explore physical computing and design thinking

The digital pet project is a curricular sequence that extend a full semester or year depending on how deep the students dive into the various aspects. It starts with a foundation of physical computing projects using only the bit:booster with micro:bit. From there students extend with advanced projects in computing, robotics/mechanical engineering and digital design. The culmination project follows the design thinking framework and has students explore the world of therapy robots and design their own solution.


Module 1: Introduction to physical computing

Physical computing brings coding to life by bridging the code to the real world. Students explore how to control the various inputs and outputs of the bit:booster and micro:bit and put their exploration together in the design of a digital “pet.”

module 2 - digital design extension

The digital design extension focuses on using digital design and fabrication tools to build upon the digital pet. This module would require access to digital manufacturing tools such as laser cutters or 3d printers.

Student designs can be as simple as components that snap onto the board (similar to a Mr. Potato Head) or more complex enclosures and linkages.


Module 2 - robotics extension

This module has students exploring how adding motors can extend the functionality of their pet. This module is similar to the Robot Petting Zoo project developed by the TechHive at the Laurence Hall of Science.


Module 2 - Coding Extension

In the first module students were introduced to basic concepts of inputs and outputs. In this module students explore more advanced conditional events and storing variables.

The students will learn about the Tamagotchi pets and then define the required “care and feeding” of their own pet.

Module 3 - design project

After building a strong foundation of core skills through the previous two modules, students explore a design challenge around therapy robots. Students are encouraged to research the various ways therapy robots are used.

Therapy robots are used to help reduce stress, increase cognitive function, train youth and future pet owners in animal care. For example, in Benchmark Senior Living at Plymouth Crossings, Massachusetts, electronic pets are used to help brighten the mood of elderly residents, while also stimulating cognitive function.

Others have used robotic babies to create interactive training for new parents who need help in childcare, Engaged Couples Raise Robot Babies

Students can then choose an area of interest to their team and develop a therapy robot solution for a specific end user and challenge. They should be encouraged to focus on one specific behavior or need to address instead of addressing all the challenges of their user group.