Project EMAR

March 15, 2019

The Girls Who Code in Tacoma: Preparing Design Activities to Share with Teens


Blog post written by Meredith Fife and Annamaria Choi

This quarter, our team has been looking at how personas created by teens can help inform the design of EMAR and be a fun and engaging activity to use in the field. Personas are a popular technique used in user experience. A persona is a fictional portrait of a specific group of users sharing commonalities when interacting with technology, products, or services. However, user-created personas are a different approach because they ask users to create personas, rather than having a research team collect data and then invent the personas. This technique is a more participatory approach and asks users to represent themselves and people like them. To learn more about user-created personas, see this article User-Created Personas by Cabrero, Winschiers-Theophilus, and Mendonca. As a team, we decided to try out this idea with a local after-school program called Girls Who Code.

Our goals

Our team is excited to build a trusting partnership with the Girls Who Code chapter at the RAIN Incubator in Tacoma, WA this quarter. While we are in the field this quarter, we hope to:

  • Introduce the Girls Who Code to human-centered design and design thinking
  • Have individual and informal conversations about teen stress
  • Have participants communicate explicit and implicit needs for a social robot
  • Gain insight of requirements and aspirations towards EMAR’s design

Who are Girls Who Code?

Girls Who Code is a national program that sponsors clubs all over the country. It is a free after school program for 6th-12th grade girls. In the Tacoma chapter, the girls meet for 90 minutes each week at the RAIN Incubator and spend time coding and interacting with each other. They work both independently and as a group to design and build their computer science skills and solve real-world problems through code. This year, the girls have decided to work on the issue of homelessness in Tacoma and are creating animations and web-pages related to the topic.

Getting started

After meeting with the Girls Who Code, our team felt that they were a great fit for a partnership. Our team set out to plan an activity that would give the girls the opportunity to get a better sense of what  human-centered design is. We also wanted to tailor an activity to the girls by helping them create personas and storyboards related to teen stress. We hoped that our visit would generate new research findings and affirm some of the previous research our team has been working on.

In preparation for our visit, our team read articles supporting user-created personas to fully understand the ideas and research behind this idea. We also brainstormed how we could create engaging activities to introduce the Girls Who Code to the human-centered design process. We then created a study script and three individual activities to introduce human-centered design and social robots to the girls.

The Girls Who Code Team and EMAR

The Girls Who Code Team creates an engaging activity with EMAR

Creating engaging activities

Our team created three activities to introduce the Girls Who Code to Project EMAR and the human-centered design process.

Our team began by giving the girls a questionnaire and a Negative Attitude Towards Robots Scale so they could share their existing attitudes on robots with our team. We then introduced the girls to human-centered design using a short PowerPoint presentation and a video about Human-Centered Design.

We then had the girls participate in three separate activities:

  • EMAR demonstration: We revealed the alpha version of the EMAR prototype, and the girls were able to control the facial features of EMAR
  • User generated personas: In this activity, each of the girls developed a collage that represented their perception of stress
  • Storyboarding: Each of the girls illustrated a story of their persona exhibiting stress and how they expected EMAR to help a stressed teen

Small group discussion questions

At the end of our activities, we divided the girls into small groups to have a final discussion. We encouraged the girls to voice their thoughts and opinions on the idea of a robot living in their school. We then asked questions about the activities including:

  • What process did you go through to determine your needs? How did you overcome stress in the past?
  • How did you identify your users and what traits they would possess?
  • What are the difficulties when being stressed?
  • What features would you like on a social robot?
Small group discussion

Meredith Fife leads a small group discussion with the Girls Who Code Team

Moving forward

Our goal for our partnership with the Girls Who Code is to better understand teen stress, and to provide engaging lessons on human-centered design to their team in the future. We hope to create a positive, long-term relationship with the group!

We enjoyed our visit with the Girls Who Code and learned about how they envisioned interacting with a social robot. We are looking forward to sharing our findings with you from our meeting with the Girls Who Code in the future!