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Teen Design Lab

A captivating, online platform for teenagers to inspire engagement in STEM-related research and education.

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I am a.....

  • Student
  • Directed Research Group

Tell us about your idea

The goal of this project is to create a captivating, online platform for teenagers to inspire engagement in STEM-related research and education.

There will be a myriad of features for the teenage users to interact with, among those activities are answering surveys and polls related to teenager emotions and feelings during pandemics. These surveys enable researchers within these fields to leverage the data collected and use it to create meaningful solutions to address these problems. Teens will have the opportunity to learn more about themselves, engage in research, and collect badges to display on their profiles.

Secondly, teens will have access to educational material focused on STEM education, such as robotics and computer science. The content will be video-based and will include quizzes at the end of each chapter. Upon completion of each module, teens will earn badges and certificates to display on their profiles. This curriculum will be created by educators at the University of Washington from the HCDE, CS, and Engineering departments.

Thirdly, the platform will feature a generous selection of interactive activities that are STEM centered. One such activity is a robot builder that teens will have the opportunity to design their ideal robot. Another activity is a coding sandbox that is a modified version of Scratch, which allows teens the opportunity to code their own web-based robot by using blocks.

Lastly, the platform will also be used by researchers to host design challenges for teens to encourage creative thinking and co-designing impactful solutions to society's most complicated problems. In addition to these activities developed for teens, the platform will also allow researchers and educators the ability to create new surveys, basic visualizations of collected metrics, and publish research studies as well as educational content.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

The part of the Pre-Covid school system that we definitely aim to leave behind is the gradual removal of playful learning in schools such as slashing recess hours and play among early learners. According to this article by the Washington Post[1], the American Academy of Pediatrics has denoted the importance of playful learning for children. Playful learning is crucial to the development of early learners. It also helps alleviate the stress and emotional burden that they experience. This is especially true in the time of Covid-19. Hence, we aim to deliver a platform that blends the best of education with the experimentation and playful aspect to inspire creativity and curiosity among our users. Instead of reading papers or text, videos provide a more relaxing way for learners to absorb and digest content. Furthermore, with the lockdowns in place, many students are looking for ways to participate in extra-cocurricular activities that directly correlate with their interests. Our platforms enable them to participate while at home by interacting with surveys and studies related to their interests. We are also rewarding them upon completion of these activities, which helps create a sense of accomplishment during these tiring times. [1] Strauss, V. (2020, April 08). Perspective | A proposal for what post-coronavirus schools should do (instead of what they used to do). Retrieved from:

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

We are a team of research assistants within the directed research group called Project EMAR at the Human-Centered Design and Engineering department at the University of Washington in Seattle. Project EMAR aims to answer research questions in the fields of social robotics, teen mental health, and cognitive emotion studies. Project EMAR attempts to address these questions by developing impactful solutions. The Teen Design Lab is a subsidiary of Project EMAR.

When the team started designing the Teen Design Lab last Summer, the platform was meant only to help researchers increase teenager participant engagement and retention with interactive surveys as well as enabling researchers the ability to share their studies and results that directly correlates with the surveys. However, when we started the research process, we identified that the problem with retention and engagement was not because of the bland surveys, but because there is simply no incentive for teenagers to stay on the platform. Hence, after concluding our research and identifying the core features that would attract and keep teen participants, we designed the Teen Design Lab you see today. However, before we finish developing the platform, the Covid-19 pandemic had arrived in the United States, and Washington state, in particular, was affected immensely because it was the epicenter of the breakout. After lockdowns started, there have been cries from both the research and educator communities that there are no sustainable platforms to perform research with teenagers as well as for teenagers to participate in studies or activities that they are interested in. Hence, we decide to make subtle changes that address the pain points and needs of the users that are under the duress of the pandemic, such as adding more fun activities to the platform. 

We hope that the Teen Design Lab will be a platform for teenagers around the world to participate in non-traditional learning as an avenue to escape the emotional distress that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought and transform the way research as well as education could be conducted within a remote environment.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

University of Washington, Human-Centered Design & Engineering Department. Seattle, Washington.

Attachments (1)

Recoding of the prototype


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