Robots are becoming increasingly commonplace and OWI Robotics is a company that is determined to make them popular playthings. OWI Robotics offers a series of award-winning construction kits that must be assembled by the user before they can be with. When put together correctly, OWI Robots move and even make noise.
OWI products are sophisticated enough to interest experienced model makers and many of their kits—although usually marked as for ages 10+—are most suitable for teens and adults. That said, some of the simpler OWI Robotics sets are perfect for younger children and provide excellent hands-on opportunities to learn about STEM subjects. OWI products focus on renewable energy and many of their items run on solar power, wind power, or fuel cell power. Hence, these models promote the “green” movement that is gaining traction across the globe. It is logical to believe that such eco-friendly technologies will be the norm in the near future and OWI Robotics prove their worth in a fun way.
Recently, OWI Robotics CEO Craig Morioka discussed his experiences developing technical toys:
Meagan Meehan (M.M): What inspired the creation of OWI Robotics and what does “OWI” stand for?
Craig Morioka (C.M.): Prior to 1978, the founder (Ned Morioka, my father) of OWI had and still has a consulting business, Oceans West International. He must take all the credit for the evolution of OWI Robotics. Although his foresight of bringing robotics and science kits to the United States was premature, it allowed for creativity, inspiration, and growth of a possible niche market. Concept goal: create educational, yet fun, children’s toys that have the ability to teach alternative energy concepts and robotics to our future generation.
M.M: What was the first produced product?
C.M.: In 1980, OWI introduced a line of computerized and logic controlled battery robotics kits that teach the basic principles of robotic sensing and locomotion. Each of the kits featured pre-assembled printed circuit boards, hardware and mechanical-drive systems that could be handled by anyone ages 10 and up. These fascinating robots allowed one to experience and learn any one of the following features: sound sensor, remote control, infra-red sensor, wired control and/or programmable memory. They were affordable robots that could entertain as well as educate.
M.M: Is there one specific item in the OWI Robotics line that is your personal favorite? If so, which one and why?
C.M.: I really do not have a favorite. They all have their own individual personalities, benefits, and characteristics that make them special. Although science kits are helpful, they often depend on expert guidance and have limited play value – which is a tough sell when parents and educators are competing with television, video games, the internet, and a host of modern distractions. Instead, a host of science-based, interactive children’s toys on the market are being used to teach children about alternative energy concepts like solar, wind, air, “green” vehicles, and robotics, in a fun, hands-on way. Educational toys have many advantages as a learning tool. Simply sitting a child down and teaching them about alternative energy will not necessarily ignite their enthusiasm or interest in a topic. Nor will having them read about it as a sold strategy, not when so many children are reluctant, struggling readers, or kinesthetic learners.
M.M: How does OWI Robotics come up with the ideas for its products?
C.M.: The economy and societal requisites dictate direction.
M.M: Does OWI Robotics ever work with independent inventors?
M.M: Where do you hope OWI Robotics will be ten years from now?
Playing a pivotal role in providing parents and educators with products designed to teach children about alternative energy concepts and robotics.
M.M: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the toy design industry?
C.M.: Listen and make a conscious effort to be different.
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