Chris Harden and Jeremy Schoenberg saw the state their children’s toys were in and wanted better.
So they invented their own — plush robots, called TROBOs, that come with a computer game app to teach children about math and science. They’re a product of a successful Kickstarter campaign and late last year, launched their product into the market.
Each TROBO game involves an interactive adventure to teach players about science — one level is set in space and teaches about the planets, another is set in the ocean, and so on.
“We want to get kids to be inspired about science and math,” Schoenberg said. “To help them learn. My daughter got kicked out of a swimming pool the other day because there was a lightning storm. So she wanted to learn more about why.”
Coming off an appearance on the TV show ‘Shark Tank,’ in which they got to show off their product on a wider scale, the duo was happy to bask in the extra attention on their hard work. During a normal workweek, the two can be found plotting and working hard out of Canvs, a collaborative workspace on Garland Avenue in which they can set up their computer and supplies and work in a social atmosphere Schoenberg described as “better than working from Starbucks or from home.”
Lately, they’re pushing their product to try and get it on the shelves, expand it to a wider audience as well as make new games for customers, working with UCF graduates to work on artwork for new games.
Harden said he wanted a better option to give parents for their children’s entertainment.
“If you watch a lot of content that’s been done for children, it’s been younged down,” Harden said. “You watch a lot of heroes like the Avengers, Spider-Man and all that, they cartoon ’em up, make them really young, but in the end, they still fight. The TROBOs don’t fight. It’s a nonviolent solution for parents, so they feel comfortable giving the iPads to their children. They’re learning, not just wasting their time with some mindless game.”
Harden said he understood why stories resorted to violence to get their messages across — it’s easy, he said. But he and Schoenberg wanted to take a different route.
“You don’t have to take the easy way out,” Harden said. “We were watching Super Why! on PBS — it’s a great cartoon. It’s nonviolent, and he’s a superhero, and it teaches kids to read. To me, it’s harder to make that compelling. But when you do, you’ve got something really good for parents.”
Schoenberg said part of the intent behind TROBO was to “get to kids early” on showing them how cool science or math-related jobs could be — that way, they’ll be prepared for jobs in the field later now that so much of the workforce is automated.
“By the time they’ve gotten to middle school, they’ve already made up their minds about it,” he said. “We want to get to them early and get them excited about science and math, so they can grow and engage with the field as they grow up.”
Then he added, “It’s when you have robots fixing robots that ‘Terminator’ happens.”