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Recounting our Mission: Enabling kids to build their own useful things.

As you may have heard, or might have guessed, things at Seamless Toy Company have been a little rocky these past few months. Last year was a high speed blur as we developed and ramped production on 20 different ATOMS and ATOMS Sets simultaneously to ship in time for the holidays. Since mid-January, we’ve been catching up on the details and fallout of moving at that pace – typical “startup” growing pains, but it has also driven us to re-evaluate (or at least re-clarify) what we are trying to accomplish here.

When I started outlining the ideas that lead to ATOMS about 10 years ago, I had just recently finished my MS at MIT in supporting “grassroots inventors”, and I was working at Apple. I was in my mid-20’s, and I had spent pretty much my entire adult life surrounded by people who were unusually capable at building complicated things (like space robots and iPods). At about that same time, O’Reilly publishing was launching Make Magazine, effectively putting a name to the growing momentum around tinkerers making their own creative, cool, and sometimes even useful things. The interest that I was most passionate about (and went to super-nerd school for), making working things, was actually becoming main-stream and more accessible to everyone.

Fast-forward to 2013… the “maker” movement is mainstream. “Maker” events attract millions of kids a year, venture capital is backing startups in the space like Makerbot (3D printer) and 3D Robotics (DIY Drones), companies like Sparkfun and Adafruit do 10’s of millions of dollars in sales of electronic components to tinkerers and students – even President Obama recognized the “maker movement”, by hosting a public forum on the topic last year via Google Hangouts.

DIY nirvana for everyone right? Well, actually, the last time I rolled up my sleeves, bought an Arduino programmable controller off of Amazon.com, and added computerized lighting control to my vintage Land Rover, it took nearly every skill I had learned at MIT, and 10 years of working in product development at major tech companies… and then I called my smarter, more experienced friends for help.

The “maker” sentiment may be mainstream, but actually making things, is still primarily the domain of a highly experienced, highly skilled audience – the technical 1%. And for kids, it’s closer to .o1% because most kids haven’t yet had a chance to develop electronics and programming skills.

We developed ATOMS to change that – to be a plug-n-play library of powerful electronic components to enable kids to build their own useful things.

We are systematically looking across the spectrum of things kids want to build, and asking ourselves this question: “What ATOMS do we have to develop to enable people with no electronics or programming experience to successfully build those things?” Every ATOMS product is designed to be intuitive enough for a 6-year-old, but capable and robust enough for permanent applications. We also worked hard to make ATOMS easy to integrate into whatever medium you are working with from LEGO to sheet metal (more on that in an upcoming post).

So quite simply, our mission is to enable kids to build their own useful things.

Here are some things I want to build out of ATOMS over the next year:

  • - An interactive hanging art/mobile for our kids room.
  • - A remote controlled nightlight for our toddler.
  • - An automatic tilt control for my bicycle’s headlight: faster aims the light further ahead.
  • - Turn signals for by bicycle.
  • - A non-crappy ride on vehicle for our kids.
  • - A device that stirs the custard when you’re cooking it to make ice cream (I always get distracted and accidentally burn it).

What are some of the things you want to build?

Michael Rosenblatt
Founder & CEO

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ATOMS University Blog

One of the most exciting parts of working at ATOMS is seeing the magic it inspires. We recently hosted our very first series of “Boulder Builder” workshops for kids in the area. Using a Halloween theme, our workshop participants added ATOMS to their costumes and made some killer decorations!
After a quick lesson on what ATOMS are and how they work, the kids dove right into creating. Given a pile of ATOMS and a tub of LEGOs, we found ourselves quickly surrounded by cars with working motors, an innovative LEGO-launching device, and accelerometer-controlled airplane propellers. It was fun to watch parents working with their children and middle school students getting advice from our engineering interns from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Our workshop was filled with a wide range of ages—proof that ATOMS can provide endless fun for just about anyone!

Nick, 15, drove an hour just to join us. He brought his skeleton friend, “Kevin”, and excitedly told us his idea. He said that on Halloween night, when trick-or-treaters come to the door, he anticipates that they will have flashlights. He rigged Kevin-the-Skeleton with a Light Sensor and an Earthquake ATOM, so when his visitors came by, not only would they get candy, but they would get surprised by a shaking skeleton!

Zoey, 6, spent her time designing the perfect vampire costume. After many iterations of her costume idea (it began as a mermaid with a “swooshing” tail), Zoey ultimately settled on a vampire costume with an attached screeching bat. Zoey worked with her dad, Daniel, and our Chief Creative Officer, Fiona, to make what she called “the coolest costume ever.” Complete with a talking Recorder ATOM, sparkly glitter glue and pom-poms, we think Zoey is the best vampire in town!