I led UI/UX design for LightUp—an edtech experience that leverages augmented reality to teach kids about the wonders of science and technology.
Dissatisfied with dusty textbooks, teachers and parents needed a more engaging way for the scientists and engineers of tomorrow to connect with STEM subjects.
An immersive augmented reality experience that teaches kids about STEM topics in a self-guided way—accessible from a smart device for science fun wherever and whenever.
As lead designer on a small startup team, I managed all elements of LightUp's product design throughout its full development cycle while working in tandem with two developers and a learning designer.
Antiquated methods of learning in the classroom
Despite the extraordinary developments in technology over the past few decades, the mediums of learning (textbooks, powerpoint, etc.) have remained much the same.
Because of this, elementary and middle school teachers were having a tough time keeping students engaged.
Using screen time at home better
Technology is inextricably linked to just about everything we do—so the practice of limiting “screen time” for school-aged children has become much less straightforward.
Through user interviews, I found that rather than focusing on the duration of screen time, parents were looking for a way to leverage screen time better.
Both teachers and parents noted that children were genuinely curious and looking for ways to learn, but nothing accessible was resonating or engaging with kids sufficiently.
Meeting the Moment
Our dev team at LightUp had expertise in augmented reality—a novel, immersive experience that consistently captivated kids with complete awe.
And that Apple ARKit and Google ARCore had recently made it far easier to access with a smart device.
Bite-sized creator videos had exploded in popularity among children through platforms like Snapchat and TikTok.
Could we create an experience that amused and captivated children while providing a modern, engaging remote learning opportunity?
How might we leverage augmented reality and social media content trends to design a STEM learning experience that resonates with kids?
A social learning platform where kids can create and share captivating augmented reality videos centered around STEM topics.
Students and teachers (4th-12th grade), parents of school-aged children
Mobile - iOS & Android, AR Headset
Lightup's look and feel was essentially a marriage of TikTok and a science textbook.
I wanted to capture the youthful excitement of hands-on learning - the morning of a school field trip, walking into the Scholastic Book Fair with $10 in your hand - in a way that resonated with kids, but felt enriching as an authentic education platform.
The LightUp experience was designed for AR headsets as well...but stereo screenshots end up looking like this. So for the sake of visual ease I've only featured mobile mockups in this case study.
Eyeball anatomy lesson through an AR headset
Create with the universe at your fingertips
As mesmerizing as it is, interacting with augmented reality can be an adjustment for kids. So I designed LightUp's creator studio to be as intuitive as possible, inspired by the familiar interfaces of Snapchat and TikTok.
The AR library is organized into a scrollable menu of model categories, with a transparent background div to maintain openness of the viewport while selecting models.
Users can post videos to the community and explore content made by others across the globe.
Through early testing, I noticed that although almost all kids enjoyed placing and marveling at the AR models, the open-ended-ness of the creator experience left some users unsure where to begin in crafting a coherent STEM presentation.
So I designed a range of "Starter Templates" to provide structure and inspiration for our scientific social influencers whenever they felt stuck.
Lightup in the classroom
In working with teachers on how to best integrate LightUp into structured classroom learning, I designed a "Groups" feature that allows instructors to post assignments with short prompts which students can respond to with video submissions.
Teachers loved the feature and we found that, when compared to worksheets - after exploring and presenting on a topic with AR, student retention of core concepts was just as high, and excitement about the subject and desire to learn more was far higher.
In designing interactive features to incorporate into the creator studio, I drew inspiration from interactions in Snapchat and Instagram that kids would find intuitive as a baseline.
And to create something truly exceptional for our narrower purpose, I also reimagined various powerpoint components like bullet points and Youtube embedding as AR features to preserve the immersiveness of LightUp's experience without compromising presentation functionality.
A space for expression
For both classroom and personal use, published videos compile into a user's profile to share with friends and build an awesome creator library.
Diving deeper into learning
To learn more about a subject beyond what its AR models display, users can explore showcase pages that give Wikipedia-linked insights on each model and feature prompts to inspire category-related videos - rounding out a gratifying and truly inventive learning experience.