Moving America Forward

Can a Plush Toy Robot Get Young Kids Interested in STEM?

August 29, 2014
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Can a Plush Toy Robot Get Young Kids Interested in STEM?
TROBOs read digital storybooks to teach kids about STEM. TROBO
Introducing these topics early — via TROBO — could be the key to kickstarting a lifelong interest.

How many parents have spent countless hours playing Candy Land or Barbies with their kids?

Chris Harden and Jeremy Scheinberg are two dads from Alabama and Florida who grew tired of their children’s toys. The two felt their children weren’t getting much out of playing mindless games, which is why they decided to create a toy that helps kids get a head start on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning.

In less than a week, the pair will crowdfund a campaign on Kickstarter.com for their answer to more STEM-focused toys. TROBO, which connects to an iPad or iPhone app, is a plush toy robot that tells stories of STEM-focused topics to children ages 2 to 7, the Anniston Star reports.

TROBO features two characters: Curie, named for physicist and chemist Marie Curie and Edison, (a shout out to inventor Thomas Edison), both representing STEM heroes. TROBO plans to release more characters if the Kickstarter campaign is successful.

Harden previously served as a Development Director of EA Sports, overseeing the creation of user interface technologies for games like Madden NFL and NCAA Football. Scheinberg was the COO of media manufacturer Alcorn McBride and has worked extensively on rides and shows for NBC, Universal, Lego and Disney.

“It defines us as individuals, and we want to share that to our children as early as we can,” Harden says, referring to STEM education.

While the entry point at which children should begin STEM education remains a point of contention, some advocates argue the earlier the better. In fact, only 16 percent of American high school seniors are considering a career in the STEM fields and are proficient in math, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“As a society, we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science at least as much as we do Super Bowl winners,” President Barack Obama said earlier this year at the White House Science Fair. “Because superstar biologists and engineers and rocket scientists and robot builders, they don’t always get the attention that they deserve, but they’re what’s going to transform our society.”

Beginning with something as simple as a stuffed robot regaling children with STEM stories sounds like a good place to start.

MORE: Ask the Experts: How Can We Fix Early Childhood Education?

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