Female Founder Series: An Interview with Abigail Edgecliff-Johnson of RaceYa
Early this summer, we featured Republic, a newly launched equity crowdfunding platform that focuses on supporting women founders.
We use customizable radio-controlled cars to teach kids about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Everybody knows boys love playing with cars but somehow we forgot that girls do too.
RaceYa is a platform for exploration - with toys that go really fast.
We have battle-tested our car in playgrounds around New York City. So we know kids love it. Then we tested our combination of cars and curriculum in schools and camps. So we know kids learn from it too.
RaceYa was written up in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and AlleyWatch . We were featured on the nationally syndicated PBS show SciTech Now. And we’ve demoed RaceYa for the tech savvy audiences at New York Tech Meetup and the Bloomberg Women's Demo Night.
Abigail has a PhD in Anthropology and a lifetime of experience as a maker and tinkerer. After more than 10 years in public policy research she left academia to understand how and why kids play and learn the way they do. Her passion for toys grew out of her observation that toys have the power to shape how kids view their place in the world. Since starting RaceYa she has been sought after as a speaker on education, robotics, and engaging girls in STEM. Her two kids are her chief product testers and toughest critics.
Geoffrey Quelle studied art and photography at Pratt Institute before spending 15 years working with the Blue Man Group developing their mind-blowing musical instruments, sets and props. In 2007 he co-founded Square Root Studios, which specialized in scenic technology and art fabrication. In 2012 he co-founded Windercase to develop a cell phone case with retractable headphones. Now he's our Head of Product and we're delighted to have his crazy, creative brain on our team.
Our curriculum has been developed by professional science educators with years of experience working with kids. And our prototypes are being developed by an incredible team of product designers in downtown New York City.
We have advisors from the worlds of toys, hardware manufacturing, software development and eCommerce.
Too many educational toys expect kids to do a complicated building process but aren't much fun to play with after that.
Typical STEM apps and app-controlled toys don't help parents cut down on screen time (or reclaim our phones!)
And sure, there are other STEM toys “for girls” but by the time they're 10, our girls want real power, not just flower power.
RaceYa works straight out of the box. But that's just the start.
It's a combination of the car, the curriculum and the community.
Cars are the perfect blend of artistry and science. We designed the RaceYa car to be fun, fast, accessible, educational and endlessly customizable.
When you change your car’s performance to navigate new terrain or fly over a daredevil jump, you are working with physics concepts like friction, torque and aerodynamics.
When you change how your car looks you’re playing with art and personality and joy.
According to the Girl Scouts' influential report on STEM, teen and tween girls want:
Our Arduino -powered programmable circuit board will let you turn your car into a hackable, raceable robot. We chose Arduino because it is an open-source product and connects RaceYa kids to the creativity of the growing open-source hardware community.
It’s not a "lesson plan".
Like a choose-your-own adventure book for science.
User Testing the Draft Curriculum
Focusing on 6 key areas, our engineering challenges are designed to unlock RaceYa kids’ natural creativity and problem-solving skills. We'll start by including a booklet of challenges with the kits but we are exploring more digital possibilities for the future.
We’ve worked with highly experienced science educators to develop our curriculum, which follows the New Generation Science Standards.
When we say that we’re more than just a toy, it’s because our goal is to build a community of curious kids who help one another learn and create.
There are loads of great science videos on the web, but how do you find what’s good and age appropriate?
We’re curating the best content from around the web so kids can take their learning deeper and parents can be confident they are in a safe, moderated environment.
Kids can customize their cars right away from the materials in the kit but we are working on building a 3D printing platform that will allow them to design, produce and share with the community.
Of the $25 billion US toy market, building sets, youth electronics and vehicles make up approximately $4 billion. RaceYa, cutting across these categories, is poised to capture a sizable portion of this market.
Our initial target market is girls, but fun, fast cars appeal to all kids, particularly in our core market between the ages of 8-12.
The RaceYa kid likes to create, deconstruct and ask questions.
RaceYa parents are tech-savvy and design-conscious. They want their kids to have meaningful play experiences.
STEM Toys are a Key Trend according to the Toy Industry Association
‘Educational toys are “STEAMing” ahead, and toys that teach or reinforce Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) continue to be top contenders in the toy market. Parents and educators appreciate these toys because they help prep kids for school by building important spatial, reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.’
Abigail's anthropologist roots mean we've done lots of testing 'in the field' - so we've brought the cars to playgrounds around NYC just to see what kids would do with them, and to ask what they thought kids should be able to do with them.
We've tested the combination of the cars and our full teacher-lead curriculum with kids at two summer science-camps. And we've tested the do-it-yourself design challenges at the Brooklyn Free School.
Everywhere we've gone parents have asked "Can I buy one now?! My son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandkid/godkid/friend's kid would LOVE this!"
Now we need to get it to market – and that’s where you come in.
