The Background

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Welcome to the Story Sash Project’s blog!  The Story Sash is a collaboration between students in the UW’s Human Computer Interaction + Design (MHCID) Program and Human-Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) Program.  Under the guidance of professors Andrew Davidson and Daniela Rosner, we’re working on an interactive story sash for children that intertwines narrative with fun STEM activities!

We were first inspired to start this project after coming across an illustration that illuminates a very important representation problem in children’s books.

 

diversity_tinakugler

source: Tina Kugler Studio

Of course, children’s books are not the only type of consumable media guilty of this problem – it pervades every type of media in our highly media-driven culture.  Tina Kugler’s illustration speaks to serious concerns about representation and race, but numerous other studies note gender-related issues as well.

Meanwhile, discussions surrounding racial diversity and gender-balance in STEM fields have begun to gain traction and toys such as GoldieBlox have appeared on the market.  But cultural change can feel glacial at times, and the need for diversity in STEM is a pressing one.

Marie Wilson from The White House Project said, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” the idea here being that if you can’t see someone like you in a certain role, you are less likely to be able to see yourself in that role.  This also relates to a phenomenon Daniel Coyle calls “ignition” in his book, The Talent Code.  To describe this phenomenon, he uses the example of Se Ri Pak, the first South Korean golfer to win the 1998 McDonald’s LPGA Championship.  10 years later at the 2008 championship, the number of female South Korean golfers competing skyrocketed, and they collectively won about 1/3 of the events.  A similar process happened with Anna Kournikova and Russian women tennis players.

Taking these ideas into account, we wanted to sidestep the cultural middleman in addressing two primary concerns: the lack of representation in children’s media, and the lack of representation in the STEM field.  To perform this sidestepping, we want to allow children to put themselves directly in place as the protagonists of different narratives, and tie those narratives to engaging, fun STEM-focused activities.  In this, we hope to help empower, educate, and ignite children of all backgrounds, and get them actively engaging with their environment in fun, budget-friendly ways.

Onward!

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