There is increasing demand for workers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) fields and a shortage of students to fill these roles. STEM positions are more reliable and pay more than non-STEM occupations, but we need effective ways of getting children interested early in their development.
Smithwise worked closely with KinderLab Robotics to develop an interactive STEM product for early childhood education. This product, called KIBO, allows children to learn the fundamentals of programming through physical play.
Different than other robot kits on the market, KIBO’s open-ended approach to programming appeals to technically minded children as well as those who are more arts-oriented. By assembling a sequence of scannable instruction blocks, children program the robot to perform a variety of tasks without help from computers or smartphones. KIBO’s unique parts are also designed to be decorated, so children can make almost anything: a character from a story, a carousel, a dancer, a helicopter.
Smithwise was also responsible for developing some of the details that make KIBO a complete experience. For example, Smithwise modeled the packaging concept after the plastic bins that are often found in kindergarten classrooms. Not only is it a familiar reference, the packaging structure facilitates clean up and inventory of parts. The redesign of the scannable instruction blocks was also critical. With easy-to-scan bright colors, the labels are captured by a sensor that reads RGB values. Changing the way the blocks are read greatly reduced the overall cost of the product while adding a new element to the design of the robot.
In a six-month period of time, the Smithwise team translated an early prototype into a commercially viable product ready for high-volume production, while reducing the cost of goods by two-thirds.