The fall semester of 2014 was very exciting for the Industrial Design first year graduate students. During the Design Laboratory classes, professor Dan Harel gave his students the challenging mission of designing the classroom of the future for elementary schools. The semester consisted of a lot of researching and brainstorming and the students had the opportunity to visit two very interesting schools here in Rochester: Harley School and Genesee Charter School. Both visits were fundamental for understanding a little bit more about the environment, the activities, and the needs of our educational system. The visit at Harley School aroused curiosity in their students and they were very excited about imagining the classroom of the future, contributing with a lot of good and inspiring ideas for the designers.
Because of all the enthusiasm of the kids, the Harley School teacher, Amy Guiffrida, decided to propose to her 3rd and 4th grade students the same task, design the classroom of the future. To support this exciting project, Professor Dan Harel and his student, Mariana Pinheiro, gave an initial presentation about the design process and the results of the gradate students’ project. Mariana started explaining the importance of design, giving them simple examples, like the design of a pencil with an eraser instead of having two separate objects. To show them a little bit about the design process, Mariana went trough all the steps she took when designing her ideas for the classroom of the future. Her project is a personal robot called Rooby that can project exercises and textbooks onto any surface, can recognize the student’s answers using a scanner, and can also display holographic images. The kids were very excited about Rooby, and contributed with relevant ideas and questions such as: Does the robot have feelings? Can Rooby turn into another figure, like my pet? Where can we buy one? All these questions were very motivational for the project and it was rewarding to see that the target market is attracted to such a device.
Professor Dan also presented all the great projects that the ID students came up with. The designers created new ways to use furniture in classrooms and applied technology in many different situations, like on interactive walls, desks, digital and physical educational games, and even on avatars that are able to guide and answers the student’s questions and curiosities. The elementary school students will start designing their dreams of the classroom of the future and it will be exciting to see the results of this inspiring project.

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