Bamboo Learning App

Product Design, UX, UI

Date: 21st August 2011

Panda is a learning aid to be used for various bamboo workshops/training at NID Centre for Bamboo Initiatives.

Backstory & Need:

I have always found bamboo products simple, functional, modern and beautiful. As a plant it’s one of the most practical and sustainable wood which can be used. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant harvestable in two to four years cycle. It is far superior in physical, and mechanical properties to wood obtained from short rotation fast growing tree species, and is highly versatile for applications.

I took this project as a student assignment during my time at NID. Campus holds training workshops once every few months to facilitate bamboo plantation, research and product making training workshops to discuss and teach the production. As part of the workshops, NID teaches amateur and trained bamboo enthusiasts processes to manufacture products (furniture, utilities etc.). They conduct live lessons and has an extensive reading material.

The faculty now wanted to make it easier and better ways to teach and spread their knowledge and connect with enthusiasts in India and other Asian countries.


To start of, I needed answers to a few questions. What is bamboo? How does anyone learn to make bamboo products? How do I make a learning solution for something I don’t know anything about? I took a usual design process approach for this project.

Design Process

Primary Research & Learning

The process of learning the techniques and acquire the talent is long. I visited a few factories and saw that the process of making such products is way different from manufacturing products in garage or in a studio. I started taking the lessons and the mastered the basic techniques of making bamboo products. NID has prepared an extensive textual guide to making bamboo products and this guide is handed over to the students. Though the guide is extensive and has illustrations, I realised that learning the procedures gets difficult from a book.

I learned that though the text and pictures help, learning by watching videos is easier and way more helpful. Also, the process can be intricate and its important to watch the teacher from every view.

I realised that its tougher to learn physical things yourself without a teacher around. When your’re playing with wood and fire, things don’t turn the way you hope. Its important to learn the basics right to build anything

Learning material prepared by NID is extensive and has hand drawn picture of tasks and manufactoring processes
Shots from my visits to bamboo products manufacturing factories. First is a machine to slit bamboo equally and second is a huge furnace
Trying my hands at filing

Secondary Research & Learning

I wanted to learn about some of the teaching and education philosophies which could be helpful in designing the information architecture for the solution. Some of the philosophies I found helpful was the 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, Evaluate) and ofcourse - Aaron Marcus’ design philosophy for motivation and behaviour persuasion. (who I worked earlier building Innovation Machine).. You can download some of the papers I found helpful (Links at the bottom).

It was my hunch that while just learning basics(cutting, slitting etc.) could get boring, the excitement of making something simple and fast motivates someone to continue.

I realised that much like a game or any new class, it helps to start the user with smaller tasks and increase complexity as the student grows. I wanted to start off not by giving lessons on basics (like cutting, polishing) but rather with lessons on making easy products like a pen holder.If the student does well; continue to teach more difficult jobs like folding and slitting by explaining tasks like making a hanger and then continuing to even more sophisticated jobs like joining two pieces.

The learning pyramid which I wanted to incorporate

Solution & Early Design

Panda is a web app to help bamboo enthusiasts learn to make bamboo products by themselves, by showing DIY projects. While NID admins the videos and provides the learning material, it seemed important that the eventual product brings the enthusiasts closer and they should be able to discuss the problems, and show off their skills.

Panda has main five modules -

Dashboard: to track how far along the user has reached and the points gained

Learn:Focusing on the learning material and experience. The videos explaining the process are in three different angles and user can focus on one

Discuss: To discuss problems, solutions, processes, etc. with admins, and peers

Compete: To add, join and track a competition

Gamification: For the lack of a better word. *Hate this word; *

Early wireframes
Low fedility prototype to test with users

User testing

Being in a design institute helped me to find people who were kind enough to try the app and create a few items. I learned a lot from this exercise and it gave me ideas to add functionalities which would help user and avoid accidents.

Where I went wrong and where I went almost right

Being in a design institute helped me to find people who were kind enough to try the app and create a few items. I learned a lot from this exercise and it gave me ideas to add functionalities which would help user and avoid accidents.