Though critical engagement with identity usually does not begin until adolescence, children begin developing the foundations of their understanding about identity at a young age. Patchwork, the first kit of ElectriStitch, is an interactive construction kit which enriches learners’ experiences with identity reflection and expression. Learners are prompted to create patches with scaffolded electronic textile elements to express pieces of their own identity. Patchwork builds on the self expressive nature of traditional patches. Ultimately, the learner is scaffolded through both learning electronics as well as identity reflection and formation.
The project started as a team with Eileen River and Jacob Wolf. As a team we submitted and and presented at the 2018 Interaction Design and Children Conference. Eileen and I have continued on as co-founders of ElectriStitch, of which Patchwork aims to be the first kit.
Patchwork is designed to bring together physical fabric and electronic building blocks with self-expression. The kit has three main components:
Patch and Shapes
The first component is a patch that can be worn and serves as the artistic surface for endless creations. This is done with a series of fabric shapes to construct with.
Electronic Components and Learning Circutry
The second piece, are electronic components, such as LEDs, sensors, and switches, built into fabric that teach basic circuitry and allow the user to add an additional dynamic layer.
Storybook: Learning and Self-Expression
Finally these components are stitched together with a storybook following a young robot with Em and Sky’s adventures which guides on how to use the pieces. In addition, on the journey, they creatively reflect on and represent pieces of their life on the patch to show what makes them uniquely them. The flexible and movable pieces of Patchwork allow children to explore, experiment, and learn as quickly as they get excited about something new.
We have conducted two rounds of user testing targeting 8-10 year-old children.
Round 1: Usability of kit
Our purpose was to understand engagement with kit, pieces, and storybook. From this testing we created our second prototype which was presented at the 2018 Interaction Design and Children conference. The main finding was that while adults loved the packing of the pieces on each page, children did not grasp that the pieces were intended to move from page to page fluidly. This lead to our switch to a separate box and book that fit together as well as modifying the instruction on the pages.
Round 2: Self-Expression Study
With our second prototype created, we wanted to refocus on understanding how and what children want to express and wear. We conducted interviews with 26+ children and had children at Tech in the Tenderloin’s Tech Fest draw patches in response to our storybook prompts.