Bee a Pollinator!
Himani Deshpande, Duri Long
Our aim was to design an exhibit which would induce curiosity among kids aged 3-7 and through it, convey STEM concepts about flowers and pollination.
I was interested in investigating the role of embodied interaction and play in engaging this demographic of users. The development process of the exhibit and some of the key findings are discussed below.

We began the process by observing and exploring the current state of the Children's Museum of Atlanta (CMA). CMA is a relatively unsupervised play environment, so all exhibits need to meet safety/ durability requirements, and designs should support fun/play in addition to learning outcomes. 
Based on our visit to CMA, literature review and feedback from our partners at CMA, we developed the following design goals:
•  Exhibit needs to be “tough”--i.e. able to withstand long-term repeated use by children
•  Exhibits should involve tangible/embodied interaction rather than a screen or GUI
•  Exhibit should support social interaction and collaborative play, where possible
•  Exhibit should be targeted at the CMA audience, which is primarily field trips and family groups with children age 0-7
•  Exhibit should facilitate multiple levels of engagement/learning in order to support interactions with children of various ages
We were initially motivated by the Georgia State science Standard:
 S2E3. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about how weather, plants, animals, and humans cause changes to the environment. 
In the current state of the world, the bees are dying and pollination is being hampered. This is causing ripple effects throughout the environment. We found it imperative to teach kids at an early age what pollination is which would then lead to understanding its importance. We were also inspired by the embodied and collaborative Dickinson Pollination installation.
The learning goals for our exhibit were:
Primary : Bees move pollen between flowers; bees transport pollen when it sticks to their pile; flowers are only pollinated when the pollen matches the flower; when pollinated, flowers produce fruit
Secondary: Fine motor skill development; color/type matching; counting; cooperation/coordination with others
• Kids act as pollinators using bees to pollinate different flowers. 
• The pollen balls stick to the felt bees mimicking pollens sticking to actual bees while they move from flower to flower. 
• Kids try to match the pollen colors to the color of the flower while dropping the balls in. 
• The flower stem shows a progress bar of lights as each pollen is dropped in. 
• Once a specific number of pollen are dropped in, flower turns into fruit showing that the flower is pollinated.
Initial Prototyping
This prototype consisted of a pollen collection station in the form of a flower (red petals) with bees attached to it. Users would grab a bee, pick up pollen from the flower and then drop them into the box in front of the robotic flower (blue petals) one by one. Each pollen dropped into the box would light up a section of the neopixels around the stem of the robotic flower showing progress. The color of the pollen balls would be detected by a USB camera. Once three pollen are dropped in, the previously open robotic flower would close to show the formation of a fruit (we were not able to accomplish this part as the torque required to open/close the robotic flower was too high and even when the flower was closed, it did not resemble a fruit)
User testing insights
We set up the prototype at the Children's Museum of Atlanta for user testing. The insights obtained were as follows:
There was a need to develop a connection between the pollen box and the robotic flower since users did not understand how the two were connected
The height of the red flower was too high for some of the younger kids to reach the bees
The exhibit needed to be sturdier since the red flower almost fell over when an adult tried to pry a bee out of it
The 'turning of the flower into a fruit' part needed work since the flower did not close due to the requirement of a high torque and also, did not resemble a fruit

Final Prototyping
The third iteration of the design Full installation from front consisted of one cohesive installation in the form of a cornhole-like game. Three color-coded holes at the bottom provided access to the colored pollen balls where the kids could stick the bees in to collect pollen. Three flowers with the same colors were painted on the top section of the board around holes for kids to drop the pollen into. The pollen color detection and the progress shown through the lit up stems of the flowers were preserved from the previous iteration. Since the torque required for the robotic flower was too high, we decided to make a fruit pop up from the flower instead, to show the final step of pollination. A rack and pinion mechanism was used for the fruit attached to a servo. When three pollen of the same color were matched to the flower hole, the fruit from the corresponding flower would move up and down.
• Interactions with bees and balls
• Kids understood what to do without reading
• Parents made connections to pollination lessons in school--“Bees pollinating, you learned about that in school!”
• Exhibit is sturdy, holds up to use, contains balls, ramps work (durability)
• Visually cute and attracts visitors
• Physical installation withstood kicking/pushing (durability)
• Color detection unreliable in variable light conditions
• Servos/gears coming detached, a sturdier build necessary
• Hard to see LEDs in museum 
• Flowers would need to be more sturdily attached in the long-term
• Something needs to draw kids’ attention to the flowers as they are more involved in throwing the balls in the holes
• Assembly and reliability of the flowers need to be improved 
• Custom 3D printed encasing for gears needed (feasibility/maintenance)
• Servo gear system needs to encased in a box 
• Petals need to be more durable  (durability)
• Stem needs to screw into base (feasibility/maintenance)
• Each flower needs to have its own base with 6 pins to connect to a central Arduino (feasibility/maintenance/logistics)
• Wooden dowels on bees should be replaced with metal (snapping) (safety/durability)
• Ramps on inside of the exhibit should be made out of wood (although they withstood a day of use)
• Acrylic casings for cameras (durability)
• Transport - fits in cargo van (logistics)
My role and learnings
Apart from our combined effort in research and concept development, my contributions were the exploration and build of mechanisms for different robotic flowers and the building of the prototype. I believe that this project provides a successful concept in terms of user experience, interactions and learning goals but the build requires another iteration. For me, it was fascinating to watch the kids playing with our installation and the parents trying to explain to them the meaning behind their actions. I think there is value in this indirect form of learning. The demographic of children visiting the museum spans ages 0-7. Through this project I learnt the importance of adding levels to the learning goals. The older kids may have understood pollination, but the younger kids practiced their color matching, counting and fine motor skills. I was really intrigued by the collaboration aspect of this exhibit and I wish to pursue further research which dives deeper into this embodied interaction, play and collaboration realm.