Social robots are emerging as an important intervention for a variety of vulnerable populations. However, engaging participants in the design of social robots in a way that is ethical, meaningful, and rigorous can be challenging. Many current methods in human–robotic interaction rely on laboratory practices, often experimental, and many times involving deception which could erode trust in vulnerable populations. Therefore, in this paper, we share our human-centered design methodology informed by a participatory approach, drawing on three years of data from a project aimed to design and develop a social robot to improve the mental health of teens. We present three method cases from the project that describe creative and age appropriate methods to gather contextually valid data from a teen population. Specific techniques include design research, scenario and script writing, prototyping, and teens as operators and collaborative actors. In each case, we describe the method and its implementation and discuss the potential strengths and limitations. We conclude by situating these methods by presenting a set of recommended participatory research principles that may be appropriate for designing new technologies with vulnerable populations.
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