Augmented Human Lab 11 Kiwrious

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Suranga Nanayakkara, Dawn Garbett, Sonia Dupuch
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Yvonne Chua
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Chamod Weerasighe, Juan Pablo Forero Cortés, Alaeddin Nassani, Sankha Cooray, Jiashuo Cao, Qin Wu, Fiona Taimana, Hussel Suriyaarachchi, Hannah Qiao, Michelle Wu
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Justin Treadwell, Cornelius Blank

Kiwrious is on a mission to empower today’s students to become fearless problem solvers. A set of six low-cost ‘plug and play’ sensors encourages students aged 10 to 14 to engage in scientific inquiry in and out of school, providing students and teachers the tools and resources for curiosity-driven explorations.
The sensors connect to an online platform designed to give a first-hand experience of the fun, creative and social nature of science. Students are challenged to make observations, present findings in creative ways, and discuss them with their friends.
We created Kiwrious in response to an international study (TIMMS, 2019) that found 45% of Year 9 Kiwi students not confident in science. Lack of funding, limited resources and reduced teacher confidence is leading to low levels of scientific inquiry in children across the country.
Teachers we talked to believed hands-on activities engaged students, and provided concrete experiences that helped them better understand and connect to curriculum content. However, they struggled with finding time for these activities while fulfilling curriculum requirements, and accessing resources that would support them.
The sensors and platform were developed through an iterative user-centered process. Early prototypes of both were tested in a series of onsite usability studies and field observations in schools, and a longer in-the-wild study with students at home over a few weeks.
We observed that students were not inclined to formally plan, write or describe their experiments. They wanted to measure things immediately and thought of questions as they went along. They found taking repeated measurements of the same thing tedious and collaborated offline frequently, trying what others were doing and comparing results.
The final version of the platform emphasises visual content and social interaction. It allows students to dive straight into measuring, and makes it easy for them to capture images together with their measurements. Encouragement to articulate their prior knowledge and predictions comes in the form of a prompt to share anything they found interesting in an optional description before publishing their inquiry.
Students can ‘replicate’ their own inquiries and invite their friends to do so. Scorecards display the number of ‘similar’, ‘different’ and ‘not sure’ results. This emphasises the tentative and collaborative nature of science and gives students a concrete reason to both repeat their measurements and provide more instructions for others to follow.
To address teachers’ needs, an educator site and resources aligned with the New Zealand curriculum were developed. We also set up a professional development community for teachers to share experiences and resources with each other.
Over 4200 sensors were deployed to 35 schools across New Zealand in May 2021. 488 inquiries have been saved or published by students and the number continues to grow daily.
We continue to gather data through usage analysis, surveys, interviews and engaging with the teacher community to inform the development of the platform and sensors. This is just the beginning of our journey to democratize access to science and technology by designing tools that spark and encourage joyful deep-learning experiences.