Princess Engineers, Electric Dragons & Circuits
Princess Cassie & Her Electric Dragon Save the Day is a pop-up book embedded with simple circuits. It is designed to teach young girls, especially those in the "princess phase" about basic circuits and electrical components, and foster their interest in STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art & math).
For this project our group, Project Daffodil, received an Editor's Choice Award at the 10th Anniversary of Maker Faire in San Mateo. We were also interviewed by Makezine.com.
You can also create your own DIY pop up with embedded electronics by seeing our tutorial on the Make Magazine website.
From inspiration to final design, our thesis project was based on a user-centric design process.
When my nephew was 3, he asked his mom, who is a doctor, "Mommy, can boys could be doctors too?"
After my sister-in-law told me this story, and I got done laughing, it got me thinking about how we learn what boys and girls can be when we grow up, and how changes in these views at an early age can affect a lifetime of thinking.
Women in STEM fields
Women hold 51% of all professional jobs, but only 26% of computer related occupation. What's more, in 1991, women held 37% of all computer related occupations. We have been going backwards.
In the beginning we played around with different ideas of how to teach STEM concepts within existing "girls toys". Some ideas included a programmable jewelry box and heart necklace.
We also knew we wanted to incorporate a story into our concept. Kids love reading and stories make learning come to life. We experimented with using a programmable wand to interact with the book, and a heart-shaped gem to keep a battery and electronics in.
Our thesis group wanted to incorporate high and low technology together. Low tech books and pop-up mechanisms could create a tactile and fun way to incorporate learning and high technology.
Powering the Book
When we decided to create an electrical pop up book our biggest concern was the power source. We experimented with ways to place a power source into the spine of the book. We also tried adding a solar panel to the back cover, however our solutions ended up being bulky and awkward.
Sparkie Design Process
From our beta test, through the final design used at Maker Faire. Sparkie has undergone changes to make her more user friendly, durable, and stable. For our final design, we gave Sparkie a wider base, magnets under her feet to better snap to the footprints, and a recessed space for the battery.
Once Upon a Time..
Princess Cassie was walking home from the park, but when she got to the castle where she lived, something was wrong, it was all dark!
With the fundamentals in place, we started experimenting with different ways to incorporate interaction into the book. On this page, the user must choose between a tangle of different wires to relight the horn on the unicorn.
At the end of the book, Princess Cassie has solved the problem with her castle's lights and they relight the castle.
We are eternally grateful to Maker Faire! Our booth at the San Mateo Maker Faire enabled us to get our book in front of hundreds of kids for user testing. It was truly inspiring to see girls and boys of all ages excited about Princess Cassie and Sparkie and their adventures.
Maker Faire was also a great opportunity to test the durability of our pages, the clarity of the information provided, and which pages were surprising and fun, and which still needed work.
What is Next...
Princess Cassie & Sparkie still have lots of work to do and many princess engineers to inspire! We are working on ways to bring Princess Cassie and Sparkie to a larger audience this upcoming Maker Faire in 2016. Keep an eye out for us!