The SymbIOTics System: Designing an Internet of Things Platform for Elementary School Students

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Sara Willner-Giwerc
Chris Rogers
Kristen Bethke Wendell


We describe a LEGO-compatible Internet of Things Technology (IoT) designed to enable elementary school students to learn about IoT by building their own smart, connected products. The Internet of Things is any network of physical devices that can share information over the internet. Using small, Wi-Fi enabled microprocessors, Grove sensors, digital fabrication tools, LEGO bricks, and the LabVIEW programming interface; an IoT system was designed specifically for use in elementary school classrooms. This design case details the barriers to entry that exist for using the Internet of Things with young students, the design decisions made to lower those barriers to entry, and the results of a pilot study conducted using the developed technology with second-grade students.


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How to Cite
Willner-Giwerc, S., Rogers, C., & Wendell, K. B. (2020). The SymbIOTics System: Designing an Internet of Things Platform for Elementary School Students. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 11(2), 64–79.
Author Biographies

Sara Willner-Giwerc, Tufts University

Sara Willner-Giwerc is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, which supports her research on designing technologies and learning experiences to maximize solution diversity in engineering classrooms.

Chris Rogers, Tufts University

Chris Rogers is a Professor and Chair of the Mechanical Engineering department at Tufts University. His research interests focus on fluid turbulence, musical instrument design, and robotics—both educational robots and soft robotics. He also works in pre-college education, particularly in the area of K-12 science, math, and engineering education to bring engineering into younger grades and excite children about solving problems and learning science and math.

Kristen Bethke Wendell, Tufts University

Kristen Wendell is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Education at Tufts University. Her research group studies learning and teaching dynamics in a range of engineering learning environments. Wendell is especially interested in learning experiences that are consistent with the work of disciplinary communities (e.g., practicing scientists and engineers) while also enabling knowledge construction by the learners.