Bots for Tots

Bots for Tots- Snow day Learning Lab

Sam and Poppy (1)
Two 4th graders made a toy for a 1st grader

Bots for Tots (BfT) is a design-based research project, implemented in three different contexts with 4th graders (from both public and private schools in Northeastern USA) over two years, that leverages the idea of making for others—an idea that has been at the heart of traditionally feminine making practices for centuries—to study when, and why young girls, from a variety of communities and experiences, engage with maker activities. We document how young builders considered the “client” as they first became motivated to participate in the project and as they overcame conceptual, material, and social obstacles during the design process. In all implementations the quality of the builder-client relationship impacted the degree to which participants saw building for others as aligning with their values and goals. However, in a school and community that included many immigrants and children of color, who builders saw as a meaningful client was uniquely impacted by sociopolitical pressures at the school, community, and national levels.

These findings highlight not only the importance of considering the values and perspectives of participants in the design of maker activities, but also the necessity of attending to how these perspectives shift based on local and global histories and events. We argue that centering the notion of building connections with one’s community through making can not only alter who sees STEM practices as aligning with their personal values and goals, but also may begin to challenge dominate discourses of the nature and purpose of STEM.


Thanapornsangsuth, S. & Holbert N. (2018). Exploring girls’ values and perspectives in making for others. Proceedings of Constructionism 2018. Vilnius, Lithuania.

Thanapornsangsuth, S., Holbert, N., & Chan, M. (2018). Towards girls’ self-perception in technology and craft: Challenges and implications. Proceedings of Constructionism 2018. Vilnius, Lithuania.

Davey, C., Thanapornsangsuth, S., & Holbert, N. (2018). Making Together: Cultivating community of practice in an all-girls constructionist learning environment. Proceedings of Constructionism 2018. Vilnius, Lithuania

Holbert, N. & Thanapornsangsuth, S. (2018). Expanding the maker movement by recentering “building for others” in construction activities. Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences.[PDF]

Riley, E., Thanapornsangsuth, S., & Holbert, N. (2018). Building knowledge and relationships through building toys for others. In From Prototype to Pitch: New Pathways in Design, Maker and Entrepreneurship Education, Volume 2. Marymount School of New York.[HTML]

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 9.05.51 PM
Class’s design process: 18 sessions
4th graders were making their prototypes of the toys requested by 1st graders
A 4th grader was working on her dollhouse for a 1st grader
IMG_20170411_121027 (2)
Lightbulb (pseudonym) was using conductive thread to make a light-up pillow for a first grader.
Lightbulb’s (pseudonym) “maker journey” as a part of my case study analysis