Interview with Alice Brooks, Co-Inventor of Roominate

January 13, 2017

 

Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

When I was eight years old, I asked my dad if Santa could bring me a Barbie. Instead, I got my own saw. So I decided to use that saw to make some more toys for myself. Learning how to cut up wood and nail it together into dolls and animals instilled in me an even deeper love for tinkering and creating.

Ten years after getting my own saw, I entered school at MIT to study mechanical engineering. That early hands-on experience figuring out things for myself and building real working creations was an essential starting point for my education. Exposure to early spatial skill development and hands-on problem solving skills have been found to be key factors in student success in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.

A few years later, seeing the lack of options available to girls that encouraged that same hands-on experience with STEM that I had been so lucky to have, I decided to design toys to address that problem. I joined forces with my friend and classmate Bettina Chen, and together we designed Roominate.

 

What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?

I love that technology has enabled so many inventors to get their ideas to the market and into user’s hands directly. The more diverse types of people we have designing toys, the more options our kids have.

 

What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?

 

Test your idea out with as many of your end users as you possibly can before you launch. You may save yourself a lot of time by making a quick change to your design or your marketing plan now, versus finding out you need to make a change after you launch.

 

What was your favorite toy or game as a child?

I was always drawn my older brothers’ toys, especially their big buckets of Legos. Usually though, I had to wait my turn to use them. I would wait until they went to play video games and then would grab their Legos and play for hours. Other days, I would sit in my room making up and acting out my own stories with Barbies. I cut holes in socks to make new Barbie dresses and colored their hair to dye it. I also loved drawing and painting, and of making things out of wood with my saw.

 

Where were you born?

Massachusetts

 

Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?

I grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, a small town outside of Boston, but I spent most summers staying with my extended family across the world in Thailand and Australia. The blend of those three cultures really influenced who I am today. I love the international focus of the toy industry: traveling to factories, international trade shows, and thinking about how to launch products globally.

 

What do you read every day, and why?

I like to stay up to date on the latest tech news. Sometimes I get inspiration for toys.

 

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

My Fitbit. It encourages me to be active every single day!

 

How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?

I am most creative when I am surrounded by stuff that I can take apart and put together in new and interesting ways. When I am stalled on a project, I like to pull out a pile of random materials and spread them out on my workstation. Then I’ll experiment with different ways to put them together, which usually jumpstarts my creativity.


Are you named after anyone?

My great grandmother

 

Do you have any pets?

No, but I really want a dog.
 

What’s your favorite cereal?

Pumpkin Flax Granola

 

What is your eye color?

Brown

 

Summer or Winter?

Neither - I was born on the first day of Spring.

 

Favorite movie of all time?

Zoolander