DFRobot's Ricky Ye on how toys can help prepare children for a robotics-focused future

DFRobot CEO Ricky Ye explains how his Vortex toy promotes STEM skills and why the industry should be doing more to prep kids for careers in robotics.
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For those who aren’t aware, who is DFRobot and what is the new Vortex toy?

DFRobot is a robotics and open source hardware provider dedicated to creating innovative, user-friendly gadgets and toys that foster a strong community of learning. DFRobot is wholly committed to the Maker Movement and supports greater access to the maker culture.

DFRobot’s new Vortex toy is an intelligent and responsive robot enabling children to combine physical and virtual play by coding their own games via a corresponding app. Children aged six and over can also play pre-programmed games (for example Bumping Fight and Golf). 

With DFRobot’s Vortex, children have endless opportunities to create their own games and play experience.

Why is important for you to promote programming and STEM skills through these toys?

Children are the future makers. In a world with such fast-growing tech, STEM industries are ushering in a new era.

From our perspective, robotics will become the next computer industry, making robotic education essential. This in mind, it’s important to spark children’s interest while also at young age. We fully champion a core “learning by playing” philosophy that encourages children to learn new skills – in our case coding and programming – in a fun, intuitive game-play that is also interactive by nature. This starts skill-building early, preparing children for a robotics-focused future.

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Do you feel the industry is doing enough to develop these skills in children?

There has been an increase in tools to develop STEM skills for children. But there’s more that can be done to help children develop STEM skills, particularly coding and programming.

One of the reasons DFRobot designed the Vortex was to allow families to enjoy robotics together - children and their parents - allowing for active engagement in an environment that helps children learn in a way similar to traditional play while also growing their real-world robotics skills.

There are an increasing amount of toys out there now that promote coding and robotics, but are not promoting interaction with others. This is key. With our Vortex robot, for example, we encourage a “multiplayer” approach, so that families, friends—these skills are being built in an interactive, supportive and so truly effective environment.

How important is the global market to you?

The global market is very important to DFRobot as the STEM fields are relevant, globally. I’m also personally connected to the UK as I received my phD in engineering at the University of Nottingham.

In order to advance the technological world, we must increase interest in the STEM field with children in countries around the world. This includes across the UK. Our products are available internationally, and can be ordered via our website. We also plan to develop online channels in the UK specifically.

At DFRobot, we believe our toys and robotics can impact robotics both in the classroom and at home, all while promoting fun.

How can UK retailers get on board?

We’re currently exploring our options here, and are eager to reach the UK market.

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