The Young Scientists Club is dedicated to making science fun and approachable for children. Founded by designer and inventor Esther Novis, the brand introduced in 2017 its “Funtastic robots,” series of DIY kits that enable children to build and create their very own functional robot.

Somewhat akin to Thames and Kosmos, Educational Insights and Smithsonian-licensed educational toys, the Young Scientists Club offerings focus on teaching children the fun and value learning about science and STEM. Actually, STREAM, this year, which stands for Science, technology, Robotics, Engineering, Art, and Math.

There are currently four “Funtastic Robots”: Infra (that works via infrared/remote control technology), Sunny (that moves in natural or artificial light), Metali (that lights up and buzzes when it detects metal objects), and Hurdle (that changes direction when it senses an obstacle). The robots are easy to build, visually appealing, and intended for children ages eight and up.

The Funtastic Robot series was created by Esther Novis, who has been running summer camps in Rhode Island since 1998. At the camps, children who are science fans help playtest Novis’ experiments and act as a focus group for products she develops for retail sale.

She subsequently used feedback from her campers to determine how to label the instructions and make the robots as easy-to-use as possible.

Esther Novis recently discussed her experience designing these amusing and educational toys as well as her experiences as the President of The Young Scientists Club and hopes for the future via an exclusive interview.

Designing robots and public response

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you think up the concept for the Funtastic Robots?

Esther Novis (EN): I was looking for a technology/robotics related series as we cover all the other fields in STREAM. The robotics kits that I had encountered were often very complicated and did not have a high learning component. I wanted to introduce a series that fits in with our other products that combine learning, fun, and play.

MM: How did you come up with the unique models and colors?

EN: I work very closely with our designer on the colors, and we wanted to make sure the colors are fun, and appealing to both boys and girls.

MM: Do you have a favorite and what has the public response been like thus far?

EN: The response to these robots has been absolutely great! We test all our products in our annual science camps, and we knew from the camper’s response that it would be well received. It seems that “Metali the Robot” is the favorite among our customers so far, but my personal favorite is “Hurdle the Robot.”

Starting a company, rewards, and advice

MM: What is it like to run your own company, Young Scientists?

EN: Running and growing The Young Scientists Club for the past nineteen years has been very rewarding. It is a lot of work, and there is not a day in the year that I don't work, but having my own company has allowed me to raise our five children, be there for all their games, meets, and school events and teach my own kids very valuable lessons about work ethics, customer service, and dedication.

MM: What has been the most rewarding part of working in this industry and what are your career aspirations over the next ten years?

EN: The most rewarding part of running The Young Scientists Club is to know that our products have made a difference in many families lives. We have been able to introduce all kinds of science topics over the past years with the mission of making science fun for all children. Adding the robotics line this year is making our science selection complete.

MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the toy or game design industry, especially for robotics?

EN: Listen to other vendors/manufacturers at trade shows, try to find a mentor in the industry that is willing to help and share contacts, work hard, and be patient!

MM: Are you currently working on any projects or inventions that you would like to mention?

EN: We will be working on redesigning all our “Magic School Bus” products as a brand-new show was launched in September. We will be looking at what needs to be updated, and we will create new products from some of our existing titles.

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