have the optimal hole in the middle of a connector for a magnet. After playing with Coreldraw line setting and laser cutter setting for a while, we reached the connector with close to perfect hole for its magnet. Now, it was the time for us to assemble components on their connectors and put them on the board. You can see the result in the following picture.

Circuit Components


After having all our circuit components on their connectors, we designed several circuits with different difficulty levels, in order to scaffold our users through solving circuits. The very simple level consisted of a circuit with just one component besides the voltage source, and at each level a circuit gets more complicated, in a way that the final level is a circuit with several components, three of them located in parallel branches.

At each level, the associated circuit would be projected on the board for the player to fill in the blank parts of the circuit with any random component. After completing the circuit and starting simulation, the circuit’s electrical current will be simulated as a series of yellow balls of light traveling around the circuit with specific speed and density. Different elements of the circuit and the circuit structure itself will affect the balls’ speed and density. For example, most of current balls will rapidly pass through the branch with low resistance; just a few of them will diminish because of the electrical loss of a resistor. This electrical loss would be shown by some balls being popped. As the resistance of the circuit increase, the speed of balls will decrease, the more balls will be popped out, and hence the density of the whole string will also decrease.

Also, players could observe that without voltage source there would be no yellow lights without current. They can also see if they place diode reversely in the circuit, how diode will act as a wall, hinder ball movement. Furthermore, Electronix visualizes the distribution of the current in parallel branches of a circuit. As an example, if a user fill one of the parallel branches with wire and the other two with resistor, ball distribution demonstrates how almost all the current will pass through the wire branch which has very low resistance and the other two branches will have almost no current.

We hope with Electronix tool kits, learning the electricity and related concepts becomes more concrete for the learners. However, for SLATE assignment of this week, we were just able to project two different circuits on the board as a free play and challenge. Hence, we had to give up some of our circuit structures. Furthermore, as this assignment only includes the physical design of the toolkit, this prototype does not include the demonstration of the current as a series of lights on the board.


You can watch our demo here:




MadLibs: Enky, Demetric, and Kevin’s SLATE Toolkit


For this week’s assignment, we devleoped a MadLibs application using the Slate toolkit. We figured this would be a fun way for three to five year olds (and older kids who love playing MadLibs) a physical way to play the time-honored game. MadLibs are those games where children would insert specified parts of speech into blank spaces.  The game typically happens through predefined stories and spaces. For example, one player might say, “I need a verb, a noun, and two adjectives.” After another player gives the specified types of words, the reader then inserts the words into a story, which in turn, comes out in a (typically humorous) story that is user-customized. We seek to extend this type of game through the SLATE interface by allowing players to ‘rapidly’ prototype their stories.


MadLibs was designed with younger children in mind. Although many other products have taken on a more scientific spin, we decided to work with parts of speech for this particular project. We did this because our group had felt that a lot of English and Language Arts do have a fundamental place within the classroom and education; and that technology even utilized and created within the Fabrication Lab can do wonders for Language Arts education.  We envision that this game would be very useful because it will allow children to rapidly create their stories in a fun and friendly format. This, in turn, will help the children learn a lot more about the different parts of speech, which in turn will allow them to develop their own potentially latent creative skills in the arts of sentence construction, which in turn leads to creative writing and reading comprehension. The faster that children learn more about how words work, they can do better in understanding what the words mean. Furthermore, we feel that our product is fun, because it allows kids to make kooky and fun sentences.


Our game operates by having the learner position the noun, adjective, and verb wheels in their corresponding places on the top of the white space. Then, Demetric was able to help generate a sample MadLib, where he generated a simple story requiring the user to input two nouns, two verbs, and two adjectives.  For this particular project, we were unable to code the specified words into the turning of the gears, so we will have to Wizard of Oz the presentation. (However, we have came up with a funny story that in turn, will have funny and profound implications.)  The user will be able to turn the wheel (which in turn will point to different directions on said wheel, leading to a potential combination of four [or more, since the SLATE toolkit allows for relativistic rotation as opposed to actual rotation.]) The wheel, when spun, will come up with different words, which in turn, will change the word that ‘appears’ within the MadLib story.  We would have loved to put images of the nouns, verbs, and adjectives, because it would also appeal to younger children, which would make it a stronger and more interactive thing, but that was due a limitation of the engine.


One idea that we came up with, which we found potentially interesting, would have been having the player be able to record their own words via voice (much like Colin, Jain, and Shima’s Process Pad project.) It would be cool if one day, we could make this into a reality. We would also find it cool, if Tiffany wasn’t so constrained with her coding that is!, that we could have a random MadLib generator built into the program. We did love working with this particular toolkit, and if we had an extra week, I’m sure we would have been able to create something else new with it!

We also must note that we don’t have our video up because Tiffany still hasn’t sent us the coding that she was going to help us with in helping to finish the project. We will put our video up ASAP (most likely tomorrow.) –> file is too big to fit onto this site


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