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HUBBLE

An interactive planetarium for classrooms to assist teachers explain and test abstract concept of space to elementary students better.

 

Presented at Frog Design, Dumbo + Awarded a grant by NYC Media Lab x Verizon Connected Futures III Challenge.

 

//COMPUTER VISION, INTERACTION DESIGN, UX DESIGN

 

 

 
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Role

This project was a part of the Verizon Connected Futures Prototyping and Talent Development program under the category Social AR/VR. I worked in collaboration with Amy Ashida, Christine Lawton and Wolfgang Gil. I was responsible for ideating, wireframing, rapid prototyping and user testing.

 

Press

Our project was covered by Verizon News to showcase women in STEM.

 

Current Educational Tools Used

For centuries, we’ve taught kids about dynamic topics with static objects. These models are hard to understand, difficult to put together, and more importantly, don’t encourage play, and trap information inside the screen.

We began by looking at traditional models of teaching STEM topics. In order to provide focus, we decided to narrow our scope to learning about space.

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Books, diagrams, 3d models, and more recently, YouTube videos and websites seemed to be the primary ways kids learned about space. All of these mediums provided great information, but they tended to focus on either physical interaction or providing information with little bridge between the two. While some good apps do exist, kids don’t have enough opportunities to engage outside of a screen.

 
 

Why Don't They Work?

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Lessons are too structured and teachers in elementary schools usually follow a fixed approach. 

These methods don’t work effectively as each student has a unique learning method and grasping capacity - while some prefer merely listening to teachers, others understand more visually.

 

 

Additionally, traditional methods only offer minimal feedback.

If a teacher just stands there talking to the class, there’s no real way to know whether students fully understand the subject until assignments are graded or test time rolls around.

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Planning successful, engaging activities can also be very time consuming.

We discovered some fantastic craft projects designed for kids to help teach this material, which were fun and captivating for kids, but took a lot of planning and organizing for parents or teachers to pull off.

As a result, these activities were often limited in busy classrooms and homes.

 

What teachers had to say

 
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Goals

  • Design a tool for teachers that helps them create 3D experiences in class easily
  • Help kids learn abstract concepts such as space education easily
 
 

The Idea

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Device Exploration

For this project, our team had a unique opportunity to work with a new device called Lampix. This can transform any surface into a smart surface. Using computer vision, object recognition, and a projector, it allows digital interactions to take place off the screen. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, we decided to design specifically for this platform. 

Although we had Lampix, we studied two other technologies: iPad and Kinect. We wanted to understand different possibilities of physical and digital elements being used together.

 

Prototype Explorations

We went through many iterations of lessons and varying levels of fidelity. These ranged from rough outlines and video prototypes to computer vision sketches using the lampix devices. We wanted to prototype basic interactions, which meant that we had to understand exactly where on the table those interactions would take place and the functions needed to use the computer vision capabilities fo the device. 

 

The Journey

After talking to a few elementary school teachers, we locked down the curriculum and mapped out the journey.

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Wireframing

We then made low fidelity wireframes to flesh out the flow and interactions involved in the experience. 

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Rapid Prototyping

We then started rapidly prototyping how the interaction might look. We also wanted to add another dimension to provide an experience for students and teachers that combined the layered information of a digital application with the tactile experience of using 3D models. To achieve this we added a dome to the interface.

 

The Lessons

For Day and Night, kids get to point to a location on Earth and follow it as the day progresses. This helps them understand how the Earth’s rotation causes day and night.

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For Seasons, the focus changes from Earth to the Sun. On dragging the Earth around its orbit, kids learn about the relationship between earth’s position and seasons.

 

The third lesson is Craters. Here, kids can throw small sized objects at the moon. This simple and fun activity helps them learn about the moon’s surface and its gravitational pull.

 

Feedback and Iteration

We then tested our prototype with a few elementary school teachers. One of them Diana, who teaches 3rd grade in Maryland pointed out that to make children understand complex and abstract concepts, we would have to set up some context for them.

This really helped us make some changes to our prototype. We introduced a character, named Hubble the space explorer, to our experience that takes off to explore the space from the Earth in a space rocket. We realized that this would help kids understand the difference between what they see on earth versus the view from space. 

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Presenting at Frog Design

We designed this experience as a tool for teachers to explain complex concepts to their class. Hubble fits into existing space curriculum, helping teachers reinforce important concepts and vocabulary. We envision teachers leading their students through the experience before they adventure on their own.

For our final proof of concept we used video prototypes and shifted between lessons remotely. We presented the final proof of concept. 

 

Connected Futures Challenge

Amy Ashida, Christine Lawton and I recently became a part of the Verizon Connected Futures Prototyping and Talent Development program where we will be working for the next two months to refine our prototype under the category Social AR/VR. We are further refining and building our solution in collaboration with Wolfgang Gil.

We are primarily focusing on the quiz part of the experience. We are also using LEAP motion and gesture tracking instead of LAMPIX. Here are a few images from our work so far.

 

What I learnt

  • Working with a new device called Lampix
  • Rules for designing for large surfaces - the UX guidelines completely change.
  • Rapid Prototyping to test idea
  • Environment be an active participant in your experience as well!
  • 3D Modeling using Fusion 360
  • Understanding how to design experience with gestures