The goal of the project «Science Toys = Science Tools» (STST) is to enable a direct exploration of natural phenomena outside the science center. We explore and develop products, workshops and installations through which such investigation can take place, in a multidisciplinary approach from the fields of design, engineering and natural sciences together with the Swiss Science Center Technorama. Our specific focus is on air related phenomena. We aim to connect abstract aspects of natural phenomena, like flow, pressure, texture, force or density of air to everyday experiences, such as breathing, weather forecasts and energy harvesting. We start by exploring how air phenomena are presented in science museums and understood from a science perspective, but also how air is represented and used in the arts, particularly in performative and participatory projects. We then develop simple prototypes such as lightweight airplanes, containers with styrofoam balls which can visualize airflow and wind, and inflatable structures which can make air tangible in shape and texture. We test our prototypes in participative workshops. Overall, we aim for the most fruitful interconnections between creative exploration of air qualities and scientific understanding of air phenomena. The final Science Toys should represent this balance of playful creative tweaking and scientific awareness created by interacting with and within our everyday environments. Therefore, a STST must foster both an individual learning process and an imaginative creative experience.
What is special about the project?
With the project „Science Toys = Science Tools“ we aim to transfer the qualities of science museum exhibits to everyday contexts and promote a more individual access to natural phenomena. In that sense we are enabling what is not possible inside the confined space of the science center - the direct confrontation with natural phenomena where they spontaneously occur.
Phase 1: Observation and Analysis
We conducted field research in the Technorama museum and analysed individual and social behaviour with and around the exhibits. Our findings show that grabbing a participant's initial attention was rather easy, but for participants to fully understand the phenomena presented in the exhibits, a greater commitment and attention was required (longer observing, reading the instructions, exploring and interacting more than once). Furthermore, social interactions were strong facilitators in experiencing the scientific phenomena, although sometimes distracting from learning factual content, they often lead into storytelling and play. We identified some important drivers for enabling the explorations within a science center, including the observation and imitation of other people, the importance of role models, the constant interplay between immediate and reflected experimentation and the recognition of other objects that could be used as tools.
Phase 2: Concepts and Prototypes
Through interdisciplinary research workshops at ZHAW and ZHdK, we developed a set of concepts for potential Science Toys, such as a do-it-yourself hovercraft, wind tunnel, particle trap and inflatable building blocks. We presented these ideas as drafts to each other by discussing their scientific relevance, technological issues and learning effects. In fact, we were aiming on reiterating and changing the role of idea creation and technical development between our disciplines that are usually split in clearly predefined tasks. Pursuing our first concepts further, we developed a process for creating lightweight material using a hand-made styrofoam cutter. We used this material to involve others in the creation of flying artefacts such as an airplane called Styroplane. We tested a set of variations of a plane but also other flying objects made by pupils from a primary school Schulhaus am Wasser, Zurich. The results showed a playful, narrative-driven and hands-on approaches to exploring natural phenomena lead to most engaging Science Toys.
Phase 3: Implementation and Evaluation
Science Toys, Poster presentation, Tag der Forschung, ZHdK, 2015.
Medienmitteilung «Luft – ist nicht Nichts» Sonderausstellung im Swiss Science Center Technorama, Februar 2016.
Persons involved in the project
Prof. Dr. Karmen Franinovic
, Project leader, Head of Interaction Design, ZHdK Prof. Michael Krohn
, Head Master of Arts in Design, ZHdKMoritz Kemper
, Head of Physical Computing Lab and Research Associate, ZHdK
Stefan Schneller, Research Associate, Industrial Design, ZHdK
Clemens Winkler, Research Associate, Interaction Design, ZHdK
Adrian Burri, Head of Centre for Product and Process Development, ZHAW
Peter Hug, Head of 3D- Experience Lab, ZPP
Thomas Hunkeler, Research Assistant, ZPP
Salome Berger, Research Assistant, ZPP
Roy Schedler, Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Technorama
Dr. Barbara Neff, Ausstellungsleiterin, Technorama
Dr. Marco Miranda, Head of Physics Lab and Research Associate, Technorama
Maria Diaz Alfaro, MA Interaction Design, ZHdK, 2016
Kevin Benz, BA Interaction Design, ZHdK, 2015
Katharina Herzog, BA Interaction Design, ZHdK, 2015
Last update to this project presentation 17.10.2018