Project EMAR

June 14, 2019

Presenting at the Psychology Seminar Series at UW Tacoma


Blog post written by Christina Nelson and Annamaria Choi

Meredith Fife and Annamaria Choi were invited to present at the Psychology Seminar Series at UW Tacoma. The end of year Psychology Seminar Series features research conducted by undergraduate researchers.  This quarter, our team has explored using the methods of user-created personas and  storyboarding with teens to help us better understand teen stress and inform the design of EMAR. See more about these activities in the Maker Faire blog and our blog from working with the Girls Who Code. By sharing our research methods and findings at the Psychology Research Seminar, we aimed to explain how using participatory design methods contributed to understanding the diverse needs of teens experiencing stress.

Psychology Research Seminar

The Seminar Series took place on the UW Tacoma campus. Three undergraduate student teams shared their research findings with the audience, expanding on their methods, findings, and future research goals.

To give the audience a better understanding of Project EMAR, Anna and Meredith began with an introduction to teen stress. Our team shared data from the American Psychological Association article Teens Stress Rivals that of Adults that teens face high levels of stress throughout the academic year, and this stress can have negative impacts on teens’ mental and physical health. Addressing this issue, our team was able to pursue the research question: how might we design a social robot to measure and reduce stress in teens?

Researchers present the research question “How might we design a social robot to measure and reduce stress in teens?”

Figure 1: Meredith Fife and Annamaria Choi share the driving research question for Project EMAR: “How might we design a social robot to measure and reduce stress in teens?”

After introducing the purpose of Project EMAR to attendees, our team explained the process of creating user-created personas and storyboards with teens to understand teens’ lived experiences with stress.

Explaining user-created personas

Our team previously used the method of creating user-created personas with teens to understand how they experience stress in their own lives. User-created personas are fictional characters created by potential users of a product so that designers can understand how users represent themselves. To learn more about user-created personas, see this article User-Created Personas by Cabrero.

From using this method, our team was able to identify common themes relating to teen stress. Common themes represented in teens’ user-created personas are the aspects of being angry, frazzled, tired, exhausted, and at times feeling empty inside.

Researchers share images of teens creating storyboarding at GWC

Figure 2: Annamaria Choi and Meredith Fife share the process of using personas and storyboards to ideate with teens

Sharing storyboarding

Using storyboarding in the field also allowed our team to better understand teen stress. When storyboarding with teens in the field, our team would ask teens to draw how they would envision a social robot helping a stressed teen feel better.

While our team was storyboarding with teens, we noticed several common themes appear. These themes include:

  • Teens imagined a social robot hugging to reduce teen stress
  • Teens envisioned a social robot saying encouraging words and using words of affirmation to reduce teen stress
  • Teens thought an element of distraction would assist other teens in resolving their stress

Storyboarding with teens allowed our team to uncover key features that teens could imagine a social robot having to help them feel better when they experience stress.

Our research team presents images of storyboards created by teens

Figure 3: Annamaria Choi and Meredith Fife explain the process of having teens storyboard how a teen would interact with a social robot

Moving forward

Our team appreciated the opportunity to share our research findings with the audience at the Psychology Seminar Series. Creating storyboards and user-created personas with teens in the field as allowed us to gain a better understanding of how teens experience stress in their own lives. We are looking forward to continuing to share these activities with more teens in the future so we can continue to understand the needs of teens.