college of engineering white

Group 8: Communication Doll


Some young children struggle with basic communication which can lead to them not developing at the same pace as their peers. To help solve this problem we will construct a doll centered around communication. The purpose is to enable children to better understand speech and greatly enhance their basic communication skills. The doll will have multiple pre-recorded words and phrases, requested by the SLP, and those sounds will be triggered from certain body parts. This will allow the child to recognize that when touching, say the hand, it will get the same response every time. Thus, associating the hand of that doll to a word/phrase. The child will learn this way and the, with practice, learn how to say the word as well as what it means.

Gage Powell, Jack Szymanski, Dominic Fields, James Camp

Problem Statement

Some young children struggle with basic communication which can lead to them not developing at the same pace as their peers. These children will continue to fall behind without help. If a child cannot communicate something they need or want it can cause health and safety problems.

Design Specifications

Needs: The doll to speak the words “help”,  “more”, “eat/hungry”, “drink/thirsty”, and “bathroom/potty”. The doll needs to be child safe and not hard plastic.


Wants: A language switch for Spanish speaking children. Hidden buttons/sensors. Plush preferred but not required as long as the doll is soft.


Technical Requirements: A circuit that runs throughout the doll connecting to a pre-programmed box that turns on a speaker to say those phrases. A mounting system for the circuit box.

Background Research

Not many products were found that could preform the tasks we are looking for. A few therapy dolls were found to help children communicate with the doll or practice some of the actions we are looking for such as drink. However, none of these example could actively communicate with the child based on the child’s input. The closet thing found was a plush, talking, speech therapy doll made for children with autism. The issue is that the doll is a hamster so it won’t teach the children to communicate what they are feeling in their own body.


One type of sound chip is called a speakjet. This chip allows someone to prerecord sounds onto it and then program what switches make a certain sound. These switches can be wired throughout the toy and allow for certain parts, such as the hands, to make a certain sounds when pressed.

Concept Design 1

Concept design is a simple approach to the problem at hand. The design is a plush doll with a central box containing the majority of the circuitry for the doll. The wires would then branch from this central point to the input points (buttons) located around the doll. Preferably, some kind of flexible and lightweight tubing would be wrapped around these wires for a level of support. There is a drawback to this design, as there are no strong points for the buttons to be mounted under the doll between the flimsy tubes and the plush material of the doll. However, it is a lightweight and flexible design that fit the users needs.

Concept Design 2

For this concept I looked into a plush kind of doll with some sort of wire type of skeleton so that the doll could have more structural stability inside. This might lead to the user bending it out of shape, or snapping it. The design also has some of the buttons we would like to use and a broad area of where they might end up getting placed.

Concept Design 3

Concept three uses a soft plastic doll instead of a fully plush doll which will make mounting easier. Because the plastic will be harder to push a mechanical button through, capacitive touch sensors would be used to sense through the plastic and will connect back to a microcontroller. Also included in the pictures are some different options for the electrical design and a list of potential problems to overcome.

Selected Concept Design

Based on our analysis, concept one will likely be the best option due to its durability and ability to mount all the electrical components. A small Arduino with an attached memory card also seems to be the best option due to the simplicity of the circuit and the size.

Decision Matrix

Overview of Selected Design

We are going to get a doll from amazon so we are able to put all the components inside of it. We figured that would be the best way and the way that our SLP said that she wanted. We are going to have to sew into it to put all of the buttons and the lily pad. This specific doll also has parts to it that allow the possibility of a storage spot for our battery pack since it will have to be and exterior one and its one and we could put that hidden away. For the spots where we are going to have the buttons are, both of the hands, one for the mouth, one in the rear, and around the stomach, and help around the ears. So there should be no unnecessary wires or electrical mess visible on the doll.

Engineering Analysis 1

The battery of our doll was analyzed to figure out how long it will last for and how long it will take to charge. It was found that on a full charge it will last about 2 hours of the speaker being on. It was also found that it will take around 2 hours to fully recharge with a further breakdown of charge times being shown in the table.

Bill of Materials

Document Fabrication Process

After acquiring parts, we first soldered the circuit together and worked on the program. Once the circuit was finalized we made cuts in the doll removed the stuffing. The parts and wiring were all installed and the buttons were mounted onto the fabric. Finally, the magnetic sensors were installed and the doll was re-stuffed and sewn back together.

Testing Results

To ensure the safety of the system, we tested heat output, conductivity of the body, and hard points. To test heat output we let the system run for a while as it would during normal use and then felt the circuit parts to see if anything had gotten significantly hotter. Next we used a multimeter to make sure that no part of the body was conductive so that in the event of a short the user could not be shocked. Finally, after sewing up the doll we felt around to make sure there were no hard spots or sharp edges that could potentially hurt the user.

Completed Design Photos

Instructions for Safe Use

In order to safely use the communication doll, simply make sure it is charged and turned on. Then, select the button or action you would like the doll to say. Commands are provided below.

Thirsty- Press in on the dolls mouth

Hungry- Press in on the dolls stomach

Potty- Press in on the dolls backside

Help- Raise the dolls right hand up to its head

More- Bring both of the dolls hands together in front of its chest

Because there are electrical components within the doll, avoid exposure to water and other liquids. Additionally, avoid bending or folding the doll, as well as using excessive force or hitting the head or torso of the doll. While the doll was made durable and with the intent of being handles by children, it does have certain limits.

Project Summary/Reflection

Our project of the communication doll was a challenging process for our group that involved us diving a little bit deeper into the electrical side of things, because that is what the main part of the doll was. Since the project had been done a couple times before, we took some of the things we liked from the other groups to help with our design and fabrication process to help round our project out. The doll has some buttons on it to help communicate some basic needs for kids that are non-verbal and need a little extra help getting some of these things across. This was a good learning experience on most of our groups part because going into it most of us had little to no experience on the electrical side of things, but Jim was very helpful in catching us up and helping us out with any questions that we had to help get the project done. There were sure learning curves on how we would exactly fit everything to make it most usable to the kids and the SLP, but I think in the end that we have a good balance of it looking nice and having all the functionality that we wanted.


2021 Fall