Abstract

Kime is a kit that allows children, between 4 and 8 years old, to become familiar and learn the electronic building blocks, playing and having fun with the basic circuits: resistors, photoresistors, switch and LED. Each electronic component is inserted in a block of wood, thus transforming the classic game of building blocks in an interactive game that can make room and bring to life the child’s imagination.

Interface and interaction modality

Ki me is a kit which introduces a new frame, interaction, and technology to the classic game of building blocks. The kit’s blocks are made of wood and are divided into two types of blocks, modular and unique, which are further divided into smart modules, sensors, actuators, and constructive modules, conductive wires. The constructive modules are identifiable as there will be a texture on their surfaces. In contrast, the smart modules will have the symbol of the respective component engraved on it. This system will make these symbols familiar; they can be used to learn and start reading the electrical diagram composed by the physical structure. This infographic system is revealing the pattern of the electric circuit in a visual way, that is overlapping it to the playful structure created by the child.

Also, the smart modules will be governed by a colour code. The connection faces between the blocks will present two different colours, one for input and one for output. The user will connect the various smart modules by matching the faces of the block having opposite colours. In this way, children begin to pay attention to input and output, as happens in the actual composition of an electrical circuit.

Ki me is a physical artefact. The user interacts with it by manipulating the various wooden blocks and modules. By combining them, following the colour code and the connection system with magnets, the user has the possibility of building structures at pleasure. Through these structure flows the current, from the battery module to each component, that brings to life the same structure. The actuators light up (LED modules) subjects, declined by the behaviour of the other smart components into the circuit, that the user built.

The main sense involved is the sight, with regards to the shapes, the colours, the differentiation between the components belonging to different families, and the effects produced by the respective blocks and the same electronic components inserted in them from the active flow of electrical current (thermoresistor, photoresistor). Touch is also involved, concerning the texture of the blocks, with wood used as the main material.

Technology

The armadillo circuit is a suggested structure and is not the only option for the child, who may chose to not take it into account, as with the other structures of animals or chimaeras shown; the child can compose alternative structures and therefore alternative circuits.

Each block (both smart and constructive) will contain a tiny green LED in addition to the specific wire or component. It will function as a feedback to allow the user to verify that everything functions, that the current passes through the connected blocks, and in the case of error stimulate the solving problem. A resistor will be added in case the child connects the LED module straight to the battery module to prevent shorting the component.

User experience

Ki me is a kit that is pleasant to use, straightforward, and intuitive. Simplifying the electrical circuits, to the point of being able to put it together through the elements and the basic structures of the building block game, that is known and appreciated by children. This way, it is fun and intuitive; it allows the child to put the electrical circuits at the service of his imagination, manipulating and playing with the different blocks included in the kit. At the same time, it is instructive. Through playful activity, children can compose basic electrical circuits, giving life to their creations.

The kit is also customizable. It is possible to add additional electronic components while using it since this is an electric base and the electricity flow through into different components. It is also possible to add new building blocks or elements to create a setting for structures and circuits assembled by users. The project is also adaptable according to the target users, which can be divided into two groups: the first one between 4 and 6 years old, and the second one between 7 and 8 years old.

The first age group is more attracted to the finer manipulation of itself and the discovery, while children between 7 and 8, already introduced in the school system, are interested in the further study of particular issues. That is why the kit could have two levels of use. The first one is better targeted at children between 4 and 6 years old, where the building is put in service of the imagination, observation, and investigation of the reality systems that surround him. Building is achieved by going into creating with no plans and only at the end, attributing identity to the product. The second use is aimed at children aged 7 and 8 years old, where they can go more thoroughly, investigate the electrical circuits, combine pieces, and go in search of the desired feedback.

Thanks to the children’s imagination, there is also the modularity; they can decontextualize their constructions from the set of the animals. The same kit is also modular and may have different reference worlds. It does not only exist if it is placed in the animal world; for example, it might also be placed in the urban context, space, and so on.

Research and development context

Kime allows children to become familiar with and learn how to manage an electrical circuit but not exclusively, the kit supports and pushes the kids to unleash their imagination, starting with the pretext of a context of animal and having as limit the very boundaries of the imagination of the child. The modularity of the kit takes children through different settings and different languages, not just animal.

Kime teaches playing and at the same time frees the imagination, involving different senses through the physical blocks

Main references

David Macaulay, The new way things work, HMH Books for Young Readers, 1998.

Forrest M. Mims III, Getting Started in Electronics, Master Publishing. 2003.