EcoIsland Resource Conservation Game

Helping kids understand the impact of energy use.

The Idea

Because today's children will be tomorrow's home owners. We all need to understand that fossil fuels and fresh water are not unlimited resources. Low-cost sensors allow families to monitor electricity and water usage in their homes. EcoIsland makes resource monitoring fun for families.

The Design

Design Goals

  • Entertaining – experience is enjoyable and replayable.
  • Informative – kids understand how electricity and water usage can impact the enviroment.
  • Changes behavior – children begin to regulate their resource usage.

Wireframes and Mockups

Water Usage Visualization

As water is used in the home, the river around EcoIsland slowly begins to recede. Users can maintain a healthy water level by regulating water usage.

Conservation Incentives

As kids make informed conservation decisions, they will receive points that they can use to decorate their island homes with stickers and animal friends. They can also visit friends' homes to see who has collected the most decorations.


A trash sorting prototype was built to observe whether users could transfer skills learned on a computer into the real world. The users were told to sort the items into the appropriatedigital bins as they floated down the river. Properly sorting the items would increase the score, while sorting items into the wrong basket would decrease the score.

Once users were comfortable with the digital game, they participated in a real world sorting game. The same recycling categories were used across the digital and physical prototypes, with some different items to test categorization capabilities.


Heuristic Evaluation

HCI professionals provided feedback on prototype design. Adjustments were made to the prototype before user testing.

Observation Sessions

The observation session of the participants using our resource conservation game brought several design issues to our attention. The overall design of our game was well received, with participants describing it as ‘fun’ and ‘exciting’, One participant commented ‘I don’t live in a hut’, which suggested a disconnect between their real world setting and those depicted in the game. Because the overall reaction was positive, the final design would remain in the cartoon-like, vivid style, depicting resource usage in an abstract manner.


We began by asking users their general opinion about the game, what they liked and didn’t like, what they would change about the game, and if they thought they would play the game on a regular basis. We clarified that after the users washed their hands and returned, the river shrunk in size (since many of the users did not pick up on this). We then asked the users to explain why they thought the river got smaller. Only two users correctly linked the river drying up to the water used for washing hands.

Quantitative Evaluation

Users completed by pretest and posttest evaluations for trash recycling to determine whether their ability to sort garbage correctly translated from digital training into real-world activities. As a baseline, users' accuracy in sorting virtual items was used to determine improvement when sorting physical items.

Final Report

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