foodous: an educational and fun food experience for kids

An alarming number of children don't know where their food comes from. With a food industry ruled by processed food, we saw an opportunity to create an experience that focused on fun, education and nourishing foods. 


An interactive café that delivers on education and magic


project description
Eating should be a wholesome experience. However, many of us, especially children, are disconnected from the origins of our food. Understanding where our food comes from enables us to be more mindful and more conscious of the need to ensure a healthy natural environment.

When visiting a new, automated technology restaurant, I was struck by the sterility of the atmosphere. In this restuarant, I saw technology as further disconnecting us from our food. Since children are especially unaware (even of where their vegetables are grown), I saw an opportunity to use technology as an educational experience while eating out.

service design

ideation, research, visual design lead, prototyping, team player

Chris Risdon

4 weeks


research exploration



Design Objective:

To create an educational and interactive cafe for kids to learn about the origins of their food.



From our secondary research, we generated key insights to direct our objective:

  1. Kids really enjoying learning about food and cooking
  2. Kids are more inclined to eat healthier when they participate in the process of choosing (and cooking) food. 
  3. Children have a skewed perception of where food actually comes from.
  4. Understanding where food comes from creates greater awareness about our natural environment.
  5. Understanding and developing healthy habits at a young age can lead to healthy habits that are continue through life.


From the insights, we created the following how might we statements:

  1. How might we increase food literacy in children?
  2. How might we make it fun for kids to learn about the origins of food?
  3. How might we make eating out an educational and tasty experience?
  4. How might we transform the restaurant experience to facilitate learning for kids?
  5. How might we inspire kids to want to eat their veggies?


The Question We Landed On:

How might we increase food literacy in children?


service blueprint


We created a service blueprint to identify the physical touch points, define what the users would interact with, and what components were "behind-the-scenes."


Service Blueprint.png


origami: small to big


Starting Small with Origami

We started by building out the existing service model on a small, origami scale. After this, we were able to move the parts around and update based on the new design we were proposing.



"Life-Size" Origami

Once we felt confident with our small scale origami, we pulled over some chairs, a big panel of foam board, and some other props and made a rough and dirty full size mock-up of our service space. Since this project is aimed for children, we measured the placement of the screens based on the average height of an elementary school child in the US.

We had some fun role playing in the space! 



Re-Shaping the Space: Origami Takeaways

After physically creating the space, our advisor pointed out some areas to consider, and challenged us to come up with a new layout. Our original space felt too enclosed, had the potential for crowding, and didn't think outside the box...pun intended.

We re-grouped and had an ideation session where we did a handful of rough sketches, exploring  kiosks, having the screens sit inside of large vegetable shapes, and how to layout where the menu/ordering screens might live.

We settled on an octagonal shape, where each panel houses a screen and creates a flow that moves customers to the cubbies (where the food is once ready). 


physical prototyping: construction time


Learning to Use Power Tools


Once we had designed the new octagonal shape, we were ready to prototype. We didn't need to build out the entire octagon to test out the experience, so we decided to build one side of a hexagon.

To start, we drilled hinges onto plywood panels and taped white boards as screen mock-ups. The paper cut-out represented the height of the average child height. 

After we were confident with the screen placements, we used a bandsaw and router to cut out the space for the screens to live. 



Testing Take 1

We used the "Wizard of Oz" approach, where someone hiding was controlling the screens, reacting to the users interactions with the screens. To do this, we gave user's specific objectives and had them speak out loud as they moved through the screens.


arduino: designing the magic


Arduino and the "Magic" Wand

We wanted a color changing wand, so we started with a NeoPixel strip for the wide range of colors it offered and the ease of the strip form. 

We did an initial round of code testing on Arduino Uno. Through this we were able to have the wand change colors at stipulated time. However, we envisioned the wand to change colors as the people went from one step to the next, getting feedback after each action/selection a customer would make. Therefore, we decided to incorporate Bluefruit LE to control the NeoPixel from our phone.

We used Arduino Flora and Bluefruit LE Flora hardward. We coded both and controled it from the Adafruit Bluefruit Le Connect mobile application.

*I helped in the ideation portion of the wand design, but didn't manage the Arduino/coding or 3D modeling of the wand

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IMG_7010 2.jpeg

digital prototyping: from sketches to sketch


Initial Wireframe Sketches

I wanted a concept that was both parent and kid friendly, focused on playful illustrations, and that created an intuitive customer experience.



Digitized Designs and Problem Solving

Using a subtle background color, the emphasis was on the brightly colored illustrations. Giving slight texture to the illustrations gave them a more rustic, wholesome appeal. The reddish coral hue spoke to igniting the appetite, and the dark blue reflected a sense of familiarity and loyalty. 

User Testing Problem Solving
One of the biggest questions we tackled was how to enable parents to pay for multiple kids and adults at once since wands individually store the orders. 

We decided that in the very beginning of the flow, parents would select the number of wands/meals they are paying for. We had tested it at the end with a couple users, but it made parents feel more comfortable to do this step at the front of the experience. 

Through user testing, we also found that parents were uncomfortable letting their kids pick the additional bowl ingredients because they were worried they would end up paying more (and for something the kids likely wouldn't finish).

We changed the design to have 2 options, a vegetarian and omnivore bowl, each with a set price. Parents made this selection right at the beginning, so they felt more comfortable with their kids making autonomous choices after this. 


Part. 1


Part. 2


Part. 3


the final presentation




The Build

For the two higher "parent" screens, we used a projector for the screens. For the lower "kid" screen, we used a monitor for the screen. The projector created less work in the build – it was a more quick and dirty prototypical approach. The actual monitor looked nicer and was much easier to set-up in contrast to the strange angles we had to balance the projectors on.

We imagined the actual space having living gardens on the each panel, so used some fake plants to give a sense of what it might look like.

 " DJ Soojin " behind the scenes controlling the screens. 

"DJ Soojin" behind the scenes controlling the screens. 


project learnings


Key Takeaways

  1. Parents don’t want to give their child too many choices  for fear of holding up the line.
  2. Parents are happy to let their kids make their own choices if they know they aren’t going to have to pay any extra for more choices
  3. Parents don’t want to have to worry about moving their kids and whatever else they may be holding (like lots of kids bags/strollers) so being able to do all the ordering in one place is easier.
  4. The wand needs to be re-thought. As it is, kids have to return it which would undoubtedly cause disappointment for the child. 
  5. Consider exploring a system with multiple kiosks instead of a walking to benefit parents. The conceptual kiosk could accommodate two screens (one for the parent and one for the kid) allowing parents to control and limit the order placed by their kids. The system could be beneficiary for the business model plan as it enables more customers to interact and place an order.