Cardiff students’ ingenuity on display at toy fair

Sixth graders came prepared with business cards, prototypes and promotional videos on Dec. 17 at Ada Harris Elementary. Standing in front of booths, they aggressively pitched their products to anyone within earshot.

The school’s third-annual mock toy fair was in full swing.

Students this semester were tasked with designing and prototyping toys, reviewing similar products to find a price point and then marketing to would-be buyers. Called Project Toy, it culminated in the toy fair, where students went into sales mode as parents perused their creations.

Sixth grader Sean Bobo, adorned in a suede suit and bowtie, touted “The Odell Ball,” a football and glove outfitted with Velcro straps, ensuring every pass is caught. Sean explained that he came up with the invention after watching a replay of Odell Beckham Jr.’s spectacular one-handed touchdown grab against the Dallas Cowboys last year.

“I wanted to catch like him,” Sean said while a video of the catch played on an iPad at his booth. “Then I was like, ‘man, I can do that.’”

Sean originally envisioned a ball and glove with magnets, but he realized Velcro is a better solution after going through the prototyping process.

Teachers Matt Jewell and Veronica Nguyen started Project Toy three years ago so that students would gain valuable real-world experience. Nguyen said the program was also designed to reinforce sixth grade math, science and language arts lessons, which is in line with new Common Core education standards that emphasize experience-based learning.

Students first sketched out toy designs, and then they used ratios and proportions to create scale drawings of their products. Next, students put together graphs with data on similar toy prices to justify their price points. And last, they wrote letters to retailers like Target to make the case that their toys will be top-sellers. The marketing push included shooting commercials on their school-issued iPads.

“They looked at toy market trends, and from there created products from beginning to end,” Nguyen said.

Along the way, they got advice from local entrepreneurs like Brian Green, the inventor behind Cardiff Skate Company, which makes strap on roller-skates. Green, who was among those checking out the final products at the toy fair, said students learned that entrepreneurs wear quite a few hats.

“You have to have a lot of skills, and that’s something I wanted the students to take away from this,” Green said shortly before the Toy Fair began.

Samuel Tisdale, Ethan Sherman, Samuel Kantorovich and Andrew Prentice teamed up on the “Skim ‘n’ Skate,” a board that lets people skate to the beach and then skimboard on waves. The price: $75. They ended their three-minute pitch with, “Don’t be a hater, be a skater,” drawing laughter from surrounding parents.

Alex Ross and Shea Irons invented the “Scented Stuffy,” a stuffed animal that comes with a vanilla scented pouch, with other scents sold separately. They explained the toy is marketed toward girls ages 5 to 12, because that demographic is especially interested in stuffed animals, and they’re old enough to handle the scented pouches.

“Please see our commercial for more information,” they said in unison when their presentation wrapped up.

Students, working alone or in teams, started their toy projects more than three months ago and spent about three hours a week on them. Ada Harris Elementary teachers said as far as they’re aware, Project Toy is the first of its kind.

“It just keeps getting bigger and better every year,” said teacher Kate Therriault.

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