Meet the 2020 LEGO Papert Fellows

In 2017, the LEGO Foundation endowed the LEGO Papert Fellowship program in honor of Media Lab founding faculty member Seymour Papert. Each year, the Program in Media Arts and Sciences selects as fellows three graduate students whose work embodies Papert’s legacy of learning, creativity, and play empowered by new technologies. 

“Seymour was a revolutionary thinker and innovator, providing new visions of how children can create and learn with new technologies,” says Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, who worked closely with Papert for many years and leads the selection process for the LEGO Papert Fellows. “The LEGO Papert Fellowships help the Media Lab keep alive Seymour’s ideas and spirit.”

The new LEGO Papert Fellows will serve for the 2020-2021 academic year, and will spend one week at LEGO headquarters in Denmark during the fall semester to share ideas and collaborate on projects.

“I am always so excited when we select the LEGO Papert Fellows, and I’m looking particularly forward to work with Guillermo, Shruti, and Nikhil in these unprecedented times where their work, thinking, playfulness and creative energy will be very much needed to support children of all ages to naturally learn across the home and school environment,” says Ollie Bray, Global Director: Connecting Play and Education at the LEGO Foundation

About the 2020 Fellows

Guillermo Bernal (Fluid Interfaces)


Guillermo Bernal

Guillermo Bernal is a PhD student in the Fluid Interfaces group. His research focuses on developing tools that take advantage of how today's powerful machine learning algorithms and multi-modal input technologies can be used to augment human creativity. Guillermo is accustomed to working in the creative field and is comfortable bridging the gap between artistic and technical disciplines. Most recently, Guillermo, together with his UROP and an MEng student, developed a project called Paper Dreams that explores how human creativity can be supported and encouraged by artificial intelligence. Paper Dreams aims to seamlessly combine real-world activities and digital experiences, allowing users to engage their imaginations and boost their creativity in sketching, coloring, storytelling, exploration, and other areas of active discovery. Creative play allows children to engage their imagination as they explore and interact with the world around them: this process of active discovery contributes to a rich and memorable childhood, providing a foundation for creative problem-solving skills that are crucial throughout an individual's life.

Shruti Dhariwal (Lifelong Kindergarten)


Scratch Cat

As a PhD student in the Lifelong Kindergarten group, Shruti focuses on designing new tools and experiences that support the development of children’s thinking, creative expression, and their self and collective identities. Most recently, Shruti, along with her partner, Manuj Dhariwal, has co-developed Let’s Chance—a new tool that extends the Scratch programming language to make it accessible for children to tinker with the powerful ideas of probabilistic thinking that underlie AI technologies. Children can use the tool to program a wide variety of creative probabilistic projects such as generative art, music, text, games, simulations, visualizations, making a LEGO robot learn from data, and many others. Her other recent projects include co-designing a mindfulness + Scratch workshop for children; co-leading a pK–12 education innovation grant on designing culturally meaningful creative coding experiences; and developing new types of data visualization tools for children to celebrate and reflect on their creative and connected trajectories in Scratch. She won a best short paper award for her master’s research, and her work has been published in several international conferences (IDC, C&C, CHI). Ultimately, Shruti sees her research themes as being tied together by a set of shared values around designing expressive, personally meaningful, and joyful creative learning experiences for children.

Nikhil Singh (Opera of the Future)

Nikhil Singh is a second-year graduate student in the Opera of the Future group, interested in the development of new interfaces and interactive systems intended to encourage playful experiences with sound and music. Recently, he has been working on a platform that empowers creative users with a variety of backgrounds to discover and collect interesting and diverse sound recordings and interactively shape them into new expressive musical forms through drawing visual patterns. He has a particular interest in encouraging learners to explore the world through sound and through developing their own creative projects. In this regard his work has ranged from building algorithmic music composition systems controlled by children to purpose-built applications for exploring specific sound recording archives to designs for collaborative learning activities, environments, and new technology centered around sound recording and listening. Nikhil has also worked as an educator and curriculum designer, specifically focused on helping musicians develop technical and computational skills through application to their creative practices.

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