What do you do in the industry?
I’m one of the co-founders and Chief Technical Officer’s of E-Blox Inc. E-Blox is an emerging leader in educational electronic toys and products that engage children to Learn by Building. Our Mission at E-Blox is to bring educational toys to the industry that are tons of fun that kids build themselves while growing their knowledge in the sciences and arts and equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century--and beyond!
What are you working on now?
I’m focused on bringing new educational toys to the toy industry that teach the fundamentals of STEM, STEAM and STREAM (adds Reading/wRiting aspects to STEAM) through fun, electronic based construction sets. They key is that if it’s fun, then kids will want to learn.
Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
I actually spent the first 20+ years of my career in the wireless industry where I earned my Bachelor, Masters and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and then worked on 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G wireless systems. I had a lot of success in the wireless industry and even earned the Bell Labs Fellow honor in 2006, and I thoroughly enjoyed my years in wireless. But at the same time, I was also missing out on the fun and success being built up by my Dad and Brother in the toy industry. We have a really close family so being part of the family business is one thing that pulled me away from the wireless industry and into the toy industry.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
One trend I see in the toy industry is towards more educational toys that teach STEM & STEAM. I have seen several studies indicating that millennial parents are nearly twice as likely to have graduate degrees than other parents, and bringing out educational aspects through toys is more important to them. It’s especially exciting to see the push towards STEAM products because while learning STEM concepts is good, being able to creatively & artistically apply STEM concepts to solve real world challenges is what turns a good engineer into a great engineer. So it’s great to see many new STEAM toys coming to market that are not fully instructional but encourage children to apply STEM concepts using their own artistic creative thinking.
What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
One of the first things I always think about when presented a new idea is safety. Safety always comes first with toys so before investing too much time into a new idea, think about the safety issues and even get your product safety tested by agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission. You may not think you have any safety issues, but until you get it tested you won’t know what you don’t know.
What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?
If you want to be successful in the toy industry, and any industry for that matter, then there are three words I always keep in mind: Honesty, Integrity and Teamwork. Build trust with your boss, your peers, your customers, etc. through honesty. Have integrity by working hard, doing your best and being honest about your mistakes (we all make mistakes, and thinking you won’t ever make a mistake would be your first mistake). Help others on the team, ask for help from others on the team, and always praise other members of the team. You do these three things and you will be successful in any industry no matter what education or degree you have.
What does your typical day look like?
If I’m not replying to all my emails, then I’m either making another cool master build with E-Blox, or working on the development of the next new E-Blox product.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing kids get excited about solving a problem and/or making a project work. When a kid gets excited about learning something, then I feel like I’m contributing to society by helping create the next great future engineer.
What and/or who inspires you?
There are actually four tiers of people who inspire me. First and foremost I’m inspired by God, and at E-Blox we are Founded on Faith. Second, I’m inspired by my wife, my daughter, my parents and family who are always there for me and who are my role models for life. Third I’m inspired by my colleagues at E-Blox who are some of the most talented and team-oriented people I have ever worked with. And finally, as a massive sports fan, I’m inspired by Walter Payton and Michael Jordan (my childhood and young adult sports heroes. No coincidence my daughter’s name is…Jordan).
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
I’m a huge sports fan so I remember my first favorite toy being Statis Pro Baseball. I loved baseball statistics growing up and remember looking in the sports section every day to see who was leading in batting average, who had the most home runs, the most RBIs, the most steals, etc. With Statis Pro Baseball, I could actually set lineups for a game and simulate a game through action cards and player cards. While not perfect, it was amazing how close my simulated statics were to real life, and I believe Statis Pro Baseball was one of the first sports games that set the stage for all the computer simulations sports games today.
Where were you born?
What was your life like growing up?
I was very challenged as a kid because I grew up with Petit Mal, a seizure disorder with very brief, unannounced lapses in consciousness. Fortunately, I was able to take medication that fully cured me and I have had no signs of Petit Mal since elementary school. But I was on medication through 7th grade and I believe the seizure disorder and medicine I was taking held me back as a child. I had a very hard time in school, not only with my grades but also with being accepted by the rest of the class because I wasn’t very confident and acted less mature than my age.