Design Engineering
Showcase 2020

The Craft Club

Design Engineering MEng
Dr Sam Cooper
Breaking Barriers

The Craft Club is a design intervention that supports young children’s engagement with electronics and computing. Learning through storytelling and play is core to the experience, which is embodied in an interactive booklet that takes a child through hands-on crafting activities that merge the creative and technical dimensions. The physical creations are accompanied by a vibrant online community, which seeks to encourage a sustained and collaborative learning environment.

How and with what impact can a design intervention increase children’s engagement with computer science?

Over the last few years there has been a surge in the number of robotics kits, coding applications, and engineering themed toys for young children. However, computer programming is still viewed as a narrow, technical activity, appropriate for only a specific segment of the population. To foster inclusivity to the diverse interests of young people, there needs to be a shift in how people interact with the field, to ways that are more tinkerable, meaningful and social.

Design Engineering Process

Key stakeholders were involved throughout the development process in a qualitative research study, including teachers, parents, industry professionals and young children themselves. This helped develop an understanding of successful teaching techniques and common barriers to accessibility, indicating that:

  • Stigma and disassociation with the computer science field stems from a young age, impacting certain demographics and communities more than others.
  • Playful learning and storytelling techniques are powerful tools in children’s early development and education.
  • Physical, tangible methods are more engaging than digital or software components alone.
  • Peer-based learning and collaboration boosts engagement.
 — The Craft Club
An origami creation in the paper electronics chapter.

Concept Development

The development process involved the creation of a toolkit that fuses the creative and technical dimensions, aiming to diversify the pathways into programming for young children who may otherwise feel excluded or uninterested in the field. The resulting concept makes use of storytelling teaching techniques, mixed creative media forms, and most importantly, learning through play. The Craft Club consists of an interactive booklet that guides children aged 7-10 through creative electronics and coding activities, providing the components and materials needed, and accompanied by an online platform for shared learning.

 — The Craft Club
Example of pages in the interactive booklet.

Outcomes and Validation

The success of the intervention was assessed through an in-depth user test, making use of observational and self-reported measures to evaluate the impacts both on children’s learning and engagement in the field. The results show that through interaction with the prototypes, there was not only an increase in electronics and technological knowledge, but also enhanced engagement due to the crafting activities and story-like format. Alongside physical testing, the online platform also proved promising in contributing to the shared learning community.

 — The Craft Club
A child's "sewable circuits" creation.

Next Steps

The development of The Craft Club highlighted areas for potential future research, which were impractical to pursue in the context of this study. Suggestions include:

  • How engagement with educational robotics shifts in different contexts and communities. The sample of this study was limited to one primary school and selected industry professionals.
  • The relative success of particular activities over others in children’s learning and engagement.
  • The impact of prolonged interactions with the design intervention on a child’s behaviour. The long-term effects of use remain undefined.
  • An exploration of the manufacture and marketing strategy. For example, whether to partner with schools or relevant electronics retailers.
 — The Craft Club
A child using the conductive paint to build a circuit.


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