Craft technology is our term for the interweaving of computation with craft materials. This blending can take many forms, including the application of specialized software to aid in the design and construction of crafts (such as mechanical toys and paper sculpture) and in the creation of craft objects with embedded intelligence. Our particular interests lie in the educational realm—that is, we are especially interested in extending the landscape of children’s craft activities.
Sliceforms ― We are working on a software application called “Sliceform Creator” whose purpose is to help children create sliceform models in paper, wood, or plastic with the aid of a desktop laser cutter.
JavaGami ― We have spent nearly a decade developing the HyperGami and JavaGami design environments for paper sculpture. Kids and adults customize three-dimensional polyhedra on-screen; the software generates a two-dimensional folding net which the user may decorate, print to a color printer, and then assemble into a real three-dimensional paper model. Using basic polyhedral building blocks and operations such as stretching, capping, truncation, and slicing, it is possible to build everything from hippos and penguins to ice cream cones, carnivorous plants, and bubble gum machines. We are especially interested in studying kids’ spatial thinking, which was the focus of our NSF ROLE (Research on Learning in Education) grant.
Birdwatcher is a crocheted toy duck that children can program over the Web. By placing Birdwatcher in front of a designated website and “flashing” a new program in front of him, the toy can be programmed, or re-programmed, to do things like flap his wings, flash lights on his head, or play tunes.
"If we as computer scientists and engineers only strive to build invisible systems, we’ll neglect to build important technology that is educational, engaging, and beautiful."
— Leah Buechley, former PhD student, now Assistant Professor, MIT Media Lab