KinderLab Robotics Awarded SBIR Grant

KinderLab Robotics, Inc has received a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund product design of a unique robot kit. KinderLab Robotics is based on over 12 years of research by a team led by Marina Umaschi Bers, professor at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development and adjunct professor in the Computer Science Department at Tufts University. The educational toy promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills in a unique manner that integrates with literacy, arts, creative expression, and open-ended play for children between 4-7 years old.

Professor Bers’ research involves the design and study of innovative learning technologies to promote children’s positive development. Prof. Umaschi Bers received the 2005 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor given by the U.S. government to outstanding investigators at the early stages of their careers. This SBIR grant builds on previous NSF-funded work by Professor Bers.

“Research has shown that with developmentally appropriate technologies, even very young children can learn how to program. Furthermore, learning how to program allows children to develop sequencing skills, which are foundational for math and literacy. When children can make their own robots and program their behaviors, they are engaging in problem solving while having fun. I am thrilled,” says Prof. Umaschi Bers, “because this grant will help KinderLab make these educational robotic kits broadly available.”

While other STEM education products exist for middle and high school students, KinderLab uniquely fills a need for young children. KinderLab’s KIWI Robot Kit includes a tangible programming language that engages childrens’ need for physical movement, and is easy for teachers and parents with no technical background to teach. The six month SBIR grant will be used for product design, research into manufacturing options for large-scale distribution, and market testing.