Story Carnival is a research project conducted by investigators at the University of Iowa since 2017, following an approach designed to support evidence-based social play activities.
Monday, April 17, 2023

Two Eastern Iowa television news outfits recently visited Prof. Juan Pablo Hourcade and PhD student and collaborator Flannery Currin to discuss this ongoing research:

"A team of scientists at UI created an online portal called StoryCarnival . Those who use it are a part of a research study to help adults support children in pretend or dramatic play. With guided prompts and play sessions, StoryCarnival is an especially important aspect of this study given the increased use of tablets, phones, and computers.

'We wanted to have a different way of thinking about technology for young children,' said Professor Juan Pablo Hourcade, the person leading this team of scientists. 'With a focus on supporting children’s creativity, face-to-face communication, and a connection to the social and physical environment around children.'

Children can pick characters, and select story prompts like planning a birthday party or traveling to space. From there, the program guides them through, but ultimately the children go through it in real time, eventually walking away from the screen to use their own toys, and interact with their family members or classmates."

"News 8 also spoke with Research Assistant Flannery Currin who said this platform is especially important now, after lockdown due to the pandemic.

'This period of time [ages 3-5]  when they are acquiring language when they are really absorbing everything around them, [during lockdown] where they weren't necessarily able to interact with other kids in person face to face,' Currin said. "And so, just kind of getting those opportunities to practice that in kind of a low stress environment is really important right now in particular, I would say.'

They said this website is ideal for kids ages 3-5 and has taken them the past 6 years to create*. They are also teaming with computer science, graphic design, and creative writing students at the university as they create more for the platform."


"Technology has become an everyday element of kids’ lives today, and researchers are showing a new way tech can help kids develop. Juan Pablo Hourcade and Flannery Currin from the University of Iowa spoke with Local 4 via Zoom about the new approach and research project."






Iowa Public Radio - Talk of Iowa logo - with "Play Button"

Currin and Hourcade chatted "Story Carnival" with host Charity Nebbe on Iowa Public Radio's Talk of Iowa Thursday, April 20:


"Tablets, smartphones, televisions and other screens inundate the lives of young children. A team of computer science researchers is developing a new approach to technology when it comes to preschool-aged activities.

Juan Pablo Hourcade first published the 3Cs approach to young children's technologies (creating, connecting, communicating) in 2017.

Today, he and a multi-disciplinary team of UI students and faculty are implementing this approach in a program called StoryCarnival, which helps adults support children in pretend play sessions. Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Hourcade and senior research student Flannery Currin about this project."


Collaborators, since project inception, have included:

  • Current Students
Hannah Cargo  Undergrad in Creative Writing
Sophia Franco Esparza  Undergrad in Creative Writing | Translation
Noelle Franzone  Undergrad in Creative Writing | Linguistics
Josephine Geiger-Lee  Undergrad in Creative Writing | Strategic Communication
TJ Grimes  U2G CS Student 
Annie Lin  Undergrad in informatics | Arts
Andy Luo  Undergrad in CS | Economics
Luke Moenning  Undergrad in CS
Emma Runestad  Undergrad in CS
Summer Schmuecker  U2G Informatics Student | Undergrad in Psychology
Tinh Tran  Undergrad in CS
  • Alumnae/i
Katie Blasi  Informatics (Bioinformatics) BS '21
Isabella Carmona  Undergrad in CS at St. Ambrose University (Summer '22 REU participant)
Liam Crawford  CS BS | Philosophy BA '19
Holly David  Informatics BA '21
Kyle Diederich  CS PhD '20
Sabrina Hsu  Informatics BA | Arts BFA '22
Cassidy Kilcoin  CS | Psychology BAs '22
Victor Li  CS BS '21
Meghan McLaughlin  CSE BSE '20
Kerry Peterman   Informatics BA '21
Cami Reittinger  CS BS '21
Ally Schmidt  Informatics (HCI) BA '21
Luiza Superti Pantoja  Informatics PhD '19
Dixon Zhou  CS | Mathematics BSs '21


For more on the topic, see researchers' participation in: