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2011 - 2014

with Hall staff & volunteers

The Ingenuity Lab at the Lawrence Hall of Science is a novel learning space for families of all ages to tinker and engineer solutions to design challenges. I studied how to increase access and interest in engineering through tinkering spaces at public science centers, in particular at the Ingenuity Lab. I implemented an innovative cross-community design of Ingenuity Lab programs involving engineers, students, and educators and analyze its consequent impact on the learner experience. I focused on learners’ engineering-as-“tinkering” experience, persistence in the activities, and potential consequences for long-term interest in engineering. A variety of observations, including focused ethnographic case studies of the cross-community design and a quasi-experimental set-up comparing the visitor experience in the space with and without the cross-community design, were synthesized into practical guidelines for creating effective tinkering programs.

girl testing her wind turbine

dad and son testing the strength of theirå structure

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with Jodi Loo, Rajith Jayarantne, Eric Mao, Matt Roeschke, Kyle Zampaglione, & Danny Chang

I assisted the Human Power Generation (HPG) team with their educational campaign. The HPG team is a group of undergraduate researchers who retrofitted exercise equipment at the campus fitness center to harness energy from workouts, retrofitting an elliptical machine and a stationary bicycle to charge cell phones and tablets. My role was to educate gym users about sustainable energy and the HPG-retrofitted workout machines. I researched and developed content for the energy and sustainability campaign, designing posters, informational signs, and TV screens for the gym. I also assisted with increasing the usability and access of the retrofitted energy harnessing fitness equipment.

generating power on an elliptical

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2010 - 2011

with Hall staff & volunteers

At the Lawrence Hall of Science, I oversaw the new exhibit on engineering design, Ingenuity in Action. The exhibit is comprised of three components: Fly High, Design and Drive, and Build a Bridge. At Fly High, visitors select various materials to create a design to be pushed up by a fan inside the wind tube. At the Design and Drive section, visitors choose from a set of pre-built motorized LEGO car chassis and modify the wheel sizes and treads, as well as build ramp structures. At the Build a Bridge component, visitors are provided with several rods, connectors, and cables to design and build a bridge that spans a specified gap or carries a specified weight.

I also collaborated with the exhibits team to refine the exhibit based on my evaluation of visitor interactions through observations and interviews. We found that visitors engaged in engineering behaviors and demonstrated engineering habits of mind while interacting with the exhibit. Furthermore, we worked with a freshman engineering class (UC Berkeley, Professor Lisa Pruitt) that helped design and refine additional elements of the exhibit through their service learning project. These students experienced significant increases in confidence in engineering skills.

girls at wind tubemom and boy at wind tube

girl at cars

kid with his awesome bridge

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Fall 2011

with Justin Wang

In this project, we designed and developed Mookies, a series of tangible objects that record and play sounds using Arduino and Processing. In moving beyond the more common graphical or overly complex interfaces for recording and playback, Mookies is a tangible user interface that utilizes physical affordances to simplify the interactions. Users can be creative in exploring sonic properties of everyday objects, using each Mookie as a container for its uniquely recorded sound; multiple Mookies can be used to create an orchestra of sounds. We designed Mookies such that they are accessible to all types of users, from novice to expert musicians, from the technically challenged to the hacker, and from the individual to a group of collaborators. We also aimed to keep the meaning and use of Mookies open to interpretation. In integrating the physical, aural, and social contexts, Mookies allow users to engage in unique, meaningful experiences. I coded the algorithm for Mookies with an initial graphical mockup, which was then implemented with the physical prototype.

screenshot of GUI prototype

Steve with Mookies

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June 2011

with Michael Ang, Denise King, & Camillia Matuk

I participated in the Data Visualization Workshop hosted by the Exploratorium's New Media Studio with other exhibit developers, scientists, designers, and data visualization developers. It was an intense, but very exciting day dedicated to the challenges of representing scientific data to the public through museum exhibits. As part of the workshop, we were grouped into diverse teams to brainstorm and prototype our own exhibit design to engage the public through visualization of data from Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators (GTOPP). Our team was most impressed by the vast distances that these predators traveled. As a consequence, we prototyped an embodied interaction for visitors to experience the distance traveled by the oceanic predators, where visitors would ride a stationary bicycle (modified with a rotary encoder and microcontroller), attempting to achieve the same distance and/or speed that the predators travel. As an extension, visitors could cumulatively race against the predators; the distance and speed traveled by visitors to-date are compared to the journeys of the predators. We believed that experiencing the physicality of the distances and speeds that these animals travel would provide a memorable learning experience to really understand the animals' amazing feats.

racing on the stationary bike; photo courtesy of the data visualization workshop

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Fall 2010

with Brian Meagher, Alison Meier, & Rahul Desai

Green Challenge is a tangible, interactive game for Waste Management (WM) to educate children on appropriate recycling practices. The game prompts users to dispose garbage items properly into compost, recycle, or trash; if the item is not appropriately disposed, the user must try again. With an additional timed component, users attempt to beat the top score or scores of their friends.

