Research Questions

1. How important are creative outlets for children in 3rd to 5th grade?

2. What problems are children of that age capable of solving?

3. How can I facilitate explorative and learning processes for kids at that age? How do they go about solving it?


Connie Hwang, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Primary Advisor

Randall Sexton, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Secondary Advisor

Dr. Cara Maffini, SJSU Associate Professor
Child & Adolescent Development
Tertiary Advisor


The goal is to introduce fundamental design ideas, philosophy and disciplines in a simplified manner for students from 3rd to 5th grade. If successful, the desired outcome is for students to learn how to implement problem solving skills at an early age to maximize early developmental stages of children. Some of the potential concepts for the students to learn include, but are not limited to: space, hierarchy, composition, color, transition, repetition, and opposition.

The inspiration behind this was brought forth by seeing many programs for young students that teach coding, and basic, S.T.E.M. curriculum. If students at a young age can grasp fundamental ideas in fields like physics, engineering, and coding, then concepts in design and design thinking could be used to teach kids to problem solve.

The models being designed in Fusion 360

What is design and why does it matter?

Design at it’s core is creative problem solving, a form of translation. Within this, there lies manipulating. Manipulation of form, color, and space. The desinger
using their understanding and visual literacy, they take material and craft it into forms, they apply color and then use both elements to affect the space.
Taking surrounding materials to make and shape something new in a beautiful and profound way. Design is necessary to all parts of life.

It’s important because every singe little and big thing that we touch, see and sometimes smell is by design. The book that you’re holding right now was a mistake, and it wasn’t made by accident. The ink that was used to print this and the machine that cut and bound the pages had to be thought up, designed and then fabricated to put this book in your hands. Even the letters that make up the words that make up the sentences that make up the paragraphs your eyes are walking across right now
was made by someone.

This is why I wanted to get a jump start on kids and directing their creative and divergent thinking into somethingthat will stay with them for the rest of their lives. All too often I’ve witness people leaving behind the idea of play because it’s “childish”. But playing has and will always be an integral part
of learning anything.

These blocks are not the end all solution to teach kids design principles, but hopefully they will be a part of the bigger picture in their lives.

Divergent Thinkers

Kids have a knack for learning and overcoming obstacles in the most creative ways. They are naturally divergent thinkers. They always seem
to be able to look at something for more than what it is. Often times a
box or a block can be a rocket ship or a race car, or even a building.

They are able to use conventional things in unconventional ways.

To teach design thinking through creative problem playing, using the problem based learning approach. Present these kids with an end product, and have the kids arrive at that end using only what they see and the pieces provided. Learning how to match the form with specific pieces and magnets that allow them to only be arranged in certain way pushes for them to be interative in their solution processes.

What these are

These are magnetic blocks that are attracted to one another, which canbe put together to form new shapesand structures!

The blocks contain three elementsof design, Form, Color, and Space. Having these blocks allow for a physical interactive solution for students to manipulate and maneuver to createand compose their own design!

The piece on it’s own have 3 different prongs and can fit into eachother in various different ways and configurations! You can stack it into itself and repeat it’s own pattern or you can flip a block around and see how different it can look!

How it works

Since these peices are magnetic, only opposite attract! Although all these peices look exactly the same in their shape and form, they are opposites when it comes to their pull.

Magnets have a positive and negative side and the positive only connects to the negative, and the negative only connects to the positive.

This is intentional and a natural byproduct of using magnets! It adds another level of difficulty for you to use and learn and to choose wisely!

What I learned

I learned how to be a child again. I learned that there isn’t always one way to do things. And that often times the shortest way there is the often the most boring. This project was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. The planning and the process taught me to be divergent. Things don’t always have to have a singular definition. Lesson plans don’t have to be fit in a box.

We often spend time trying to teach kids things, but seldom do we ever pay attention to how they learn, or how they solve problems. We would benefit by looking at situations and obstacles in a different light, and allow ourselves to mess up and try again, before we can solve the problems we’re presented with.


This project has taught me what it means to be a designer, and a student. Nothing ever really ever goes according to plan. 2020 was supposed to be a year of prosperity and joy but I’ve encountered a constraint and difficulty that I wasn’t ready for. This was a problem for me to overcome and in learning through all of this research, and all of this building, I have been taught to work through constraint.

Hopefully this will influence them in some way shape or form to be problem solvers in ways that this world has never seen.

  2020 timeiswhatyoumakeofit