by The Bloom Report | 06 Oct 2021
The Bloom Report
What was the Ah-ha moment that led you to the Toy and Game industry?
[Alana] I loved Rube Goldberg machines (chain reactions) as a kid. I had to invent one for my fifth grade science class and despite notebooks full of ideas, I struggled to build them with duct tape and cardboard. That memory really stuck with me, and it’s part of why I went on to study physics.
When I met Anna in college and we started talking about the culture of science and the ways that pushes girls and women out of the field, we had this moment where we realized how rube goldberg machines could be an antidote to that. That was the beginning of a long journey that led us to Momentix, the business we run now. Over the course of a few years, we’ve been developing a kit that helps kids upcycle their forgotten toys and old projects into rube goldberg machines.
The reason chain reactions were an ah-ha moment is because they are this really organic way of practicing resilience, problem-solving, and divergent thinking--all skills linked to increased diversity in STEM.
What are you working on now?
[Anna] Our Rube goldberg machine journey has been a long one, with many prototypes and a lot of iterations. Right now we are working on the final week or so of our Kickstarter campaign for the Momentix motionKit, which is the result of feedback from a hundred people from around the globe who bought our beta kit last year.
It’s been exhausting but exciting.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
[Alana] We are really focused on making something kids can actually use, so we do a lot of toy testing. There’s this moment when the machine finally works and there’s this moment of involuntary joy where kids, parents, siblings jump in the air with two hands raised above their heads. I love that this is such a universal gesture of celebration. It’s so rewarding to see that moment and the ways that pulls the kids and parents together.
What words describe how you think?
[Anna] Unraveling Christmas lights using questions.
Why is play important?
[Anna] I have a side passion for neuroscience and psychology, and I’ve been learning a lot lately about the ways stress impacts the brain and body. Play to me is this great antidote to stress. It shifts little and big brains out of stress mode and into explore mode, which makes us (on a very real physiological level) much more able to learn and grow. Kids have such an instinct for growth and I think this is why they love to play so much. Facilitating that with the experience of a product is just such a cool opportunity.
What trends do you see in toys or games that excite you? Worry you?
[Alana] It seems like “STEM toy” is written on everything! Learning effective STEM thought frameworks isn’t the same as using a piece of technology. What I’ve found working in engineering research settings is that science requires working in teams, idea generation, rapid testing, and a lot of failures and dead ends. So many toys that have “STEM toy” marked on them somewhere aren’t really teaching these skills.
I’m excited about the small but growing trend away from plastic. There are so many new and cool technologies, like injection-molded wood, that are giving the toy and game industry a little more choice. I hope that the industry as a whole seizes this opportunity. Plastic will likely always have the highest profit margin, but my hope is that some of the largest toy makers choose to prioritize sustainability.
How do you define creativity?
[Anna] Making unexpected connections.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve gotten?
[Alana] Be Authentic -- Less of a word of advice, and more of a life philosophy. As long as you interact with others from a place of authenticity and put out an authentic image, people with similar values will find you. We’ve found operating this way not only feels best, but also leads us to the right opportunities. Once we started doing this on our social channels especially, we’ve seen a lot of organic growth.
Negotiate -- There’s this misconception that negotiating leaves someone the winner and someone the loser, but I think it’s more about finding an agreement that works for everyone. This has really changed the way we do things, and it’s given us a lot more space to operate as a business with a little less stress.
Network -- When taken along with authenticity, networking is so much more about curiosity and sharing interests rather than seeing what you can get from people. People love to help each other. We’ve been able to meet so many interesting people and learn so much this way.
What’s your hack for spreading joy?
[Alana] Put googly eyes on everything.
Who is the famous person you would have for dinner?
[Both] Simone Giertz. I think she would be hilarious and I love her work.
What’s in your fridge?
[Anna] Resilient Cabbage
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