Project Inter-Actions

Spring 2003



Pilot Study, Spring 2003

Example Project

"All Men Are Created Equal"
Project by Laura Boudreau

Photo Essay

A photo essay documenting the project.


Final video documenting the project.

Note: You may need a QuickTime plug-in to watch the video in your browser. This can be downloaded from the Apple site: Or, right click on the link and "Save Target As", then download the file and watch it on a media player on your computer.

Family Design Pages

Maya and Dad, Frank
The Water Scooper

Our family likes to go swimming. We like to be near water. Water is fun and very important for all living things. For a long time people used machines like water wheels to get the water from one place to another place.

Using Legos, duplos, an old duplo table as the base, two plastic cups, Lego Mindstorm programmable motor, little Lego people, kitchen utensils (ceramic bowl, wooden ladel) and aluminium foil.

First we built the stand for the scooping arms, then we built the windmill part (scooping arms) that have the plastic cups attached at their ends, then we looked for a base stand and found an old duplo table in our attic that has a cutout with a net in the middle - ideal for fitting and holding a bowl filled with water. Then we built a shute (waterslide) out of duplo tubes and attached aluminium foil to direct the water back into the bowl after it has been poured out from the plastic cups. Then we programmed the motor to turn the scooping arms, turn the lights on that were added to the structure and have the German folk song "Alle meine Entchen" played as well. To stop we programmed a push button to end all programs.

Setenay and Mom
The Cake

Setenay's Description

This is a project. i wrkt hord to make the cak. I made lights on top of the candle which is the highest. The cake is for alaine for her borth day. It plays happy birthday and an armenian song. this project was good. I make it at the lego place. i lik to play with lagos. me and my mom made this note on the computer. love setenay to alaine

Mom's Description
Setenay has been looking forward to my sister's upcoming visit. She wants to celebrate my sister's birthday, so the idea of a cake made of legos appealed to her. I had never played with legos before so this project was a challenge for me. I felt we were lucky to get it to stay together, never mind moving parts. If we had had more time, the next part of the project would have been to make the cake rotate somehow. As the culture piece, I thought she might like adding some Armenian music to the cake, as music is an aspect of my family's culture she enjoys, and she was planning to perform a dance for my sister's birthday anyway. The song that the cake plays is a children's song called "dzapig, dzapig" which means "clapping, clapping." It's followed by "Happy Birthday." Marina also suggested lights, which was a good idea, as that was the part of the programming Setenay was able to help with the most. Because Setenay comes from more than one cultural tradition (my husband is Circassian from Jordan), the notion of culture in our family is complex, and this project provided us with an opportunity to discuss culture in our family. The books Marina brought for the participants to look at, which described celebrations and traditions across the world, raised thought-provoking questions for Setenay such as what is culture? why are there different languages? how are grandma and grandpa Armenian if they don't live in Armenia? and so on. It was a great opportunity for us to discuss them.

Kai and Dad
The Racecar

Katherine and Dad Sam
The Gardener

Catherine and I made a Gardening Robot. Cathering asked me what culture was, and when I said it was something important to our family that shows where the family has come from, she thought of gardening. We garden together in the summer, and the kids have their own section of the garden that they have planted. My grandparents had a farm and I grew up on a sort of hobby farm with a few animals, a small orchard and a big garden.

Our robot will water plants, and will, when done, also be able to move around the garden. We would also like to figure out how to get it to plant seeds by poking a hole in the ground, dumping the seed into it, and covering it over. The robot is on skates.

Lindsay, Connor and Mom Melba
The Easter Rabbit:Bunny and Basket Project

Designers: Connor (7), Lindsey (4), and Melba Chin (mother)

Project: Drawn bunny mounted on a moving vehicle. When it reached a basket, vehicle stopped and arm would move to pick up the basket.

Idea: The idea came mostly from Connor who has had Easter on his mind. He is looking forward to the Easter egg hunt.

