encouraging the next generation of explorers

an expandable outdoor exploration platform for kids

Challenge

Design an outdoor project platform for kids to explore local spaces

Time Frame

12 weeks

Exploration

For my final project at ArtCenter, I was inspired by the electric feeling of NASA's New Horizons probe returning pictures of Pluto, something never seen in detail by human eyes before. I want to inspire the next generation to get outside and learn the problem solving skills necessary to explore.

For decades after its discovery, well into the 1990s, this was the best picture we had of Pluto...

...until summer of 2015, when New Horizons approached and gave us the best picture yet of something we had never seen before.

(False-color IR image from nasa.gov)

Interviews + Highlights

It was important to learn from those who do space exploration as well as basic childhood developmental psychology to see the best age to target for the project.

Dr Howard

Clinical Psychologist

Jacqueline

JPL Robotics Engineer

Billy

JPL Rover Engineer

biggest motivator for kids is attention from adults

toys need to feel important, like serious work, tools not toys

sense of accomplishment or self-pride is crucial

current toys are "sanitized from failure"

Benchmarking + Strategy Canvas

Averaging out dozens of STEM products and toys revealed opportunities for the design where the curves diverge.

Insights and Opportunities

Parent or teacher interest and attention is important for growth and success.

Kids need to feel like activity is important.

Out-growing or single use is narrowing the replay value.

School gyms are good for some skills, but limited and sterile.

Balance of Form

A particular challenge in this project was the shape and form. It needed to look like it could handle being outside, but too rugged and masculine and it would feel less gender-neutral.

Liking the outer "rails" or wrap" from the CAD exploration, I built a foam buck with stiff paper to experiment with different shapes and lines for the rails by pushing and pulling pins.

The form also needed to account for increasing numbers of pods

Scout Platform

Scout is a system. The supporting site and app, while also being the user's control center, is also where one can find local missions of things to spot and record based on suggestions from other users or even being part of larger studies.

Signals

Bluetooth, while significantly degraded in water, can work in short distances. To stay waterproof, the sealed pods communicate with each other and the brain wirelessly. The brain is connected to a hand-held part which, out of the water, can transmit wifi to a phone.

This antenna also doubles as a tether with which the user can pull up everything in case of getting stuck.

Scout x Arduino

With a common pod architecture, "empty" pods would allow advanced users to integrate their own custom circuits and experiments with other off the shelf pods.

endless possibilities...

Design is a team sport, thanks to my colleagues and friends for their discussions, critiques, and feedback.

Thanks for reading!

Special Thanks for this Project

Babette Strousse and Jonathan Abarbanel

Saurabh Nimsarkar

Charlie Hodges

Emily Howard