Dustin Stephan

Dustin Stephan

Give Kids The World - StarDesk

Role: Creative Director,& Designer
Duration: 10 Weeks
Platform: Physical Installation [MR]
Client: Give Kids The World Village - Orlando, FL

GKTW Tower Overhead

Give Kids The World Village is a nonprofit resort located in central Florida that provides children with life-threatening illnesses and their families week-long vacations at no expense to them. In the summer of 2018, I was granted an endowment through the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University to work with a nonprofit of my choosing. I utilized this endowment to playtest the Tom Foolery Animatronic show interface and develop new experiences for the Village.

The Star Program at GKTW is one of the most utilized and poignant entertainment offerings at the Village. Each child is given a star to personalize and then through "magic" the Star Fairy, places their star in the sky at the Castle Of Miracles. Operationally, there is a problem as the Castle of Miracles is running out of space for each of the stars and the technology used to make this magic happen is slowly becoming obsolete.

GKTW desk technology outline

In response to running out of space, GKTW has developed the Star Observatory where the stars are placed on panels for initial viewing and then rotated out to storage until the family returns to see the star again. The Observatory is beautifully themed and solves this underlying problem for the future.

I was tasked with envisioning a new procedure for the Star Fairy to collect the child's star after they decorate it. Previously, the child would place the star in a treasure box and the Star Fairy would appear on a series of monitors to then take the star to then place in the sky later that evening so the family could then return later in their trip to view in the "sky."

GKTW overhead Sketchup

As mentioned, the technology was becoming antiquated and the process clunky at best. Children of varying abilities need to have the same experience and the way the chest was designed, not all children could place their star in the treasure chest. To decorate the star they would also employ different processes.

GKTW desk from hallway

I envisioned a Star Desk, which would be placed in the underutilized Star Tower to mirror the theming in the Star Observatory. I wanted to update the experience utilizing different kinds of technology, but rely on robust and tried and true tech solutions to minimize future maintenance problems.

GKTW hallway

The solution I came up with is a kiosk in the form of a desk that would allow guests of all abilities to approach it and decorate their star. After decorating, the guest would then place it in a treasure box reminiscent of the original experience that would rock back and forth as the Star Fairy collects it.


I originally imagined seeing the Star Fairy take the star by means of projection mapping, but after determining the finalized installation space, there is nowhere to seamlessly hide the projectors, and it would add additional maintenance headaches with changing the bulbs, etc. The solution I narrowed in on is using a fiber optic trail to track the fairy as she flys out of the monitor, collects the star, and then moves into a lantern placed on the desk.

GKTW towver Overhead 2

The Star Fairy would appear in the lantern through a "pepper's ghost" effect holding the child's personally decorated star. After running tests, I found that it would be possible to capture an image of the reflective star after they placed it into the treasure chest, giving even more believability to this very magical experience.

The fairy then would fly off back into the monitor disguised as a picture portal to the sky for her to place the star later that evening. I pitched the project to the client and they are very enthusiastic about implementing the desk concept, and it is currently in an RFP process with vendors.