Process: Originally Connor was going to build a bunny out of Legos. Meanwhile Lindsey was very excited about all the different art material and immediately wanted a bunny to decorate and color. Connor decided a bunny was too hard to make so decided to mount Lindsey’s bunny on a moving vehicle. We already knew how to make a moving vehicle from the previous lab. Lindsey set to work to build a basket out of Legos that the bunny could pick up.

Connor learned to program the “arm” to move. He solved many issues, such as: - the arm swung too far - the arm swung too fast

When we brought Lindsey’s basket over to see how it worked with the arm. We found that the Lego basket was too heavy to pick up. So Lindsey made a basket out of paper. That worked great!

Thoughts on the workshop: My original impression was that someone was going to teach the kids something about technology using programmable Legos. Then as we were told to go off and build something uncertainty soon followed because we hadn’t built with these types of Legos before. It was also frustrating trying to keep Lindsey involved. She was more interested in checking out the lab, computers and talking to the other families.

In the second lab, we built something and got it programmed and it worked. It was great to see Lindsey so enthusiastic about it. She kept playing with it and couldn’t wait to show her Dad at home.

The 3rd and 4th days were okay but still frustrating at times. Lindsey kept straying and I wanted her to stay with our project. It also was frustrating trying to keep Connor from saying derogatory comments to Lindsey, which I guess are normal sibling exchanges.

Now that’s it over, I am proud of what we made and especially how they solved the issues we had with our design. I really tried to get them to do the thinking and kept asking them questions. Connor is proud of how he was able to program our project. Lindsey is very proud of the project because she likes the bunny and how it moves and picks up the basket she made. She grasped some of the technological concepts of the project such as the motor connection, the “wire” connection when programming and how the program had to be downloaded to the brick.

Micah and Dad Randy
Go-Lem, the Matzoh Robot.

The project title is "Go-Lem, the Matzoh Robot." It is (or was supposed to be) a matzoh-seeking robot. It goes forward, lights up, and plays the Passover melody "Dayenu" at the push of a button. It is 100% unleavened.

Reflections on Project InterActions from Randy

When our family was first accepted for the project, I had a mix of feelings. I looked forward to having structured time to be with my son, Micah, and expand our abilities in an area we have enjoyed together, building things. He has also shown an interest in using the computer at Tufts Educational Day Care Center. But I had reservations, too, as did my partner. We weren’t clear from project descriptions how much time the child would be engaged at the computer, and wondered if it was appropriate for someone at this stage of development. The staff (Laura, then Marina) were very patient with our concerns and, as we discovered, there was no pressure or expectation that the kids spend undue computer time. Once in the workshop, it was a very welcoming environment, from the food and snacks to the kindness and attentiveness paid to both of us as novices with the technology. The staff were very clear that this was about the process of experimenting with technology with your child, not about accomplishing a fully realized project. Still, I did find the learning experience a little daunting, and had some frustrations with mastering it well enough to both make something and engage Micah in the process. I do believe it is a lot to take on in the short amount of time alloted – particularly given childrens’ attention spans and abilities, and (for this grown-up, anyway) the challenge of learning both the programming and the mechanical pieces of assembling the legos, motors, and add-ons. This may be a reflection of my own limitations in these areas. I did find that the initial Robo-Lab programming instruction went by awfully fast, and I could have used some hand-outs or a mini-manual of basic commands and concepts to refer to. The context-sensitive help was useful, once I learned about it. Of course, Jason’s coaching was invaluable. Besides the gummy bears and cookies, I think Micah really enjoyed making his own construction paper robot – he was very excited about showing this to his mom. He was also quite proud about doing a little programming. I would like to have made the process more “interactive” with the two of us planning, building, programming, and executing together, but for a number of reasons (his interests and attention, my difficult learning curve, family squabbles, limited time), this didn’t quite happen. I think our shared comfort level right now runs more to Lincoln Logs and other analog materials. In summary – I’m glad we did it, even if the robot really doesn’t find matzoh. Now I can add to my resume the ability to program a lego brick to play “Dayenu” in sixteenth notes. You never know when that might come in handy.