Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Michael Eisenberg

Second Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Third Advisor

Tom Yeh

Fourth Advisor

Paulo Blikstein

Fifth Advisor

Kylie Peppler


We present a class of devices under the umbrella moniker of "embodied fabrication". These devices and the development of the term embodied fabrication is rooted not only in computer science, but in cognitive science, childhood educational theory, emerging digital fabrication technology, and the convergence of these strands present in the do-it-yourself community known as the "maker movement". As such, we operate under a certain set of premises that guide and direct this work. First, that embodied cognition -- which places the body at the center of our cognitive operations -- provides a framework from which to ground our decisions to design physical peripheral devices as opposed to purely screen-based software. Second, that a strong line of pedagogical research supports providing children with tangible, "manipulative" objects to learn with. Third, that digital fabrication technologies -- 3D printing in particular -- provide a wonderful new opportunity for children and novice designers in general to make, play, and explore creatively -- and that the current design options for 3D printers are not suited to meaningful design and creation of objects by non-expert 3D modelers. Finally, that by following the best traditions of body-centric interaction design for children, devices can be created to provide an educationally and technically rich environment that connects kids to the creative potential of 3D printing. We unpack these ideas more in the introduction, followed by an overview of three prototype devices belonging to this class of "embodied" interfaces, a chapter on related work followed by a chapter on the three user studies we performed with our devices, a discussion of the presented studies, and finally we present a vision of the future of this work and of embodied fabrication devices as a whole before concluding.