System for Learning and Assessment through Tangible Exploration


SLATE combines tangible toolkits with an interactive display to engage children in hands-on learning. By arranging magnetic pieces on the screen, children solve challenges and create solutions that subsequent children can view and learn from. Designs are automatically documented using a rear-mounted image detection system. With our latest toolkit, Mechanix, children build Rube-Goldberg designs composed of simple machine components. We are in the process of developing new toolkits for other subject areas — stay tuned for more information!

Tangible Exploration

Inspired by Seymour Papert's theory of Constructionism, SLATE features tangible toolkits for students to form personal knowledge structures by engaging in cycles of exploration, design, construction, and testing.


SLATE supports learning on multiple levels, including personal exploration and inquiry, synchronous learning with real-time collaborators, and asynchronous learning through the examples of others.


SLATE provides opportunities for real-time formative assessment on its large, interactive display, as well as post-hoc assessment of student strategies and designs via automated logging and replay features.


SLATE readily supports novel tangible toolkits. We encourage students, teachers, designers, and inventors to devise their own SLATE extensions that promote the active construction of tangible systems.

SLATE and Mechanix were co-developed by Tiffany Tseng and Coram Bryant in Paulo Blikstein's Beyond Bits and Atoms course at Stanford University. Since then, SLATE has emerged as a framework for toolkits beyond Mechanix. We continue to collaborate with the TLT Lab and Paulo Blikstein on the creation of new toolkits as part of the Beyond Bits and Atoms course and on research on integrating example-based learning with collaborative design work.


Tiffany Tseng is a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab. She received her B.S. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009 and an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 2011. She is interested in educational technologies that engage children in engineering design.

Coram Bryant is a recent graduate of the Learning, Design, & Technology Master’s program in the Stanford University School of Education. He earned a double bachelors degree in Cognitive Science and Computer science at the University of California, San Diego in 2004, and has since worked as a software engineer and educator with a passion for learning and designing opportunities for others to learn.


Paulo Blikstein is an assistant professor at Stanford University’s School of Education and (by courtesy) Computer Science Department, and the Director of the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab. His research interests include technologies for learning, computational cognitive modeling, and complexity science. He is an academic advisor for the SLATE project.
Home Page:

The Transformative Learning Technologies Lab at Stanford University engages in research on the fabrication and evaluation of technologies for learning, including educational toys, toolkits, and tangible user interfaces. A special focus of the lab is the design of low-cost, appropriate learning technologies for underprivileged populations in the US and abroad.
Home Page:
Admin Contact: