A very clumsy clicky play space


Hello, We are a team of four students from the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. For the Fall 2014 semester we partnered with the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum to design an interactive experience based off the Very Clumsy Click Beetle by Eric Carle. To learn more about what we made and our process behind it, feel free to watch our video and explore our website!

Final Prototype

In the The Very Clumsy Click Beetle by Eric Carle a young beetle crawls around in the grass, he crawls over a pile of rocks, he explores a tree. In the course of exploring he ends up on his back and he can’t get up! As a click beetle the only way he can get back up is by clicking and flipping through the air and landing on his feet.

A wise old click beetle shows him how it’s done, but the young click beetle soon discovers that it isn’t as easy as it looks. He tries and tries again. Finally after some encouragement and a startling encounter with a child, he finally does it; he flips over and lands on his feet.

Any child can relate to this story because every child has to be persistent to learn how to tumble, walk, crawl, and jump. Our intention with the very clicky clumsy playground is to put children into the position of the little click beetle, surrounded by tall grass and big rocks, and give them a safe space to try out and show off whatever new physical skills they are learning.

The Clicky Clumsy Playground is an important space to be a part of the Eric Carle exhibit because it allows children to physically play and feel immersed in the world of Eric Carle. We arrived at this final prototype by spending time with children, going through several ideas, and making three different prototypes. Overall the exhibit is an over-scaled environment based directly off of the early exploration scenes in the the book. It consists of a slightly sloping soft hill, towering grass, and large soft pillow rocks. There is imagery on the wall of characters and scenes from the book. Everything is over-sized to give the child the sensation that they are the small click beetle. Each aspect of the environment has something to discover. The grass wooshes in the wind when you touch it. The rocks rattle when you rumble them. The whole exhibit clicks like the click beetle when you play in the space. We designed the sound aspects of the environment to encourage physical activity and reward exploration. Read on for a full description of each interaction.

Ambient Nature Sounds

Part of being in an outdoor environment is hearing the nature sounds all around you. We designed the exhibit to have a looping nature sound track. In our exhibit we placed our speakers behind the tall grass, but speakers could also be mounted above the exhibit as well.

download sound

Oversized Rocks

The click beetle also crawls over some large rocks in the beginning of the book. We want to safely recreate this experience by having a pile of pillows which resemble rocks. Each rock makes a rumbling sound when you play with it. We originally had a sensor and speaker making this sound, but for this final prototype the rock has a custom rattle inside. There are actual rocks and gravel inside a small cardboard box in the middle of the pillow. We only prototyped this with one smaller rock, but ideally the final experience would have around nine large rumbling rocks.

Click Sound

It is arguably the most exciting page in the book when the click beetle finally clicks and flips through the air and lands on his feet. This is the joy of finally succeeding when you are learning a new skill. With the help of the museum educators and parents hopefully this space will be a safe space to practice those skills. We reward being active by creating an audible clicking sound whenever the play area is being jumped or played on. This sound is taken directly from the clicking sound in the book.

download fritzing diagrams, sound files and code

Oversized Grass

In the beginning of the book, the click beetle crawls over some tall grass. We want to simulate this experience and reward exploring your environment. The grass uses tilt sensors that are triggered anytime the grass is touched. The grass makes rustling noises that are meant to sound like wind through the grass. This sound could be played from the same speaker as the looping nature sounds. We prototyped the grass using pool noodles. Ideally the grass would ultimately look more like the grass from the book; they would be soft blocky cutouts.

download fritzing diagrams, sound files and code