bookmark_borderSunlight Play

Sunlight Play is set of tools for play based exploration of light, shadow, color, movement, scale, and story telling. The main tool is a fully articulable point light source powered by a rechargeable battery with a solar panel embedded in the base. Along with the light, Sunlight Play comes with articulable mirrors, and a range of materials that cast interesting shadows, bend light, and make colored shadows.

The set of tools and materials was designed for settings where electrical infrastructure is not prioritized for child’s play or missing entirely, specifically UNICEF’s refugee learning centers and the BRAC play labs. Sunlight Play facilitates explorative play with no wrong answers. It positions light as material with which to be creative, situating the child as a competent user of the medium and developing creative confidence.

The prototypes were made using the little sun lamps designed by Olafur Eliasson.

Sunlight Play builds on heavily the Tinkering Studio and Loris Malaguzzi Center in Reggio Emilia‘s work on light and shadow play.

Sunlight Play was developed over the course of several months in the fall of 2019 and winter 2020. Before the tools could be pilot tested, the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the project, eventually being completely shelved when I left the LEGO Foundation in June of that year.
Pablo Pedrosa, then a masters student at Designschool Kolding, supported the project.


Sunlight Play light
Articulable mirrors
Sample materials



Kaleido-Mirrors is a simple tool that opens possibilities for creative exploration through tessellation. It is made of two small mirrors connected by a hinge. When placed on a surface, the mirrors create a kaleidoscopic effect that can be adjusted as the angle of the mirrors is made bigger or smaller.

I designed this handheld (businesscard sized) Kaleido-Mirror to enable active audience participation in talks on creativity. Each audience member receives a Kaleido-Mirror and a set of instructions to use the mirror. The instructions follow the Jay Silver closed started, open ended design principle for building creative confidence. 1 The first prompt is to multiply ones fingers using the mirror; the second prompt is to create a square using the back of ones cellphone; and the third prompt is to use two minutes inventing new ways to use the mirror to create new shapes and patterns.

This audience participation tool was inspired by The Duck activity used by LEGO Education.

Use in Workshops

I’ve also used Kaleido-Mirrors in a few workshops, pairing the tool with Turtle Art and Spirographs to deepen the possibilities for pattern exploration, and a temporary tattoo printer2 to make the explorations more meaningful.


My fascination with tinkerable kaleidoscopes began at the ECSITE conference makerspace in Copenhagen, 2019. Samar Kirresh from the Qattan Foundation had brought a small open-ended kaleido-mirror mounted on a rotating plate. This small installation invited people to draw a squiggle, place it on the plate, and rotate the plate to see the different shapes change in the mirror.

While preparing for a workshop, Samar and I started playing with the Turtle Art ipads – and mixing them with the kaleidoscope. This lead to a type of mimicry play, where a shape was made in one medium, then recreated in the other.

In the weeks that followed I continued to experiment with the kaleido-mirror, as an installation at the LEGO Idea Studio, as a workshop, eventually as a communication tool for presentations.

User Experience Study

A short piece of documentation interpreting the experience of a former colleague learning to use Turtle Art and exploring the possibilities afforded by the Kaleido-Mirror. This was created as an exercise in the subjective learning documentation methods developed in Reggio Emilia, as documented in Reggio Children / Project Zero book Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners.


1. Mitchell, R. Lifelong Kindergarten (2017) p. 82

2. Inspired by the Imaginary in Berlin and the Tinkering Studio in San Francisco

bookmark_borderOpen-ended Building Instructions

Open-Ended Building Instructions

LEGO Art Machines is a playful learning activity developed by the Tinkering Studio and the LEGO Idea Studio. Used in workshops and as a drop-in tinkering activity, Art Machines invites people to build a machine that draws a pattern.

The Tinkering Studio’s project page and the activity Instructable document the Art Machines activity really well. Check out those links to find out how to run the activity yourself.

LEGO Art Machines is a tinkering activity. That means it’s open-ended. It’s not a game that can be won; it is a playful context to explore. It’s closer to a sandbox than a Rubik’s cube.

A challenge to running this activity is the fragility of the connection points between LEGO pieces under strain from the machine’s movement. This issue was solved by giving users a “base model” rather than just the raw pieces for them to start from scratch. The base models affix the motor to the battery pack and give the machine one simple movement that each user can build on to.

In 2018 I made a building instruction booklet to offload the work of creating base models before a workshop onto the participants, who might also feel a greater sense of ownership of their machine having built it from the raw pieces. This project was an effort to combine the intuitive (and near-ubiquitous) LEGO building instructions with the open-ended pedagogical approach from LEGO Art Machines.

The book starts users off without any choice, just like a standard building instruction. After a few initial steps are completed and the motor is affixed to the battery, the booklet gives users three choices of new directions to go. That page includes photographs that show what type of pattern each base model will create.

The user picks a path, and the building instructions continue. When the basemodel is complete, the instructions show them how to tip the machine over so the pen meets the paper, and press the power button so it starts to move. The photographs show a few messy examples of what their art machine might look like when they’ve continued iterating – going beyond the instructions.

Supercut of LEGO Art Machines
Art Machines is on the “sandbox” side of the spectrum
One possibility becomes three possibilities
Builders are instructed to turn the machine on and tip it over so that it begins to draw. The photographs show what their machine might look look when they’ve continued building on their own.