Your investment in RaceYa will allow us to:
If we exceed our goal, our plan is to:
Apps can be useful for learning some things, but it's very hard to learn physics without physical play. It's also harder for kids to relate the in-app experience to real world conditions. We have seen that when kids understand a concept like friction through experimenting with the car, they are better able to apple that knowledge in other contexts - and see how multiple forces can interact.
Probably not. No one wants to disappoint the kids in their life, so while we are doing our best to get the prototypes ready as soon as possible, we can't guarantee they'll be finished by the end of the year.
Not like this.
The radio controlled car market is broadly split into two categories: Cheap and disposable toys that break in the first few days, and super complex racing machines accessible only to the hobbyist with deep pockets and infinite patience.
RaceYa is taking the best of hobby car engineering and combining it with the usabilty of a toy. We are confident that this new category of RC cars will excite and delight children everywhere.
Because we are building a community.
A real community isn't just a collection of email addresses, it's an engaged and invested group of people who share our vision and will share their vision with us. When we are further along in product development, we may launch our pre-sales on a crowd-funding platform, but at this stage, we're not just building a product for you, we're building a company with you.
Funny you should ask.
Toy companies have been actively discouraging girls from playing with cars through aggressively masculine marketing (unless you want the pink one). But there must be something girls like about cars because the majority of real cars sold in the US are sold to women.
We also know that girls like to create, decorate, and customize which is why the RaceYa car doesn't have a traditional "car" body, but a flexible shell kids can make their own.
The great thing about RaceYa is that it's great for boys and girls.
That's why, although we are committed to empowering girls, we have deliberately made our branding gender neutral. In fact, we want to encourage boys and girls to play together. It's a fun, fast, radio controlled car. We think you'd have a harder time trying to get your boys not to play with it.
RaceYa successfully raised $84,546 from 144 investors on October 31, 2016
We need to make STEM more attractive to children and young people.elizabeth aguiarInvested about 1 month ago
I have a 5 year old daughter, and am a very big believer in crowdfunding. Can't wait to see what comes of this!Peter DeringInvested 3 months ago
I invested because I believe this is a product that the world needs. Getting more young girls into STEM is something that will benefit society. Abigail seems wonderful and I hope RaceYa will be able to grow and reach as many young girls as possible!Simmone ParkInvested 3 months ago
In the early 1980's I took my daughter to lectures and panel presentations by women scientists and engineers. I wanted her to learn about the full spectrum of her academic and career options. This time it is for my granddaughter and grandsons.Nalini VisvanathanInvested 3 months ago
Because I am a girl and I like science and I want to make a car from raceyaClaire HofbauerInvested 3 months ago
I invested in RaceYa because it's a good way to get our next generation thinking about how things work, and how to make them work better. That kind of thinking leads to innovation, and a mind geared toward innovation finds solutions that serve all.Jonathan RiceInvested 3 months ago
looks like a great idea that will succeed and help us out with STEM.Casey MarlandInvested 3 months ago
Seems like a revolutionary and integrative idea, and I'd like to be part of it at least with a couple bucks :).Camilo ZambranoInvested 3 months ago
Science and tech innovation are becoming increasingly important, and RaceYa is addressing this by helping children prepare to lead the way while allowing for greater ethnic and gender diversity in STEM-related fields.Angel VenegasInvested 3 months ago
I like the concept and the delivery vehicle (sorry)!Stephen FrancisInvested 3 months ago
JUST A KID AT HEART!JOSEPH MARESInvested 3 months ago
I believe in hands-on learning.Wayne LoseyInvested 3 months ago
I love the idea and I believe my kids will love them.Joshua BrigmanInvested 3 months ago
I think this is an amazing product and a very fun way to learn engineering.Ryan HabibInvested 3 months ago
RaceYa sounds like a very interesting way to teach kids STEM as well as engage them in some real games.Ranjit RaveendranInvested 4 months ago
I have two girls that I would like them to get into STEM. Plus, I'm a gadget person that loves to tinker with all stuff electrical/computer based.Marc RocheInvested 4 months ago
I love the idea of children learning from playing with toys, the concept is very promising, so I look forward to seeing this idea take over the earth.Jacqueline CapatulaInvested 4 months ago
I believe in the product of engaging young kids in technology they can relate to , play and learn in the STEM world. Here's to success!Michael MarquezInvested 4 months ago
I invested because companies like this are the future of quality education. Public-private partnership that enhances the best parts of the classroom and encourages real-world problem-solvingCameron WoodwardInvested 4 months ago
A cause worth supporting.Leonard SouzaInvested 4 months ago
To get more girls into math and science.Jennifer WaigandInvested 4 months ago
I know Abigail will succeed in helping kids learn more about STEM with this R/C car, I played with cars all my life, still do on real cars, "This is a Brilliant Idea to get kids engaged in their future," So, help us meet our goal and invest with us.david wilbertInvested 4 months ago
To support a fellow entrepreneur, #Circle member and great idea!Courtenay SiegfriedInvested 4 months ago
I support educating girls & boys in STEM, and LOVED race cars as a boy!Jonathan WilliamsInvested 5 months ago
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