How might we design tools to help 8-12 year olds create projects with more autonomy?


Children begin to reach key milestones in their sensory and motor skill development by the age of just 8. This is the perfect time for them to amass new skills and increased exposure to crafting is beneficial for their development. However, a lack of dexterity and coordination prevents these children interacting with tools currently on the market

what if power tools were designed specifically to be used by this age range?

We intend to design a range of power tools that allow younger children to engage in D.I.Y and crafting projects in order to foster independence and aid development.


The Sparrow children's drill is the perfect drill for kids. Incorporating a range of different features to ensure that kids are not only safe but can gain confidence using power tools. (Full details on the desktop version)

The torque is labelled with pictograms (small screw, large screw and drilling) instead of numbers which make it easy to select an appropriate setting for the task

The design of the vents follows the curvature of the logo, making them discrete yet effective

There is only one-speed setting, adapted to small diameter drill bits, making the drill very instinctive to use

A double trigger system forces the user to use both his hands in order to start the drill. This prevents a child’s hand from getting to close to the drill bit while drilling. The back button can also be locked in an adult mode, which allows the user to only use one hand. This mode gets activated by twisting the back button, which makes a red area disappear, clearly indicating to a supervisor the mode it is being used on.

An IMU (gyroscope and accelerometer combined) detects angle deviances. A LED displays the deviance when it occurs by lighting up different colours of LED, indicating in what direction the angle should be adjusted. Green means the angle didn’t change, orange and then red indicates a change happened. The position of those LED also indicate if the drill has to be tilted downward or upward. This helps the child actively improving his drilling precision without relying on physical support. 

design process


In the earlier stages of the project, and a strong communication line with Belmont School, Mill Hill, was formed. Throughout the product development stage, the school was visited a number of times in order to receive feedback from our target user and infer the design direction. 4 different year groups (aged 8 - 12) were represented in our focus group and provided us with very insightful feedback as to the problems they have with current drills and what they would like to see in a drill designed for them.

From this coupled with observations, we highlighted 4 key features that our design should focus on and meet:


As the drill is primarily targeted at children, to give them autonomy, a health and safety concern was raised by multiple parties. Sufficient safety features should be built-in to not only keep the user safe but provide peace of mind to relevant third parties 


Children aged 8-12 are yet to fully develop their fine motor skills. This results in inaccuracies when using power drills that can negatively impact the craft project at hand. Features to help reduce these inaccuracies should be incorporated into the proposed design 


Through our sessions with at Belmont, it became clear that the children found the signage on power drills quite confusing. More intuitive signage should be included in the proposed design 


When tasked with dismantling the drill and reassembling, the children not only struggled due to a lack of strength but were also confused due to the number of pieces. The proposed design should be as simplistic as possible.

concept development

With these key features decided, the team went and generated concept development sketches, making sure to include aspects of each feature in their designs

After initial concepts were developed by each member, the designs were reviewed and it was decided that the good aspects of each design would be combined to make one final proposal

My role 

For this project I took on the role of CTO, meaning I was in charge of the delivery of the working prototype. More closely I focused on the design and manufacture for all internal parts of the drill and the entire electronic system. As the team was provided with a donor drill to harvest parts from, it was my job to make sure the newly designed parts meshed nicely with these donor parts.

I made the decision to quickly prototype the parts of the design that would mesh with the donor parts first instead of prototyping entire systems as it allowed for iterations to be quickly generated. (full details on the desktop version)


The gearbox was prototyped heavily as this was a key component for the drill to function. I first worked on 3 aspects of the gearbox separately, to ensure each part functioned as required, before combining them to form the final model. The final model was 3D printed with PVA support material. This was to allow for smooth mating surfaces between the gearbox and the donor parts

angle deviance prevention

From tests conducted during visits to our users, it became clear that they struggle to maintain the orientation of the drill during use. To help counter this I designed a system to help provide visual feedback to the user if they stray from their intended drilling angle.

The system uses an IMU to compare the desired angle set by the user and the current angle to calculate the offset. It then will display this information via Neopixels to help guide the user. The system is linked to the back button trigger and locks the drills current as the desired angle when engaged.

circuit design

As the fitting inside the casing of the drill was very tight, I decided to design and order a custom PCB so that all the components could be housed centrally and to make the fitting neater.

In order to achieve the double trigger system, the battery was wired directly the PCB and also connected to the motor via a MOSFET. This is so that when the first trigger is engaged, the microcontroller turns on and once the back trigger is engaged, the MOSFET allows the motor to be activated