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Climate Kids 2.0

Climate Kids 2.0

Building empathy and understanding towards climate change for young children using tangible interactions

Climate Kids 2.0.png

Tangible GAME Design / Education

Climate Kids 2.0 is an interactive game allowing participants to build a city from scratch, utilizing natural resources, while exploring the subtle negotiations between sustainability and development. This is our second iteration of the original Climate Kids project, which was awarded the Ignite Grant by Jacobs Institute of Design, UC Berkeley. View the first iteration here.

My Role

Researcher, Game / Interaction Designer, Prototyping Engineer


Guerrilla Research, User Interviews, Literature Review, Ideation, Sketching, Paper Prototyping, Electronics, Physical Prototyping, Arduino Development

Recognition & Awards

This project was presented at the Jacobs Spring Design Showcase 2018, as part of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, UC Berkeley



We felt that we could do more to take advantage of the tangible medium in our physical verse. From further evaluation, we emerged our focus into the multi-modal feedback of tangible objects, catching children's attention onto the cause-and-effect relationships of climate change.

Critique Insights - the Medium

  • We could explore giving users more control to co-construct a world

  • Gamification may be integral in learning such abstract concepts as an incentive pushes one to conquer the obstacles

  • The age group we are currently targeting will find it challenging to understand more complicated concepts of cause and effect

Critique Insights - Interaction

  • When children grow up, it's important for them to learn the utility of the tool and not just the cause and effect of it

  • Features of the interaction must be designed in a way to allow the children to see how and WHY it's designed the way it is

  • Tangible interactions need to have a direct mapping, hence the burden of the learning must lie in the interaction and not simply the abstract thought process prior to the interaction

  • We must focus on showcasing the tradeoff between sustainability and development as want to emphasize that conserving energy does not mean eradicating its use. 

Initial Ideas

Initial Ideas

Phase 1: Concept

IDEA 1: Construct a city where children in the classroom play roles in the city council: developer, city health, etc.

IDEA 2: Divide the land into a city and a forest, allowing participants to play different roles in the development and playing with the boundaries of two.

IDEA 3: Generate energy in a city with no energy supply using means of input provided.

Balancing Sustainability & Development

Balancing Sustainability & Development

“Strength” or “happiness of the town”

“Strength” or “happiness of the town”

Eventually, through interviews with researchers and environmental science experts, we established that our aim was to teach the subtle negotiations between sustainability and development and how can disturb or prosper either.

The goal of our interactive game is to balance the “strength” of the town elements with the environmental resources. The development (town pieces on the grid), the more the town benefits. The more sustainability (environmental resources are on the grid), the more the ecosystem benefits. Renewable resources are good for both the town and the environment → this presents a learning goal for students.

Phase 2: Concept Development & Prototyping

We began brainstorming at the root of our aim, educate the younger generation about climate change in order to build empathy about their actions. Hence, we questioned what form of climate change education we should offer in the first place: greenhouse gases, water pollution, recycling habits, sustainability, development under climate change, the options were endless. However, we kept going back on the idea of co-constructing a world.

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The Board Layout

The game consists of a bread-type board, shaped as a hexagon. The board itself is made up of small hexagon spaces, which can be filled in with hexagon pieces. This represents the town. Around the town is a circular belt with establishes the health of the town development and the health of the town's ecosystem.

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Phase 3: Playtesting

There are five essential hexagons shaped pieces in the interactive game: tree, house, ore, power supply (coal and renewable).

Tree: A tree piece acts as an unplanted seed when it has not been inserted in the town. When it is 'plugged-in', the tree is planted and grows over a period of time. Once the tree is grown, it will eject small pieces of lumber which can be used for community construction. 

  • Each town tile requires 3 pieces of lumber to be activated as a working part.

  • Three empty sockets that register when a piece of lumber is placed in it.

  • All 3 pieces together complete the circuit, so the code detects on and off.

  • LED that lights up when energy tiles are nearby. LED can also light up if a solar token is placed on top (?).

Town: A town piece can only be constructed using the lumber from the tree. It can be placed into the town hexagon, however, requires to be supplied with power to be completely functional.

  • Each town tile requires 3 pieces of lumber to be activated as a working part.

  • Three empty sockets that register when a piece of lumber is placed in it.

  • All 3 pieces together complete the circuit, so the code detects on and off.

  • LED that lights up when energy tiles are nearby. LED can also light up if a solar token is placed on top

Ore: An ore piece acts similar to the natural resource of the tree, however, it also needs to be established over time. Once this process is completed, ore pieces will be disposed from the board which can be used to create power supplies. 

  • Fading LED that cycles as ore is dispensed.

  • Bright == tells board to dispense ore.

  • Fade out again on a loop.

  • Loops infinitely unless there is an event that hinders ore health.

Power Supply: Ore pieces can be used to either construct a coal power supply or a renewable power supply. Coal power supply requires fewer ore pieces to be constructed and can be fully formed at a faster rate, as compared to the renewable power supply. However, it causes more environmental degradation.

  • Each coal tile requires 2 pieces of ore to be activated as a working part, and 3 for the renewable. 

  • Coal produces more waste than renewable energy. 

  • The power supply will light up 3 town pieces in its vicinity. 


Designing a tangible board game is no easy task! There were a number of challenges with the new prototype. On the technical implementation, we found that a hex grid would be very difficult to implement, and hence went with a rectangular grid. Since we are designing a tangible board game, we needed a board that could sense not only if there are pieces on parts of the board, but if yes, what type of pieces (house? ore?). We eventually decided to go with the use of voltage, where we assign a specific resistor for each piece, and program the corresponding voltage within the Arduino code.

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The Showcase

The final prototype is a proof-of-concept, where we created a small Arduino-powered prototype presenting the basic mechanisms of each resource tile. Additionally, we created a small graphic which animated the game play. This was presented as part of the Jacobs Spring Design Showcase 2018

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