About a month ago I spotted on my Twitter-stream a photograph of a young boy who had created a bicycle using a toy called Qubits. (I took the liberty to crop the photo to disguise the identity of the young lad). At first, the boy reminded me of a little boy I worked with more than two decades ago who had developmental delays and significant visual impairments. While it was the boy who caught my interest in the photo, it was the bicycle he made from plastic shapes that piqued my curiosity! Within minutes I was engaging online with @Qubits_Toy and learning more about this real product for learning that is the brainchild of Mark and Lisa Burginger.
As a School Psychologist who has worked years within the realm of special education, I asked the creators if they wouldn’t mind sending to me a set of Qubits for closer inspection and review. So, thank you to the Burgingers for satiating my curiosity and sending to me a lovely pack of Qubits who has made “snap happy” for several days!
The first thing that struck me about Qubits was its’ many educational applications. For example, the toy itself could help with the development of visual motor planning, organizational and processing skills. Advocates of STEM will love that this toy incorporates fundamental concepts necessary for the foundations needed for careers such as engineering or architecture.
The basic pack I received came with scores of brightly colored shapes that snapped and connected together. Frankly, I could have played with them for hours! I also couldn’t help but think that Qubits may not be “just for kids” as it could be of great value for occupational therapists working with adults. Imagine seniors who are having memory / dementia issues being occupied by this stimulating product. And while this product may be similar to Legos because they both are toys that “connect” and are made of plastic, I truly think they are complementary and not competitors.
Today, I had the pleasure of talking to one of my favorite toy store owners. She was searching for any games or toys that a child with visual impairments could play without supervision or help from someone with sight. I immediately answered, “Qubits!”
I connected with Mark Burginger and asked him questions about the development, marketing, and future of his company.
Q1- What inspired you to start Qubits?
The California school system cut art/design/music in the 90’s, so Lisa and I would occasionally volunteer at the local elementary school for free to soften the lack of these classes – Well at that time I had already designed this geometric shape that I developed during my college architecture days, anyway we looked at it (the Modular Form Building Element – patented) and we thought it would make a good concept for a creative children’s construction toy. A toy that would introduce kids to art/design while they played at home.
Q2- What is your background?
Lisa is a graduate of a Fashion/Design College in NY
Mark is an architect registered in the State of California
Q3- How do you envision this toy for children with special needs?
We have visited autism schools, gifted schools, charter schools with special needs, Christian schools and Chabad schools. We are currently trying to arrange for a presentation at the Florida School for the Blind. Each time we do this we find that the challenges presented by Qubitshelps kids focus on problem-solving their geometric design. The time spent carefully positioning pieces allows many kids to “chill out” from the activities that over stimulate them such as video games.
Q4- What is your next project for the company?
A video, we have not captured the essence of Qubits in a video yet. It’s a tough task since we value children's privacy and rarely bring a camera into the play area while we are working with Qubits.
Q5- How do you market Qubits
We pay for the display of millions those little click ads you see on websites, via Amazon – thousands of people click on them and hundreds buy each month. We are just now reaching out to the small specialty stores that are just now rebuilding themselves after the severe recession.
Q6- Do you work with educators?
Yes since 2007 we have visited close to a 70 different schools, libraries, street fairs, after school facilities, children's day care facilities, hospitals, and museums. Have entertained over a 2 thousand of kids in the process. A middle school teacher introduced us to STEM back in 2007 and we have focused on it ever since.
Q7- Anything else to share?
We are proud that we were awarded the Chase Bank Mission Main Street Grant during the year 2014, with that award we have been able to spend more quality time on the improvement of our toy. We have worked hard to produce this toy right here in the USA and we hope that we can market it correctly and grow our company and improve our brand.