Scratch Nodes are programmable devices for children group outdoor play. They were designed and built at the IDC Media Innovation Lab as a research platform for better understanding the effect of technology, and specifically coding on outdoor play.
Each device is equipped with a variety of sensors and outputs that children can program to be used in any game they invent.

The Nodes allow children to enhance outdoor play by adding to their games a “digital layer” of communication, measurement, light, color, vibration and sound.
Using the Scratch Nodes, we study how to use coding and digital tools, not only in a way that doesn’t jeopardise the good in outdoor play, but makes it more compelling, and add to it the benefits of playing with technology.

The Scratch Nodes were developed in an iterative design process that included play tests with children in every step of the way.

Challenge

Compared to children in the 70’s, children today spend 50% less time in unstructured outdoor activities. Today, as technology takes an increasingly prominent part of our lives, time previously spent outdoors in active, social, and creative play, is overtaken by screen-time. Having said that, technology for children also holds the potential of many advantages. Coding for example, can develop computational thinking skills related with creativity and problem solving. We set out to address this decline in outdoor play, by integrating technology and coding with a traditional outdoor play object.

 

Our approach

Since technology is a great motivator for children, we integrated sensors and digital feedback with a traditional outdoor play object – a stick. By developing a graphic coding platform, we allow children to create their own games with the devices. We chose to use an existing, popular coding platform and enhanced it with the ability to program the devices, focusing on social play. Our research shows that simply adding technology to outdoor play, can easily damage its advantages. And so, we use the Scratch Nodes to study the nuances of how technology can enhance outdoor play rather than damage it.

 

Idea

Scratch Nodes are programmable devices for group outdoor play. They were designed and built at the IDC Media Innovation Lab, as a research platform for better understanding the effect of technology, and specifically coding, on outdoor play.

Each device is equipped with an acceleration sensor, gyro, a push-button for input, and 27 RGB LEDs, vibration motor and a speaker for output.

Children can program the devices to function ?in different ways to be used in any game they invent. The programming can be done outdoors on a tablet, using a custom version of Scratch 3.0, developed with the help of the MIT Media Lab Scratch team.

 

The nodes allow children to add a “digital layer” to their outdoor play. For example, children played Hide and Seek and sent “messages” from one device to another, creating a secret language among themselves, or competed in who can throw the device hardest, with a score indicated in lights or sound.

The Scratch Nodes were developed in an iterative design process that included play tests with children in every step of the way.