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School Safety Project


October 2018 - December 2018


Skills: teamwork, study design, user research, ideation, sketching, scenario mapping, prototyping, usability testing, data analysis, presentation, report writing

How might we increase the safety of elementary school students with behavioral issues?
  • Conduct research to better understand the problem

  • Design a solution in the form of a physical tool

  • Test and iterate our solution into a higher fidelity prototype


Process & Solution: Meet E.D.D

Over the course of 12 weeks, my team used the User Centered Design process to create E.D.D. (Emotion Definition Dude pictured left). E.D.D. was designed to help parents and children discuss emotional health. 

I believe the UCD process with all of its ups and downs, mimics a narrative arc - a common storytelling device.

Screen Shot 2019-05-31 at 10.16.31

I will use this framework to tell the story of this project.  

My Role
  • Drove research strategy, selected research methods, conducted user interviews

  • Synthesized initial research findings into personas and design parameters

  • Ideated and helped construct a low-fidelity prototype

  • Wrote usability test scenarios and facilitated user testing

  • ​Coded usability test data into actionable results​

The Team


  • 3 HCDE Master's students

  • Highly cross-functional team 

Our Story Begins With Research


How might we increase the safety of elementary school students with behavioral issues?


We used a mixed methods approach to gain insights into the frustrations teachers face on a both a daily basis, and during emergency situations. 


2 days, n = 2

  • Allowed participants to continue their daily workflow

  • Documented safety concerns in real time

Classroom Observation

(3.5 hours)

  • Gave insight into what a classroom environment really feels like

  • Developed empathy for our users

  • Context of use for our eventual design solution


(n = 6)

  • Enabled us to ask broad questions

  • Get to the "why" behind observations


Analysis & Synthesis

This is the story's Rising Action - we pieced together what we had learned so far, which built us up to make our first major project decision.


After conducting our research we triangulated our findings and found common themes across participant data. Based off of our research, we identified three key personas:

Sabrina the Teacher

  • Want her students to be safe  outside of the classroom

  • Does't want to have another "thing" added to her already overcrowded teaching space

Dan the Dad


  • A busy, working parent 


  • Wants his child to be successful but he doesn't have the resources to do so

Caren the Counselor


  • Hopes that all students will learn to be their best selves

  • Wants to efficiently pass on her knowledge to parents.

Analysis & Synthesis
Redefining the Problem
With our personas in mind, we re-visited our problem space, and identified our stakeholders' goals, barriers, and needs. 
  • Teachers and counselors want students to learn emotional regulation


  • Want students to regulate their emotions in and out of a school setting

  • Parents don't have the time to come to counseling to learn how to help their children 

  • Counselors need continuous parent involvement in students' emotional development 


  • Want to pass on their knowledge to parents ​

Pivoting & Refining the Design Question 

The rising action of Analysis & Synthesis led to this Plot Climax.


With our research findings and personas in mind, we refined our design question



How might we increase the safety of elementary school students with behavioral issues?

How might we help teachers engage parents in addressing students’ emotional health?​


We used this new momentum to come up with solution ideas - this is the story's falling action.


Our team used scenario mapping to solidify some of our assumptions, use cases, questions, and design ideas.


We used a value proposition canvas

to identify our persona’s goals, pains, and gains within our problem space.


With these insights, we formed Design Requirements   

  1. The solution should  encourage parent engagement on a regular basis

  2. The solution should create a dialogue between parents and children about emotional regulation

  3. The solution should not be cost prohibitive, as it should be designed for users with varying levels of income

Sketching & Narrowing Down

  • We used various prompts that ranged from realistic to practical to brainstorm solution ideas (ie what would this solution look like in the 1800s? Or on a budget of $5?)

  • We used a viability-feasibility matrix to identify our top three most viable and feasible solution ideas 

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 1.27.17 PM.png

Emotion matching card game

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 1.27.04 PM.png

Resource Bag

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 1.26.53 PM.png

Chill Box: de-stimulation fort

Getting the Parent Perspective - Introducing a new character

We needed input from parents as they had become a dominant stakeholder in our refined design question.


We made a quick video pitching our top 3 ideas and showed it to 3 parents.

All parents were enthusiastic about the card game, but we felt this idea wasn't novel enough. 

Focusing In

Our team had one more group sketching session

  • We decided on an emotion identification tool with a tactile “pull” component

  • It met the goals of all three of our personas

    • Serves as a vessel for counselor information

    • Provides an engaging experience for both parents and children

Design Requirements



This is the story's second Rising Action - we pieced together a prototype, which built us up to user testing.


This prototype helps children identify how they are feeling and and provides parents with information on how to talk about and address the child's emotion.

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Emotion identifiers: faces represent different emotions a child might be feeling.


Each face is attached to a string that hangs out of the box.

The child can identify an emotion and pull the corresponding string. 


Elastic bands attached to the string to create a tactile experience when string is pulled.

Customized emotional support prompt cards are revealed when the string is pulled. The wire framed card represents information for parents on how to talk about the identified emotion.




n = 3

Usability Test


n = 3

Group Interview & Role play


A student comes in for counseling. You have this new tool in your office that's intended to identify how they are feeling. 

We would like to act out how this box might be used in a scenario when your child is upset. Do you have a recent example we can use? 


  • Novel and fun

  • Pulling the string is too difficult

  • Add more emotions

  • Nice alternative to a time out

  • Wanted variety of content and multiple cards to follow, per string. 


Prototyping led to this second Plot Climax.



We used momentum from our testing results to iterate on our design - this is the story's second falling action.

Based off of our user testing results we, iterated on our prototype and made the following changes:
  • Added more pictures - created visual instructions on the support cards and personified EDD

  • Adjusted the elasticity of the bands to make them easier to pull

  • Put the cards in plastic holders, which allows users to swap out content

  • Created a pathway of step-by-step content cards for users to follow along a string

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 2.04.00 PM.png
Future Directions & Reflections​
Now comes the Denouement or resolution to the story


Next steps (the sequel) 

  • User test with Children of a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities 

What could be improved (revisions)

  • Narrow Down the design/research questions and scope of project earlier on

  • Leave more wiggle room for pivots

What went well (happily ever after)

  • Resourceful when it came to last minute participant recruitment

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