Tio Toy Kits Combine 3D Printing with Remote Controlled Toys


Tio, a new toy company based in London, is seeking to fund a toy kit via Kickstarter that will allow kids to 3D print, assemble, and program their own remote-controlled toys, with educators hopeful that the toys could open up new possibilities for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

The two do-it-yourself style kits (one called the Creator kit and a larger one called the Inventor kit) includes building blocks with color-changing LEDs, motorized wheels, and other accessories and templates. Kids can attach the wheels to the blocks, decorate their structure, and then connect their newly-built toy to the Tio iOS or Android app, reports Robert Hutchins of Toy News. Some of the projects that have been made with the kits include remote-controlled cars, UFOs, cranes, robots, helicopters, and merry-go-rounds.

The free app that comes with the kits allows users to control the speed and direction of their toy, along with the color and pattern of the LEDs. It includes six modes: connect mode, drive mode, color mode, animation mode (for the LEDs), and program mode (which can record and play back movements and patterns and give children the building blocks for learning to program). The app also includes access to a safe online community where kids can share with other enthusiasts, get new ideas and materials, and unlock badges for their achievements.

The company suggests a variety of materials that can be used to customize toys, writes Julian Horsey of Geeky Gadgets, including other gadgets like a GoPro or camera, craft materials, recyclables, Legos, Tio templates, 3D printed bits, and old toys.

Tio kits also come with a narrative storybook that teaches children how to use the gadget in an intuitive way, reports Tess of 3Ders.

Dr. Andrew Manches, a learning scientist, said:

Tio clearly demonstrates the power of combining digital technology with hands-on creative play. With a supportive adult, the possibilities for inspiring children to create are truly exciting.

The London-based company was founded by Peter Spence, Ashley Wiltshire, and Mario Morello. To refine the ideas for the materials and app, they began with wooden blocks and premade toy wheels and then asked kids to pretend to control the toys they made with their smartphone.

Spence said:

As a child I was always making and building toys with my Grandpa. However, I vividly remember that I couldn’t make my toys move without a little help from gravity. So I started thinking, what if there was a magic engine to do that? Fast forward 20 years and I set out to invent my dream toy to be enjoyed by kids of all ages. This is when Tio was born.

Tio has until April 5th to reach its goal of around $70,000.

Each Kickstarter reward, which will be sent out in September of this year, will include at least £10 in 3D printing credit with 3D Hubs, Tio’s exclusive 3D printing partner.

For those who are not Kickstarter backers, the Creator kit will cost about $96, and the Inventor kit will cost about $208 once they are released. Packs including 10, 20, or 50 kits are available for educational institutions.

For more information, visit the project’s Kickstarter page.

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