Our client WM had the goal of reducing recycling stream contaminants in order to improve WM's operational efficiency. Stepping through the new product development and design process, we designed and developed the game based on user research with children, adults, and WM to meet our client's goal as well as the needs of our users. We progressed from low fidelity to higher fidelity prototypes, informed by feedback from our client and from user testing. We designed and produced three iterations of prototypes, each improved through analysis of feedback from user testing. See here for more details on our design process.

interview girl and dad

sketch of design

testing game

testing sticker station

journal sketchwhiteboard

game discs

game platform

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Fall 2010

with Betsy McColm & Justin Wang

This project involved all phases of the manufacturing process of a brass corkscrew. We first built 3D solid models of the corkscrew in SolidWorks, from which we produced formal engineering drawings with the specified dimensions and tolerances. Second, we used the drawings to manufacture the part from brass stock in the machine shop. Third, we performed finite element failure analysis of our assembly model in SolidWorks to determine the safety factor in twisting in and removing the corkscrew.

corkscrew body drawing

corkscrew headpiece drawing

corkscrew closed

corkscrew open

corkscrew FBD

corkscrew solidworks FOS

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Spring 2010

with Ashley Kayler, Sunny Lee, & Dan Turner

I worked with a team in the design and development of a mobile application that teaches children about fractions through music. I took the lead in connecting these two areas and developed an intuitive and interactive interface for creating music. We collected preliminary data by interviewing children on their understanding of music and fractions. We then went through several iterations in developing various prototypes, progressing from paper prototypes to a marketable iPhone application, with each stage informed by user testing and interviews. Our final product received positive feedback from children, who all successfully linked the concepts of music and fractions.

interface sketch 1interface sketch 2

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Spring 2010

with Bing Chen & Carlos Lievano

We investigated the user experience of, an educational resource website that provides videos lessons in math, science, and various high school standardized tests. We developed and implemented three user experience research protocols: 1) interviews with nine recent test takers to understand how and why they choose methods of preparation for standardized tests, 2) usability tests with six users to gain insight on how easy it is to navigate the website, and 3) surveys from ten current Brightstorm users to learn current internet habits as well as their use and perceptions of Brightstorm. Recommendations for improvement of the website include increasing flexibility and personalization of the website, providing for online and offline collaboration, adjusting the search algorithm, increasing the consistency of the content, and providing more practice questions and tests.

interview 2 boys

interview alex

usability 3

usability 4

popular websites

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Fall 2009

with Fei Chen

myFermi is a science education application for mobile devices in which students collaboratively solve Fermi problems. These problems are often used in science to estimate an answer to a problem before calculating a precise answer. The app allows students to collect and share ideas through photos, video, audio, and text in collaborating with each other and interacting with the environment. I developed the education content and structure, incorporating education design principles and learning theories. I also integrated features for social collaboration and data collection using the affordances of mobile devices. I then collaborated with Fei to design two prototypes that we tested with students aged 13-16. Solving these problems on the mobile device, we found that students enhanced their abilities to visualize quantities, justify scientifically, and realize their environmental impacts on the world through three components of this design: problems, brainstorms, and technology. Click here for a rough prototype.

interface sketch


user testing

twitter chats

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Spring 2009

with Michael Manoochehri, Lora Oehlberg, Kimiko Ryokai, & Alice Agogino

I participated in the initial stages of this education research project, developing an interactive and educational application for mobile devices focused on environmental science. The application is a scavenger hunt to explore various plant species around campus. I developed ideas for education content, implemented map-based code utilizing GPS for the Android mobile device, and conducted user testing on college students.

android 1 phone from

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Spring 2009

with Cliff Fung & Trung Vo

We designed the hardware, software, and mechanics of a mechatronic system. Using the base of an RC car and an FPGA board, we developed a racing car that follows a track laid by a wire of current. We explored such topics as high current/power design issues, power supply and regulators, velocity and motor control using a PID controller, input from magnetic field and optical velocity sensors, and processing using real-time embedded software.

full view car


side view carcar on track

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