reimagining play-doh


Young children in the Peruvian Andes often need to travel hours to reach schools. These schools lack adequate learning material and teachers. As a result, children are disenchanted with learning and believe they can better use their time at home helping their parents with farming. Peruvian students consistently score among the lowest on the PISA test compared to other Latin American countries. 




In 2015, I designed and manufactured a sensory platform for education games that aim to enhance deductive and quantitative skills in adolescents by leveraging the dynamic quality of Play-doh. This affordable solution was deployed in rural areas of Peru where access to educational technologies is severely limited. 




I was inspired to use Play-doh after discovering the material's conductive qualities and realizing this capability could be combined with technology to make learning tactile and engaging. I set out to design an affordable sensor board that recognizes various manipulations of Play-doh. The board is host to a set of creative games built around memory skills, quantitative reasoning, and pattern recognition in order to engage young children in resource-poor environments with little to no exposure to education.




The flexibility and scalability of this educational 'kit' is due to the fact that children are able to swap out "covers" on the board in order to switch between games. The variety of manipulations of Play-doh allow for infinitely many possible games of a variety of difficulty and learning objectives.




In December 2015, the second iteration of the board was rolled out in Peru. Stylistic as well as technical improvement were made to the kit. In total, the cost of producing Klay is around $15 per kit.




This project came out of a collaboration between the Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología in Lima, Peru. Klay was the winner of the 2015 Deutsche Bank Challenge. I am currently working on developing the next iteration of the board and implementing the platform in more classrooms around Peru.


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