Teddy Light – Project 3 (Langen, Phachanhla)

     Teddy Light

Project Description

Artist Statement

The featured artists have formal training in diverse backgrounds, chiefly in photography and the health sciences. However, both have a vested interest in education – one at the elementary and secondary level, while the other in higher education. It is important to allow students and children to learn, explore and discover on their own to set the foundation for life-long learning and curiosity – especially at a young age.

This link can be provided by the blending of art and technology into educating the children and future innovators of tomorrow. An integration of these components, especially new innovations into the daily routine of children will help to foster the growth of these learning foundations. The Teddy Light, has the dual purpose of providing light for a child (the brightness controlled by the tablet), as well as teaching young children the alphabet. The tablet interface allows for children to learn the alphabet by hearing the sounds that each letter makes, as well as being able to practice drawing out each letter; thus these components connect kinesthetic, visual and auditory learning. The Teddy that accompanies the tablet makes the learning more social and fun, as children are able to learn with a friend.

Early acclimatization of children to new technologies and innovations will also allow them to exercise an early curiosity for the current reaches of development and what is possible. They grow up with the innovation, and it becomes second nature. It is inevitable in this coming age that children will be affected by digital distraction; we may as well ensure that it is informative and educational.

– Kirsti Langen & Melissa Phachanhla, 2013


Diagram of the Network 

Original Concept and Next Steps

The original concept which we would like to continue to further develop is the idea of the teddy bear as a friend that comes alive to learn with the child. All sounds such as the lullaby and letter files will be “spoken” by the teddy bear and played through the arduino speakers rather than the tablet. Voice recognition will also be used to turn on and off the LED string in the teddy bear’s stomach. A sample phrase would be “Teddy Light On.” This is particularly useful at night when the child needs to use the washroom and cannot easily find a light switch. Additionally, the light will not bother them when they are trying to sleep, and you can simply say “Teddy Light Off.” The child can also say “Goodnight Teddy” to play a lullaby from the arduino, so that the tablet is not left on when they fall asleep.

We had made a lot of progress in getting these audio parts started, but the quality of the sound and voice recognition were not yet good enough to include in the final product and for the class critique. We believe that the problem of the scratchy sound quality was caused by using a micro SD card that had too large of a memory for the MP3 shield. We were not able to locate a 1gig micro SD card, which is the optimal storage size for the shield.

As suggested at the critique, we would also like to explore the possibility of using smaller boards and shields. The hardware can then be used in something like a patch or accessory for a teddy bear, rather than having the hardware in the teddy bear itself. This way, the child can bring a stuffed animal they already own to life with this accessory (think Toy Story).

The picture above demonstrates us playing around with the speakers and amps to have sound come from the arduino rather than the tablet. The speaker was not quite loud enough, so we used a potentiometer in an attempt to make a volume control. The sound quality was not clear enough however, and we decided for now that it would be best of the sound came from the tablet. It is a next step to have the sound come from the teddy bear.

mp3 shield for volume to come from arduino (Speaker moves):


Voice Recognition to LED:




Git Hub Link






Sketches and Design Files




Circuit Diagrams

Explanation of Prototyping and Development Process

There was a lot of careful planning and thought that went into fabricating the tablet and bear prior to beginning coding. We decided to go with a white teddy bear since it would match a white fabric. It was important to have a white and semi translucent fabric, to allow the LED lights on the string shine through and be visible. We also knew we needed a large enough teddy bear to hold an arduino, shield and bluetooth device, which we wanted to house in a box to protect it. The stuffing of the bear was also important because we needed a more cotton like stuffing to disguise the hardware. Silica or beany material would have been able to be placed around the box that housed the arduino. Red lights for the LED string were chosen to fit the theme of the heart in the bear.

Very early on, we knew it needed to be relatively easy for us to get the hardware in and out of the bear to be able to hook up the battery and check the signal on the bluetooth. Therefore the hardware could not merely be sewn in. Initially, we wanted to have a zipper to be able to access the arduino. This however, would have ruined the appearance of the bear as a friend. We needed a way to conceal the openings and fasteners, and that is when we decided that velcro would be best. Velcro pieces are sewn into the fabric and into the inside of the bear. The fabric also acts as a support for the LED string since they are sewn into it, in the shape of a heart to retain its form. Therefore, the fabric acts as a cover, and scaffold for all of the hardware. We also decided to hook all of our connections straight into the arduino board, rather than a breadboard to make the size easier to manage when inserting the hardware into the bear.

