physical prototyping / education
FantaSTICK is a fun tool that augments the classroom experience for children, through guidance and structure that can support their natural curiosity and activity and ultimately empower them to engage with the outdoors.
FantaSTICK is divided into detachable modules corresponding to colors and tasks. The purple module stores tools, the blue, litmus paper for testing PH, the green, plants or flowers, the orange, insects, and the yellow, soil as well as a moisture sensor.
Alyssa Li. Arnaud Bard de Coutance, Lieyah Dagan, Silvia Kim
Interaction Designer, Prototyping Engineer
Recognition & Awards
This project was published in the Made at Berkeley book (by UC Berkeley Arts + Design), which showcases the achievements of top students at UC Berkeley in their respective arts or design fields.
We built Fantastick, an interactive modular stick to encourage children to sense, explore, and experience nature
“Children are naturally scientists”
While we hear this phrase often, children still need guidance and structure to turn their natural curiosity and activity into something more scientific. Children’s curiosity and need to make the world a more predictable place certainly drives them to explore and draw conclusions and theories from their experiences. However, they need guidance from an educator to practice science—to engage in rich scientific inquiry.
In our secondary research and literature review, we found that with the growing understanding of the power of children’s early thinking and learning, early childhood settings are extremely important in the children’s learning during their later years [Worth, Karen]. Research shows that most children have formed an opinion (either positive or negative) about science by the time they reach the age of 7 [Splanger, Steve]. This implies that early childhood educators have a great impact and influence on a child’s potential to seek out a career in science or engineering. Hence, science may serve not only to build a basis for future scientific understanding but also to build important skills and attitudes for learning.
As a group, we looked back on our personal experiences in science classrooms and discussed the problems within it. We found our own science instruction to be mostly text-based, with a lot of time spent in the classroom. In essence, there were minimal outdoor exploration and hands-on learning. We thought this was a crucial problem to address, as learning from text is very different from first-hand experiences, as we have discovered during our background research.
Two key insights emerged from our research: 1) education within classroom settings are boring for young children, and is unable to capture their attention span and interest, and 2) even outside the classroom, children are not having enough outdoor physical activity due to attachment to mobile devices and screens. These insights were consistent with our secondary background research as discussed above, and further confirmed the need for what we were building.
The modular aspect of the design was used to allow children to collect and sample a variety of features, rather than being limited to one single module, which we felt could limit this exploration. This method allows for a more diverse learning approach, that provides room for changes or variation. In addition, we wanted the modules to be detachable and attachable, allowing children to mix and match based off of their needs or interests; this aspect inspired by traditional toys. The colors on the modules could not only be aesthetically exciting but also could help them easily identify different tasks. Additionally, we imagined that being able to build or deconstruct, as part of the process, could be an enjoyable and interactive way to engage children.
In addition to the stick, we added the component of beacons, which helps to gamify the experience of exploration and discovery. These bluetooth enabled beacons are tethered to the children’s stick, and placed in areas of interest by the teacher or parent. When a student walking with Fantastick comes closer to a beacon, the beacon sends signals to the stick making it light up to a certain color. Depending on which color lights up at the top of the stick, the child will know what module to work on.
The soil moisture sensor was an educational addition that would allow children to sense and learn during their adventure, rather than after, since most of the other modules are for sampling or collection (aside from the PH module). Here, we also would have liked to explore more sensing technology, however, with the limited time, we decided on the soil moisture sensor because it could be integrated at the bottom in a way that visually was intuitive for a stick and could engage the ground in a few way for children as they walk around.
For the final design, we ultimately ended up with two independent systems on the stick: the sensor at the bottom with Neopixel strips, and the beacon scanner at the handle with Neopixel rings. Depending on the moisture level of the soil, the LED would change colors. If the soil is dry, it lights up red and if the soil is wet, it lights up green. We decided to use the LED display method instead of a numerical display because we felt like color is more easy and fun to engage with for children.
To begin the journey into the outdoors, parents and teachers place beacons in areas with data they would like the children to explore. When a child finds a beacon, a light at the top of their handle will indicate which module should be used for sensing or collecting. After a fun adventure, children can take their discoveries back to the classroom or the home, where teachers and parents can use an online platform that visualizes and records these discoveries through an interactive map and a personal profile. Changes in this data over time, as well as changes in the level of activity of the children, can be used to spark conversation, education, and further discovery.
The Fanstastick Team