Project Overview:

Our team Puppamatics, comprised of six members; Randi Ouyang 2nd year and 2D Artist, Lawrence Luo 1st year and 3D Artist, Jasmine Chen 1st year and Programmer, Sarah Wille 1st year and Programmer, Eva Chang 1st year and Co-Producer, and finally Samantha Trimboli 1st year and Co-Producer.Ruth Comley was our project instructor. Our project was proposed by Lou Karas, the Director of the Centers for Arts and Education at West Liberty University. Lou hosts workshops for children at local school districts to come to West Liberty’s campus and use their resources. Lou has worked with ETC various times in the past. She wanted us to design a tool to help 4th/5h grade students make marionette puppets at one of those workshops. 

The workshops run at West Liberty University’s campus Center for Arts and Education. A group of 12-15 4th/5th graders along with their teacher and 2+ grad students spend 2-3 hours between a classroom and makerspace. First, the children are presented with a 3D animated introduction video to get them excited about puppet creation. Then they watch a UI tutorial video to explain the program to them. Next, they start designing in the program. The program lets the users manipulate and choose the shapes they want their puppets limbs to be. When they are done designing, the 2D templates of the shapes they choose will be saved to their Chromebooks. Afterwards, while a teacher is collecting all the final designs from the Chromebook, they will watch the end and assemble video. 

Finally the students would start the assembling stage. Here they would move into the makerspace and create their puppets. The design templates they made using the tool were printed on cardstock and handed to the respected students. For the next hour or hour and a half, the 4th graders would cut out their templates, color,  fold and tape then together. When all the pieces were built, the students would use pieces of yarn to connect everything to one body. With the newly made figure, they will then attach a controller for the puppet made out of popsicle sticks and more yarn. 

What went well:

The first five weeks for our team was really difficult. We were mostly first years and accustom to the project structure yet. We give ourselves space to explore and play with whatever we thought would work until finally we agreed on our MVP. Settling on a base design for the project projected us forward as we could prototype, test and iterate clearly. The other really good thing about this team was the level of trust and respect we gave each other. We each had faith in our teammates to get their work done and be transparent about their progress. Everyone’s opinions held value but we weren’t attached to our individual ideas so no feelings were hurt when we cut ideas.  

What could have been better:

We could have done more with the tool we created. The one downside about having a small MVP was that the initial project might have been under-scoped. This led us to take on some of our reach goals but there was still room for improvement. For example, we didn’t leave any instructions for what would happen with the puppets after the children made them because we thought that was out of scope. Was that the right decision? The more we playtested the more we found that the interest curve decreases as the activity goes on. Could this be because of the length of the workshop or because we aren’t nurturing that part enough? It is a question we didn’t have time to answer and left a lot of responsibility on the teachers to give the puppets a life beyond our project.


Needless to say, we were fortunate to have a rather smooth project this semester. We still learned some valuable lessons. As mentioned before we had some difficulties with the initial brainstorming stage. What really centered our project was working to answer a question. How can we create a tool that helps 4th and 5th graders visualize the puppet making process? Once we started design to address a problem, we were able to defend our design decisions better and have a more cohesive product. 

In addition, we learned more about rapid prototyping. We set up multiple milestones to have new prototypes created. Almost every playtest had a new feature to test. This way of working taught us about refinement. Playtesting is the most beneficial when you have a goal in mind and test new features helps us funnel in new feedback. 

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