Challenges and Tradeoffs When Engaging Young Makers With Constructing for Others

Nathan Holbert, Sawaros Thanapornsangsuth, Marleen Villeroy


As makerspaces and fabrication labs enter schools as a means of motivating children to explore STEM fields, the lack of diversity in engineering and computing must be addressed. The Bots for Tots project explores the potential of leveraging deeper values and perspectives in making practices by engaging young children in designing and creating objects for others rather than for themselves. In this design case, we present outcomes from the first Bots for Tots implementation highlighting key design challenges and tradeoffs for (a) encouraging a personal relationship between builders and clients while retaining design complexity, and (b) ensuring productive prototyping while providing materials and tools with which designers are familiar. We also discuss revisions for a second iteration where we leverage an existing mentorship program to ensure close designer-client relationships, and constrain material choices throughout the construction process to encourage participants to focus on function and process during prototyping.

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