Draw2Code: Low-Cost Tangible Programing for Young Children to Create Augmented Reality (AR) Animations

June 23, 2021 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

By Hyejin Im, Master’s Student in Human Factors Engineering

In April 2021, Hyejin Im, graduate student of Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO), successfully defended her master thesis, Draw2Code: Low-cost tangible programming for young children to create AR animations. Advised by Tufts faculty member Chris Rogers, Hyejin created Draw2Code (Draw2Code), a paper-based computational kit for young children to learn about basic programming concepts by creating interactive AR animation. It shares similarities with existing computational kits that leverage AR technology but differ in several key dimensions that serve as design goals. Hyejin’s research goal was to increase young children’s participation in computing, especially children from underrepresented groups in STEM, by developing an accessible and affordable computational kit for all children. The kit needed to have a tangible programming environment that supports natural interaction and physical engagement, be low-cost and affordable, and have an open-ended system that supports creative expression.

Children can use Draw2Code to make their own drawing on paper come to life as an animated virtual sprite that they can control using hand gestures. The Draw2Code kit consists of two major components: paper coding blocks and a mobile application. Children can author their own animations by manipulating the paper coding blocks and executing the code with a mobile device. The platform exposes children to basic programming concepts through playful and tangible interaction. 

For her thesis, Hyejin conducted a remote user study with nine children to evaluate the usability of Draw2Code. With help from the parents, all participants easily prepared Draw2Code at home without extra cost and were able to use it without direct help from the researcher. The results indicate that children ages 5 to 12 successfully used Draw2Code and played with it for 33 minutes on average, showing a high level of engagement. The children each created at least two and as many as five different AR animations based on their ideas. Throughout the sessions, all children were engaged in computational thinking concepts and practices.

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