Turning Flappy Bird Into a Kickstarter to Help Teach Engineering

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A Kickstarter project aims to make engineering as addictive as Flappy Bird. 

By Fawn Qiu (Product Development, Sesame Street)

If you're a fan of mobile phone games, you might have heard of Flappy Bird, the immensely popular app that was pulled from the app stores by its creator because it was "too addictive." As a fan of Flappy Bird myself and an avid maker and technology educator, I thought it would be a great project to turn the digital app into a physical game that you can play in real life--one that can never be deleted from the app store. With this idea in mind, the Make Flappy Box Kickstarter was created.

Flappy Box Kit and Engineering

The complete Make Flappy Box Kit contains everything you need to make your own physical game box which includes a plug-and-play PCB board, all the electronics, construction materials, and a step-by-step guide to help put it together. You can also expand upon the game by designing your own templates, which can also be printed and swapped via the Make Flappy Box website.

The Make Flappy Box project is not just about the game, but also about the engineering principles behind creating a physical tech project. According to the Labor Department's workplace projections for 2018, nine of the ten fastest growing occupations will require significant STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) training. Despite this increased demand, the overall interest to enter into the STEM fields has decreased in the last ten years. It's becoming increasingly important to help students understand that a background in STEM can actually lead to endless amounts of creativity and fun!

Giving anyone this kit enables them to take another step towards learning about basic electronics and engineering. So if you’ve got a budding engineer in the family, or someone obsessed with Flappy Bird, one of these kits could help trigger their interest to start creating and making. Geek.com called the project "a great example of that 'you can make anything' mentality."

Using a Viral Video for a Good Cause

When I first created the Make Flappy Box prototype and showcased the project on YouTube, it was met with overwhelming support with over two million views in just a week; even the original app creator, Dong Nguyen, said he “love[d] it." Make Flappy Box was created under the goal of making technology accessible, educational, and relevant for people of all backgrounds. With that in mind, we also want to help remove financial barriers for those that most lack exposure to technology. For every Make Flappy Box Kit that is backed, a portion of the revenue will go towards hosting free engineering workshops for underserved high school female students in NYC. This is not the first time that I’ve held workshops - in the past, I founded Make Anything, an organization dedicated to making engineering accessible to a diverse audience, especially women and minorities.

Making and Playing

After creating the project using the kit, the real fun starts when you invite people to play with the game you’ve just made. It’s easy to see that the physical game makes the playing experience more approachable. It's no longer just one player and a phone, but people around you are also aware of the game, which invites collaboration and curiosity. Each win and loss is more dramatic, surprising, and exciting. The Huffington Post called it a "Fantastic creation - a real-life box version that looks more fun than the original." I also think it’s a great idea to take an app that’s built for individual play and transform it into a social play experience that you can share with others.

pBHDKCkeAbout the guest blogger: Fawn (@qiulab) currently works in product development at Sesame Street. In the past, Fawn has worked at the MIT Media Lab, through which she co-developed the Scratch curriculum for teachers. She is the founder of Make Anything, an organization that teaches creative engineering workshops. and the organizer of NYC High Low Tech Meetup.   Image credit: Desiree Catani via Flickr