Fabrication and prototyping for the tablet also took some thought. The width and heights of the tablet were measured and the proportions were used in order to photoshop the images that were used. We wanted the images to fill the screen without becoming distorted, so we knew it was important to have equal proportions. For the buttons, we measured the size of one using the pixels on the rectangle function and then mapped out the coordinates on graph paper to be able to determine the points for each button. However, we were off by a bit, as we forgot to account for the thickness of the stroke of the rectangle when initially calibrating. So there was quite a bit of on screen calibration that occurred to ensure that buttons were placed in the correct spots.

We also wanted the writing to feel natural, rather than using your fingers. That is why we felt it was important to have the red crayon stylus. The colour of the drawing function on the tablet was also changed to red to match the crayon. There was also a stand purchased to be able to stand the tablet up. Initially, we wanted video capabilities for the child to watch and count sheep to help them fall asleep. For the critique, we felt it was important to stage the bear and tablet in a kid’s room, or blanket fort (images below).


Determining the hardware needed before a trip to Creatron.


Determining the hardware needed before a trip to Creatron.


Math to determine the button coordinates.




Context and Research (500 words)

We have moved into a generation and mindset that believes in the all-magical products that will solve all of our problems – the magic bullet essentially. In this case, more and more parents and educators have turned to technology to begin educating their children. There are countless products on the technological market that are aiming to teach children academic skills from an early age. While there is a strong link between early childhood education and great academic achievement in today’s students, we must still consider the role that technology plays (Wardle, 2008). What age is appropriate to allow children to start playing with technology such as tablets, computer and mobiles? Are these tools and gadgets so integrated into society that we do not need to worry, and generations prior to having these technologies are being unnecessarily cautious? Or should we slow down and have parents and educators consider the implications of technology based learning through devices such as computers and tablets?

Many experts believe that computers are not developmentally appropriate for children three years old (Wardle, 2008). The same experts also believe that these technologies are useful in educating children above the age of three (Wardle, 2008). The danger, experts believe is that computers will only reinforce national trends towards earlier, more academic skill acquisition, while ignoring other important developmental skill (Wardle, 2008). All children develop at a different pace, with different learning styles. While technology can help to enhance early childhood education, we must be careful in assuming its overall effectiveness. Correlation does not always equate with causation. Early childhood educators and teachers must still ensure that children are able to develop important skills such as a mastery of language, social interaction, and a natural curiosity to explore. Children and learners at any age will also need different learning modalities to be successful, especially since children cannot sit and complete one task for extended periods of time. We need to integrate aspects of moving, dance and play into the learning mix as well.

There are countless products and apps on the market for young learners. Two similar ones to the project Teddy Light are featured below. Read with me Scout is a toy featured for children ages 2-5 years. He accompanies children as a friend that reads and asks questions from board based books. He engages children by asking questions throughout the reading process to help build comprehension skills, rather than passive listeners. Now while again this product uses technology to thoughtfully probe and have readers think critically of the story, it is making the assumption that the children are answering the questions correctly and even if answering at all. A parent or other still needs to be present to reinforce that learning. It also limits the skill set to academia and children are more than just students, they need to be engaged in other areas as well. Another similar product featured in the image below is the InnoTab3. It offers educational games to teach reading, math, social studies, handwriting, science, problem solving and geography. Hundreds of software cartridges can be downloaded to enhance the learning and fun. It also makes use of tilt sensors, D-pad controllers, microphone and cameras to interact with the games. There is also an e-ready and story dictionary component. In essence, it is a tablet designed for children’s learning. Again the skills, although more varied than Read with Me Scout, are still focused largely on academia. It does not encourage social interaction, exploring the physical world around us.

While tablets and computers can help improve academic skills, we cannot ignore the rest of those skills that make us well rounded and able to integrate into a productive society. The answer to effective early education is a holistic approach with constant engagement, feedback and involvement of others. These technologies although helpful must be seen and used for what they are – mere tools, not the all-magical solution. The goal is to graduate a variety of students with varying life skills, not merely just making them an encyclopedia.

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 3.45.11 AM inostab

Read with me Scout and the InnoTab 3 pictured above.


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