Skip to main content

Cecilia Hillway: Breathe Better Bear

I’m Cecilia, I'm a maker and illustrator, and I have worked as an educator for several years, assisting teachers with technology and teaching various robotics and electronics classes. I have a real passion for combining art and technology and inspiring new generations. This has allowed me to make multiple robots or mechatronics projects, and display them at (Mini) Maker Faires, local museums, and exhibits. Most of my projects mix animals, watercolor paintings, and technology.

Below I’d like to share with you a brief introduction about my Air Quality Project, Breathe Better Bear, I hope you enjoy it. Remember you can follow me right here on DesignSpark.


Is there a danger of wildfire smoke in your area? This bear will let you know. He has sensors and access to IoT, so at-risk populations will have an accurate visual representation of AQI to better decide the amount of outdoor activity to be involved in.

Images and Sketches:

Here’s a video of the first prototype.

The idea is him pointing at the different AQI messages which would be color-coded. His expression changes and I’m still deciding whether the mouth flipping to a mask might be too much.

This video is the latest prototype in which I explain the concept and operation of Breathe Better Bear, you'll notice I refined it and got rid of the mask.

Key Materials / BOM:

Total BOM + 10% contingency: $121 (Prices rounded and in US dollars. I’m not including paint, glue, wood, or things like that. I'll update this when I have a finalized list of materials used)


This will be my very first IoT project and while I am looking forward to the challenge, I am also hoping it goes well!

Similar Projects / Prior Art

Link 1, Link 2, Link 3 Smokey the bear is ingrained in the consciousness of most adults in the United States. This bear is trying to evoke that trustworthiness without copyright infringement. I would have the bear pointing at colors that match the Air Quality Index colors. Maybe it could function kind of like an Air Quality Flag Program.

Levels of the Project / Personal Story:

Living on the west coast of the United States means there are lots of wildfires year-round and our closeness to Canada makes it so we are also affected by fires in BC depending on how the wind blows. Our small town is very peaceful and has lots of retirees. There are a lot of people who ride bikes and/or who are also more vulnerable to the effects of smoke and air pollution. We have several long-term care facilities and retirement homes and the older population sometimes is forgotten in the efforts to educate about health concerns with air quality. Displaying air quality would be helpful in those places in addition to personal use.

Follow this Project:

  • Breathe Better Bear - Part 1 - Formation of the Project
  • Breathe Better Bear - Part 2 - Build Guide
  • Breathe Better Bear - Part 3 - Coding the behaviour of the bear


Cecilia is an illustrator, maker, and dreamer. She likes making things that amuse her (mainly involving animals). Cecilia has worked as an educator for several years in different capacities, mainly with students ages 6-14 years old.