Faces of CoWork Me l Stickytek: On Empowering Kids through Play

by | May 19, 2023 | News

Stickytek is all about empowering the next generation. StickyTek develops tactile, hands-on “Creator Kits” which empower primary schoolers to develop social and academic capabilities through play.

In this feature, the team at Stickytek tells us more about their unique products and their R&D process that they are currently undergoing.

What is StickyTek all about – how did this idea come about?

StickyTek exists to serve the next generation.

We believe childhood is the most precious time of life and our guiding question is “what’s best for kids?” Our products empower kids to create communities as artists, architects, engineers, storytellers and more. We embed our products with stealth learning to improve social skills and academic achievement.

Kids use our creator kits to design and build miniature toy communities populated by themselves, their family & friends. The kits are part of an innovative, modular system of interconnecting elements which kids personalise with hand-artwork, digital photos, physical tools and digital tools.  

The idea evolved from a favourite primary school project in which each child made a personalised home for a toy classroom community.  The core idea gradually evolved after many iterations of user-centred design and play testing.

What are you currently testing for in the research phase? What research methods are you using? 
Our research methods are play testing by kids – good fun!!   

We’re big believers in user-centred design, and we’ll be collecting R&D data from parent surveys and direct observations of kids’ play time. At the highest level, we are developing an algorithmic model to measure “what’s best for kids?” based on real world observations.  

Kids have not been well served by digital-first algorithms designed to maximise big tech company profits – so there’s a big need for our approach.

Down the road, we also plan to conduct longitudinal research in Australia on academic and social wellbeing measures, such as NAPLAN maths scores and standardised social skills assessments.

When do you plan to launch the business – what are you looking forward to most when this happens?

We plan to commercially launch the business in the US in 2024 after raising venture capital.  We’re most looking forward to seeing kids have fun with our products, and growing our team to scale the business after raising venture capital.

In the next couple of months, we’ll begin an extensive phase of play testing to help refine our creator kits and algorithmics model for US commercial launch, with a target to complete 1000 hours of play testing before US launch. 

Our newest team members, Rochelle and Marco, are especially keen to begin the next phase, because it will be their first exposure to kids play testing.

How did the team meet and what are your roles?

We were recommended to each other and introduced by mutual business contacts, so this is the first time we’ve all worked together (other than Teresa and Rochelle, who worked together previously)

  • Teresa is the founder and CEO
  • Marco leads manufacturing and operations
  • Matt is our lead designer
  • Rochelle manages finance
Why is play-based learning important for children?

Kids love to play!  Play-based learning is natural, relevant and fun.  Tactile play is an effective way for children to learn because it leverages mind-body connections.  Our products are embedded with stealth learning to help young artists, mathematicians, astronauts, and builders develop skills through manual trial and error.  Personalisations based on digital photographs also help to boost social relevance and learning.

Do you think technology hinders learning / childhood development?

It has! There’s a growing understanding of the negative impacts on childhood that have emerged from the digital era.  Most broadly, excessive screen time has displaced healthier activities.  Furthermore, for at-risk kids, profit-driven online algorithms which increase anxiety may have negative impacts on social and psychological well being.

Which brands do you take inspiration from?

By far, our biggest source of inspiration is Lego. Digital product inspiration has come from Minecraft, Khan Academy (online maths learning) and Smiling Mind (a local hero!)

What are the main challenges when starting a business?

For a startup focused on high growth, the challenges change as the business moves through different growth stages.   In its present R&D and go-to-market stage, the main challenges for StickyTek are setting up our manufacturing and supply chain and demonstrating prospective profitability.

As newbies at CoWork Me, what are your thoughts so far?

Thumbs up! It’s been great for us to transition to working together in one space for the first time.  We appreciate that CoWork Me and Tilted Acorn run good operations – the facilities, support and culture are fantastic! 

Rhea Rebello

Rhea Rebello