Part of my job as an Unschooling parent is to find opportunities for my kids to pursue their interests. That’s how my oldest son and I ended up at Sphero’s offices, playtesting their newest top-secret creation.
If you’re not familiar with Sphero, you might want to Google them. They make a line of very cool app controlled robots. Sphero bots can be used for racing and a variety of games, but also for coding by aspiring programers. Our kids have been interested in Sphero robots for a long time now, and when we heard about the opportunity to play with a new toy we jumped at the chance and signed up.
This actually isn’t the first time we’ve interacted with Sphero. As I mentioned, they’re a local company, so I sometimes hear when they’re looking for help from the community. Last year three of our kids signed up to record a series of words and phrases for Sphero to help them develop voice recognition software for their toys. Although the kids enjoyed the project, it was done remotely so they didn’t interact with Sphero on a personal level. This occasion was a bit different.
We arrived early and waited for a while before we were ushered us into a small conference room and handed the new toy and a smartphone. Unfortunately the toy is still top-secret so I can’t give any specifics, but I can assure you that it’s pretty cool. My son was amazed. He quickly began fiddling with it, turned it on, and began exploring.
The playtesting process was fairly low key. We simply spent about an hour or so playing with the toy and accompanying app, figuring out what it could and could not do. And eating chocolate chip cookies. After playing we chatted with a Sphero employee and gave them our impressions. What we did and didn’t like, ideas for improvements, etc. We weren’t paid, beyond the cookies. It was simply a chance for them to get feedback on their project and for us to get a sneak peak at what they’re designing.
The best part of the experience was indeed discovering a little bit about the process of developing a product. For our son, a boy who’s fascinated by technology and programming, the experience was a perfect Unschooling opportunity. He talked with a few employees, saw some of their offices, and learned a little bit about how a tech company develops and improves their products. And he was able to be a part of that process by providing some feedback to help make the toy even better.
While I don’t know if we’ll actually buy it when it’s released, playing with Sphero’s new toy was a lot of fun. More than that, it was a great opportunity for one of my kids to explore some of his favorite interests in a real-world setting and learn a little bit about the type of work that he might one day decide to pursue. One thing is sure: I’ll continue looking for these sorts of opportunities. They’re always worth it.