This workshop was at the Digital Youth Divas summer camp where Nichole Pinkard is leading. It was a week-long study, including three sessions with six middle school girls to evaluate the accessibility and adaptability of the beta version of our design system and associated prototyping techniques. On the first day we showed examples of mechanical papercraft to introduce the week-long curriculum and engaged students in a warm-up exercise learning to control a 180-degree range servo motor using a microcontroller and to change the speed and the rotation range by modifying example code in Arduino. Then on each of the following two days, we introduced a specific movement theme: openclose movement using a rack and pinion mechanism—a pair of gears that convert rotational motion (by a pinion gear) to linear motion (by a rack gear), and flapping movement using two identical interlocking rotational gears. Then for the last two days, students designed their own machines, combining movements they learned. We included only 180-degree range servos. After each session we asked students to reflect on what they learned, how their creations work, their inspirations in applying each movement to their own creations, and challenges they faced.
During the first two sessions, every participant used our design system to design a movement. In the first session (openclose movement), five students among six built working mechanical papercrafts and four applied the movement to make wings, mouth or leaves; two students struggled to imagine and find an application for the open-close movement. Then in the second session (flapping movement), likewise, all participants started by designing movements in FoldMecha. Students took more time in design than in the first session as they started thinking about what to build (how to apply the movement). Some students started by selecting a gear size and modifying linkage proportions to reflect a specific machine they planned to build. Every participant built a working mechanical papercraft.
For the last two days, students invented, designed and built their own machines by combining mechanical components. Two students completed and the rest of them presented their works-in-progress. Notably, regardless of the completeness, students were deeply
engaged in the design process and presented their ideas confidently. They successfully designed not only quite complicated mechanical movement but also personalized stories to apply into the movement in detail.
Because this workshop lasted five days and three sessions, it enabled us to observe gradual progression on their understanding about mechanical movements and making skills. They not only started describing the movements, which they planned to build in more detail by confidently taking specific poses and gestures; they also illustrated how to implement these movements mechanically. Overall, we reflect that this progress influenced students to spend more time planning and to stick with their initial ideas. In the first two sessions, rather than change their mechanical design structure to build what they planned, they instead changed their ideas to use the mechanism they had chosen. In the third session they design more quickly completed movement and avoided drastic modifications to the basic movement structure.