Roderick Lowe is a toy inventor who appeared as a contestant on ABC’s new #Television series titled “The Toy Box.” Roderick is the man behind the interchangeable wooden robots called “Pre-Bots.” Having worked in the toy industry for sixteen years as an art director, Roderick understands the processes of inventing, licensing and more. Aside from designing unique toys and the visuals to go with them, he also writes stories to accompany his toys. Roderick recently granted an exclusive #Interview where he discusses his career, his inventions, and more.

Becoming a toy designer

Blasting News (BN): When did you first get interested in designing toys and how did the Pre-Bot concept come to mind?

Roderick Lowe (RL): I had a very active imagination as a kid, always curious and wanting to see how things worked.

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I loved to make up stories, draw, and come up with my comic strips. So, when I got into the graphic design field and landed a job working for a pre-school wooden toy company, it wasn't long before the idea for Pre-bot came along.

I’ve always wanted to design toys that kids and adults thought were cool. I think it'd be great if all toys were designed with the child in mind - not just to make a profit. It was also important to tie-in the idea of common sense learning because common sense isn’t so common these days. So, I decided to have Pre-Bot serve that role, by assigning his owner the responsibility of "writing Pre-Bot's code" through the example he sets for him. The owner's good behavior is rewarded by a Pre-Bot that responds well to him, whereas a Pre-Bot's bad behavior means the owner's common sense of right and wrong is in need of some fine-tuning.

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The first topic that the “Learning With Pre-Bot” series tackles is bullying, with the story “Pre-Bot Learns Not to Hurt.”

BN: How exactly do the Pre-Bots work and what ages do you most recommend them for?

RL: Pre-Bot is a fully articulated wooden robot that's safety-tested for ages three and up. He's designed to be easy for kids to play with and stand. Pre-Bot could also be something that a child might use like a teddy bear, brought to school for imaginative play during free time, or be displayed as a really cool robot on your desk to help inspire you as you work.

As his story goes, Pre-Bot was bored at home while his teacher was in school, so he decided to create the Shape-Bots as friends he could play with and relate to. They too are unique, fun to play with, and safety-tested for young children. What's cool about them is that Pre-Bot put a lot of thought into each bots design. So not only do they serve very particular purposes because of their individual shapes, but they come apart and kids can inter-change them to become completely new bots of their choosing! Not to mention the use of building with simple shapes in primary colors can also be used for STEM teaching.

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This can be enjoyed in a variety of creative STEM applications with the child having so much fun; they won’t even know they are learning!

BN: How long have you been working on this toy and what have been the biggest challenges of designing and producing them thus far?

RL: I had the early concept around twelve years ago, but have continued to update and clean up the design to what it’s become today. Finding a factory to manufacture Pre-Bot and his book according to high quality and safety standards while still proving to be affordable was initially tough, but I'm happy to say we've located and contracted with one. Finding an artist that could capture the feeling I wanted in the hardcover book too, wasn't easy, but I’m also happy to say we found Gatto which is a truly talented one. Lastly, I'd say just not giving up even though the road has been long.

Appearing on television

BN: You recently appeared on ABC's TV Show called "The Toy Box" so how did that opportunity arise and what was the process of being a part of it like?

RL: The people involved with the creation of the television series found my online portfolio and Pre-Bot website. They then contacted me for a series of phone and Skype interviews, followed by an extensive selection process, and finally asked me to come out to New York for taping. It was a privilege being chosen to go on the show and present my work in front of professionals that have had much experience in the toy field. It was also great having kid judges too, even though my toy was a little young for them. They truly appreciated the mix and match feature and overall design of the toy. They also liked the anti-bullying themed story. Many times, they mentioned that during the initial shoot, but much of that was cut from the final edit.

BN: You didn't win the contest, but what sorts of feedback and opportunities did it provide you?

RL: Getting the word out to millions of viewers, which has given us the chance to grow our social media following. This is so important to be able to reach our next goal, launching a successful Kickstarter!

BN: What has the public response to the Pre-Bots been like and are any companies currently looking into them?

RL: It’s been great! We've received many new requests for information on ordering the Bots. We’ve always had interest from specialty toy companies, but they don’t order enough to meet the minimum order quantity to manufacture the toys. With the current interest, however, we feel more positive about soon launching a Kickstarter that'll allow us to meet that MOQ and make the bots available to everyone.

BN: Have you designed any other toys or games and what’s next for you?

RL: I’ve designed many different Pre-school toys. From eco-friendly pull-along to wood constructions sets. As per upcoming events and projects, I want to emphasize that our Kickstarter campaign is starting very soon, so be sure to stay tuned for the kickoff date. We'll need to raise enough funds to meet the factory's MOQ of 2000 units. If we're successful, interested ones will be able to own their very own Pre-Bot. And depending on how well the Kickstarter does, we can release stretch goals that would include the Shape-Bots!

Also, on "The Toy Box," much of the Pre-Bot story line and theme didn't get highlighted, likely due to time constraints. Through this article, however, readers have the opportunity to get to know our bots backstory as well as the numerous educational purposes they can serve! So, for those who'd like to support this project, please "like" our social media sites and sign up for our newsletter! #Designer