What is your background?
I studied physics in undergrad and then I got a grant to build an energy-harvesting playground at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. That’s when I realized I wanted to learn more about engineering and fabrication so I went back to school for a masters in Tangible Interaction Design.
The Teknikio kits are really fun. Since you’ve been able to observe children playing/ learning with the Teknikio kits, what have you noticed about the way they are used? Can you talk a bit about the project-based nature of the kits?
I think that project-based learning really facilitates the “aha” moment. We host workshops at museums, schools, and makerspaces through the year and I’ve seen so many kids start their project or activity feeling a little bit nervous about he engineering component, thinking it will be too hard or that they will make a mistake. Once they get over this (usually when their project starts working) their attitude completely changes and they really feel like masters of the concept. They can go from acting shy and seemingly uninterested to extremely enthusiastic and confident, explaining how it works to people they’ve just met. This is really what we are trying to do- build comprehension and creative confidence around science, technology , engineering, and math
What makes a successful Teknikio kit?
At the core, each kit combines technology with craft. I usually start by thinking about the craft, whether it be sewing or origami and then thinking about different applications and projects that could be made with that kit using circuits. Another important feature is that the kit feel gender neutral. We’ve had several different project and kit ideas that felt too gendered, so we didn’t make them into a full kit. With some, we are trying to come up with ways make it feel more gender neutral, and others we have decided to take off the list. Lastly, we think about reusability, we want to make sure the user can see how the kit could be extended with everyday materials they have in their house, so that they can keep inventing and making!
What kind of other partnerships/ projects are you doing?
I like to try and work with a lot of different groups. We work with a lot of museums, the New York Hall of Science probably being our longest term partner. I also teach at Parsons and we recently used Teknikio parts for a design prototyping summer course there, so I’m interested in exploring that application more. We have a few other projects in the pipeline that we may pursue soon, such as a book of Teknikio projects.
What’s next for Teknikio?
Right now we are working on a new kit that’s about designing stuff for your environment. It has more sensors like a light sensor and a temperature sensor so your projects react automatically to different conditions. For example with our light sensor you can build a project that turns on in response to a bright light or darkness.Or the project I’m most excited about – slippers that light up as you walk around the house!