received very positive reviews from the
teachers and students. The students
learned about Arduino-C programming,
sensors, and communication, and
with this knowledge designed, built,
and created a diversity of projects. For
example, the children created spelling
games and emoticons and recorded their
heart rates using the device. Everyone
wanted to get their hands on one.
Then, serendipitously, Yvonne
Rogers, a professor at UCL, and the late
Katy Jones, an executive producer at the
BBC’s Learning Zone, met by chance
by the swimming pool while on holiday.
Their mutual ideas and inspiration about
how to help children learn resulted
in UCL and the BBC joining forces.
A meeting of minds ensued as they
discussed how the Engduino could be
further developed along the lines of what
the BBC had in mind: to get children
excited about coding and creating.
A number of other universities and
companies had also been presented with
the BBC Io T device challenge. The UCL
team addressed the challenge from an
interaction design perspective. Over a
period of a few months, they ran a series
of design workshops with Nic Marquardt
(physical computing), Venus Shum
(electronic engineering), Yvonne Rogers
(educational technology and HCI),
Howard Baker (part of the BBC Learning
team working on micro:bit), and Matt
Davies (an independent UX consultant).
Through many brainstorming sessions,
they came up with a universally
accessible, gender-neutral sensing/
actuation device that could support
social- and discovery-based explorations
of electronics and coding while
introducing computing concepts that
could be readily linked to children’s
everyday life. The importance of the
user journey, from the moment children
would receive the kit to what they would
do with it afterward, was sketched,
prototyped, laser-cut and redesigned.
As part of this process, the kit was
thoroughly tested to get the right form
factor and engineering, and to find the
right making activities that would inspire
children to learn to code and create.
Out of this collaborative process,
the MakeMe cube was born (Figure
2). It was presented as a simple flat-
pack construction kit, comprising six
pieces, intended for assembly into a
cube. When shaken, it would change
color depending on the speed and the
direction of the shaking motion. The
ultimate challenge was to shake the
cube into a multicolored light show.
Each piece made up a side of the cube;
one side had a PCB embedded in it,
another an accelerometer, another a
battery, and another an LED. The other
two sides were left blank. The idea was
that by first snapping the pieces out
and then working out how to put them
together to make the cube, children
would learn about the properties of each
component and the mapping between
sensors and actuators.
The UCL team ran several workshops
with the MakeMe kit in schools and at
outreach events for children and
teenagers between the ages of 6 and 16.
The feedback was overwhelmingly
favorable. Moreover, it was found that the
process of making the cube significantly
improved young children’s learning and
performance [ 4]. The MakeMe cube was
pitched to the BBC, which was suitably
impressed by its design and the findings.
Several hundred were then built and
distributed to both children and adults
at workshops and science festivals in the
U.K., and at the Exploratorium in San
Francisco. Further workshops were held
at the BBC’s own CBBC days for children,
generating much joy and excitement.
The MakeMe cube, alongside
the other university and industry
researchers’ prototypes, provided
Figure 1. A BBC Micro
computer from the 1980s.