Project Advisor:
Andres Zapata
Maryland Institute College of Art

Brushbuds is a mobile app that teaches children how brush teeth through engaging gameplay and comprehensive rewards. Using simplistic game mechanics, children practice specific motions, learn through repetition, advance in levels, and achieve personalized goals to earn cosmetic rewards.

The two central game modes are Play Mode and Practice Mode, where the interaction is active and passive respectively. Play Mode is where the child learns through repetition, and Practice Mode creates a controlled environment where the user is guided through the tooth brushing process in real time.
In researching development for children aged five to seven, I established some design precedents:

• Use very little words, due to lower reading comprehension.
• Lean into abstracted shapes and do not rely on learned signifiers.
• Be wary of information overload. Only one moving object at a time. When in doubt, simplify.
• Provide feedback for every interaction. This is especially important for children who are still learning spatial relationships in physical/digital world.
• Always provide positive feedback rather than negative. When they choose a wrong  answer, direct them to the right one. Kids will act first and examine consequences later.
• Simulation education games rely on endless repetitive tasks. Repetition is key in child learning. They don’t get bored easily like adults do.
• Do not underestimate the user’s intelligence or willingness to take on a challenge.
• Provide a challenge for them to overcome and advance to keep them engaged.

The navigation for the mobile app needs to be approachable for children, so an emphasis was put on large buttons and images. The Play Mode pathway opens up the Play Mode screen and Bud customization, while the Practice pathway puts the user on the Practice pathway. It was important for these two modes to be immediately distinct for the user.

Tips and Rewards are supplementary screens accessible from the main menu. Settings can be accessed via every screen and extra content on that page can be unlocked by the parent via password input.
In Brushbuds’ Play Mode, the user progresses through a series of levels, using gesture touches to move the toothbrush around the mouth, performing various objectives to fend off sugar and remove build up. Practice Mode is a guided routine that takes the user through two minutes of brushing. This mode is meant to be played through in the morning and again at night. A song plays and the child can act out what is happening and being said on screen.
The rewards system in Brushbuds allows for parents to take a more active role in their child’s learning, if they should choose to do so. In the parental unlocked Settings pane, adults can set their own parameters for children to achieve trophies. Parents also get a statistical breakdowns of potential problem areas.

Completing tasks (such as playing different modes, reading tips, and consistently practicing morning and night) and collecting trophies earns Sparkles, a currency used for customizing your Buds and buying different toothbrushes and songs that play during practice.