An interactive play mat concept designed to promote emotional intelligence and learning readiness.

designed by jen wei sin



My name is Jen and I am a final year information system major passionate about design and development. This website was made to exhibit my work done throughout the semester for DECO3850, a course focusing on Physical Computing.

Prior to this course, I have experience in Java programming, visual design in adobe Photoshop and illustrator along with web development skills such as PHP and cloud-based computing. Fortunately, these skills were utilised in the final production of my individual concept, FOMA.


Problem Space

The problem space that my team and I investigated was Musical Things, to allow users to create and explore music when interacting with objects. Our team has narrowed this space down to utilising music to help children learn and develop. As a team, we have decided to approach the nature of this problem space by individually exploring different aspects of learning with music through team supported individual concepts.

Music allows students to develop psychomotor skills, cognitive-affective, and improve student’s learning readiness and intelligence (Karlimah, 2018, pg.1-2). Furthermore, music activates the flow of nerve impulses, when both sides of the brain are active then various mental functions will be aligned, improving a person’s readiness to learn (Karlimah, 2018, pg.1-2).

musical notes

Intended Concept

Individual Concept

Individually, I have developed a concept called FOMA, short for Focus Mat. FOMA was conceptualised to help children with emotional intelligence in the classroom while promoting learning readiness by utilising music and colour theory.

According to Dr Masha Goddkin from Northcentral University, Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory. Kotler, 1973 in Yildirim, Akalinbaskaya, & Hidayetoglu, 2007, p. 3233 supports this claim by outlining the relationship between sounds, lighting and colour with emotional response in consumers and how it affects their behaviours. Combining sound, touch and colours in the concept aims to help students refocus their attention and de-stress in between classes or when necessary.

FOMA is designed to help children deal with stress within the context of the classroom during break times or in between classes. The main focus and goal of the concept was to help children develop stress management skills by invoking a sense of calmness and peace through colours and sounds, utilizing a natural interaction paradigm where users would use the sense of touch to interact with the concept.

Ideal Concept

The initial and ideal concept that was developed involved a large play mat that is pressure sensitive. Children would be able to apply pressure anywhere on the mat and a different musical note would play corresponding to the location and amount of pressure that was applied, allowing a multi user experience where children are able to produce music together. Ideally though multi user interactions and functionality described above, the concept would also promote self-expression that might positively influence self confidence and creativity along with the main intended goal of improving emotional intelligence.


Design Process

Concept Development

A basic iterative design process was followed in ideating and designing the final concept. This design process started with initial research as a team regarding the problem space where potential and existing solutions were reviewed to have a deeper understanding of the correlation between learning and music. Based of the initial research, team members then conducted more focused research into our own individual direction of the concept.

Related work & Inspiration

Based on background research, it was evident that music can maximise learning and improve memory, whereas colours are behaviour altering stimuli caused by emotional responses. According to Thoma et al., 2013, music has been proven to beneficially affect stress related physiological, cognitive and emotional processes. Therefore the use of music is a highly accepted intervention tool to manage stress and stress related issues. Incorporating both of these elements to the conceptual design would add value to the nature of the concept in dealing with the aims of the project. The main inspiration for my concept was a calm down jar used by occupational therapists to help children self-regulate and melt away troubles that are causing big emotions. The idea came about to incorporate the same values from related work to a concept that would include a digital component, utilising computing to help enhance the experience and delivery of the concept.

User Engagement

In order to design my concept to accurately reflect the needs of the target audience a proposed solution to the problems I have identified was conceptualised and tested informally within a small group of early childcare educators to identify the suitability of the concept, its form and intended experience. The key takeaway from this activity was to steer away from harsh visual stimuli as it might be too much of a stimulus to the brain especially among young children, this also meant that LCD screens should be avoided. Additionally, though more research and feedback, it was also important for the physical prototype to incorporate a more tactile material to better facilitate the child’s ability to destress, similar to a stress ball. As part of an in-class activity, our concepts were also evaluated by peers from other groups which was insightful, the main takeaway that has impacted the prototype built was to incorporate more interactions with the board.


A rough prototype was constructed to visualise the concept and to be used as a means of user testing. As part of the assessment piece, a video was produced to describe the intended use of the concept, outlining scenarios of use and the intended experience. Key outcomes of this activities then informed the design of the Final Delivery.
(link to documentation can be found below)

Final Prototype

How does it work?

A short video was put together to demonstrate the final product I have produced. In this demonstration, the user interacts with the board by applying pressure onto the pressure points, resulting in audio and visual feedback.

