Problem-Solving with Cupcakes

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by author and product designer, Vicky Fang

Problem-Solving with Cupcakes

In addition to being a children’s book author, I’m also a product designer—which means I design how products work for the people using them. This includes how you interact with the product, what it looks like, what it sounds like, etc. Over the years, I’ve designed all kinds of things, including future cars, talking alarm clocks, music players, and interactive buildings. Product design is a fantastic and fun endeavor—and the entire process is about solving problems.

“Investigate, Ideate, Implement, Improve.” Those are the Invention I’s of my design thinking process. When I’m designing a product, I’m constantly using this process to solve problems and make the product better and better. And that is the same process that I’ve written into the Layla and the Bots books!

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In Book 3, CUPCAKE FIX, Layla and the Bots must save their local community center. A bit of investigation reveals that cupcakes could save the day. They have a great idea: a design-your-own-cupcake machine. But after they implement their solution, things don’t go quite as planned and they must improve their design! Though I never explicitly call out the Invention I’s, every Layla and the Bots book includes examples of the process, demonstrating this problem-solving approach in action. (I do, however, have supporting materials on my website for teachers to use!)

Credit: Scholastic Inc., Vicky Fang, Christine Nishiyama (2021)

The Layla and the Bots books demonstrate the design thinking process through STEM inventions. But the exciting thing about this process is that it can be used for any kind of problem-solving! Empower kids to investigate a problem and ideate solutions. Encourage them to fail and improve on their ideas. Give them the tools to tackle problem-solving in their own lives.

It’s a core goal of mine for these books to encourage ideation, creativity, and making for kids. Every Layla and the Bots book has a DIY activity in the back of the book. And for every book, I have posted accompanying activities on my website.

For CUPCAKE FIX, I invite kids to design their own cupcake with a free activity sheet. What kind of cupcake is up to them, maybe the coolest or the grossest or the yummiest. Whatever they decide to create, it’s up to them to design their cupcake—which is a pretty sweet problem to solve!

About Vicky Fang

Vicky Fang is a product designer who spent 5 years designing kids’ technology experiences for both Google and Intel, often to inspire and empower kids in coding and technology. She started writing to support the growing need for early coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. She is the author of nine new and upcoming STEAM books for kids, including Invent-a-Pet, I Can Code, Layla and the Bots, and her author-illustrator debut, Friendbots. Find out more about Vicky by following her on Twitter at @fangmous or on her website at

Problem-Solving with Cupcakes by Vicky Fang, author of Layla and the Bots


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