March saw the launch of SciGirls, one of our highly anticipated sites for PBS. With a focus on safe social networking for kids, Dana, the project’s producer, walks us through the challenges and solutions of developing such an immersive interactive experience with education in mind.
RM: What is SciGirls?
Dana: SciGirls is a site that allows girls to connect with each other and with working female scientists in a way that is safe, educationally robust and very fun. On our project pages, girls can submit their science projects for other girls to try, or try out a project submitted by someone else. These project pages are also used to help other girls connect with those of similar interests. By sharing ideas with each other and creating highly customizable profile pages that feature their interests, girls can stay engaged for long periods of time in a completely safe way.
RM: What makes this site stand out from other kids and education oriented sites?
Dana: I think that this site sets a precedent for safe social networking in the 'tween' age group. There is intensive interconnectivity, and the entire site is built to be easily scalable as it grows in popularity (both in content, features and from a backend perspective).
RM: What were some of the challenges you encountered and how were they solved?
Dana: The main challenge of the entire show was to engage girls of a particular age group so that they were attracted to science, not put off by it for fear of appearing "nerdy." We geared the site so that it showcases things that are scientific in nature, but do not feel like a classroom - space, animals, technology, etc. The scrollable homepage environment is full of animations, widgets, and frequently updated features such as female scientists, stars and lunar calendars.
RM: What is your favorite feature of the site?
Dana: It's only a detail but I have to admit, I love the "black hole" instead of a trashcan on the profile customization pages!
RM: Will there be any updates to look forward to in the future?
Dana: And how! Not only will there be more aesthetic customizations available for user profiles, but the entire backend is built for even bigger improvements. Also, the future will likely see a series of games. Be sure to check back often as content is always being updated!
You can visit the website at: http://pbskids.org/scigirls/