Physical Form & Intended use

A scenario of use would be when a child is acting out in class due to frustrations of being in a classroom for a long period of time. When the child lashes out, the child could interact with the concept to calm down and refocus. In this scenario, the child would be placed in a corner, wearing headsets to reduce in class distractions. The child then turns the pad on and starts applying pressure onto it, visual stimulus according to colour theory and calming sounds help the child focus on something other than academic content. As the child interacts with the concept, the child will be relaxed and colour and music cues will help the child develop a sense of focus.

Technical components

The code

The final prototype can be broken down into technical implementations and physical built of the project. The codebase behind the project is separated into two, Arduino code and processing code.

The Arduino board is programmed in C++ utilising the Arduino idle which is supported by Adafruit neopixel library, an Arduino library for controlling single-wire-based LED pixels and strip. Arduino code handles the neopixel strips and sending information to the serial port connected from the Arduino to the computer which is triggered by button states. The code base was then programmed to the Arduino board which then facilitates communication with Processing to handle audio output.

Processing reads values from the serial port to trigger audio playback if information to play is received. Processing imports a library called minim which is an audio library that uses the JavaSound API, a bit of Tritonus, and Javazoom’s MP3SPI to provide an easy to use audio library.

musical notes

The physical built

The final prototype can be broken down to these major components which were built on top of each other to form the physical built of the prototype:


Neopixel Strips

Three LED strips were daisy chained and soldered together to improve the connection quality and the overall durability of the connection.

pressure sensors


Pressure sensors were constructed with copper tape attached together with a layer of foam in between, the connection would then be complete when pressure was applied to the pads as the foam layer would condense allowing the circuit to be connected, avoiding accidental connections between the aluminium pieces.

arduino board

Pressure Points

Four pressure sensors were built using copper tape and foam pieces. The These pads were then attached to the main structure in four different corners, wiring out the connections to the Arduino board.

arduino board


The wires from the pressure pad and led strips was attached to a breadboard then to an Arduino uno board which was then plugged into a power source. Exposed wires were wrapped in electrical tape to secure the connections and for safety purposes.

structure of prototype


The final structure of the prototype included cardboard pieces that housed the pressure pad in between them and the LED lights placed on top. A The entire structure was then secured together using electrical tape for durability as the concept was targeted towards school aged children.

structure of prototype

Tactile Surface

A foam layer was added on top of the led strips to diffuse the lights produced by the led strips to reduce eye strain and for the overall aesthetic and appeal of the concept, mimicking the actual representation of a play mat.


Project outcomes

Through multiple iterations and consideration throughout the whole design process, I am satisfied with the final outcome of my concept, foma. It goes without saying that the actual built of foma did not fully reflect the initial concept, however, the final project outcome clearly echoes the main aims and objectives of the intended concept. The main differences between the ideal and actual outcomes lie in the physical aspect of the build. For example, the size and the accuracy of the in-built sensors were different due to financial and time restrictions. Functionality wise, unfortunately, I was not able to allocate more time into programming more sophisticated lighting sequences to demonstrate how the concept could capture the users attention span, however, I felt that this functionality was secondary to the overall experience and was not a core focus as I was developing the concept.

Relevance to theme

The musical and underlying educational element of my final delivery falls nicely in relation to the overarching domain, “Musical Things”, that my team and I worked in. On a wider scale, I belive that foma emulates the broader project brief of Designing for playful and open-ended interactions in everyday life, as the concept demonstrates a novel and playful method utilising computing to bridge identified gaps in our problem space.

Success criteria

The success of the final outcome was measured based of a list of criteria drafted in relation to how well the prototype outcome tested againts core project objectives. In my opinion, foma strongly aligns itself with the aims of the intended concept by providing an interactive method to aid learning readiness and emotional intelligence. This is also supported by positive user feedback that solidifies the project’s purpose and intended experience. However, the accuracy of user feedback might be watered down as I was not able to conduct user testing activities with my core target audience due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That being said, as a whole, foma depicts a functional, original and attractive solution that drives a clear purpose in relevance to the team and studio wide domain.

Thank you for stopping by!

want to see more?

The process

More information regarding the design process and justification of design decisions and be found on my project journal.

Design Process
Video Pitch

The Prototype

A minimum viable prototype demonstration in the midpoint of the design process was created and linked below for further reference.

Prototype Demo

The Designer

If you liked my work and want to know more about it, feel free to drop me an email!

Contact Me