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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 August 2018

#UAEinnovators: One family’s junk is another’s robot

Junkbot, borne out of the idea that everyone can be an inventor, has created an educational toy concept called ‘junkbot’ which lets any child, aged 6 to 10, build their very own robot.
Ehteshamuddin PA leads a four-man development team who has created an education toy concept called Junkbot. Satish Kumar / The National
Ehteshamuddin PA leads a four-man development team who has created an education toy concept called Junkbot. Satish Kumar / The National
Everyone can be an inventor, even a child – all they need are the tools that enable them to create, according to a group of Dubai based developers.

Staff at DP World’s Turn 8 incubator programme agree, and have already invested US$30,000 in the idea.

The four-man developer team, led by the chief executive, Ehteshamuddin PA, has created an educational toy concept called Junkbot that lets any child, ages six to 10, build their very own robot. It is not a kit that supplies every last piece of the puzzle. In fact, it supplies only the seeds of the answer. It requires thought and interaction to create a robot, but the only physical pieces needed are literally junk – old cardboard coffee cups, scratched CDs and DVDs, tape and pencils. It requires a spark of ingenuity, says Mr Ehteshamuddin.

“It is an educational toy that allows kids to learn as they create. It is literally trash that makes the robot. We just supply the heart,” he says. “Junkbot is a box of computer chips and electronics that can be applied to whatever the child wants or what is needed. It is a living, changing, challenging piece of art and technology.”

Once assembled, the robot can be controlled by any TV remote or mobile phone, he says.

Marketing something that is called junk may not be the easiest of ideas. However, the team, through minimal promotion, have driven 140 pre-orders. Most came from one promotional event at Gems Wellington School. It targets US$100,000 in turnover for its first year, with a business development plan that moves it from online sales at www.junkbot.co to wider distribution at retailers such as Early Learning Centre and Toys R Us.

Junkbot’s creators say their concept has struck a chord with parents and children alike, having persuaded families to put down $100 for a product that will not be delivered for another two to three months.

They hope that success will follow after securing a manufacturing base in China.

“We weren’t sure what the reaction would be,” said Mr Ehteshamuddin, with a nod to the Apple founder Steve Jobs’s mantra that praises an obsession with the product. “We have had kids creating remote vacuum cleaners that actually clean their apartments. We care deeply about the product and are willing to help with anything kids want to create.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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