Tech Helping Tech: How IQube teaches kids better tech

Beverly Tantiansu

Philippine startup Tactiles is willing to go the extra mile to change the engineering ecosystem for students with its nifty IoT kit IQube

The IQube

Joshua de la Llana loves two things: engineering and academics. Back when he was working for National Instruments, he was already fascinated in exploring how engineering tools from Fortune 500 companies were also used in universities. de la Llana wanted to know if these tools were effective in building university students a strong foundation in engineering.

On the job, he found that teachers face a common problem: Despite being provided the latest engineering kits and tools from Fortune 500 companies, teachers found it difficult to make these lessons stick with their students. More than that, this problem didn’t only extend to universities, but also primary schools as well, where even teaching basic electronics was not easy for them.

Students overall — according to de la Llana’s interviews with teachers — found that the current tools they have could not accurately guide them in understanding and appreciating engineering.

Because of this issue, de la Llana took it upon himself to form his first startup, Tactiles. Based in the Philippines, Tactiles is a company comprised of people who are passionate about proper science education, and who want to change the engineering ecosystem for students.

The companion iQube app in action
The companion iQube app in action

The IQube app in action

Origin story

Initially, de la Llana entered the 2014 IdeaSpace Foundation’s competition with Tactiles. He managed to win US$10,000 from the competition and participated in the foundation’s incubation and acceleration programme.

As de la Llana noticed that the tech space was already heavy on providing programming lessons and robotics tools for children, he decided to let Tactiles develop more straightforward and fun electronics kits for children instead

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This decision led him to recruit his Co-founder, Billy Millare, who focusses on the programming and mobile development of Tactiles, as well as his industrial designer, Chuck de la Rama. Together, the three developed the first product, IQube.

According to the Tactiles team, IQube is “a toy that teaches.” The IQube is both a hardware and software learning tool designed for children aged 8 and above, with the K12 core learning competency for electronics in mind. The rationale behind this is to motivate children to explore science and engineering, relating the assigned projects to objects that children often observe or interact with such as refrigerator lamps and fire trucks.

A primary IQube kit consists of 8 cubes and its companion, the IQube app. Each individual cube has different functions within an electronic circuit, and its magnetic and tactile design allows children to experiment by connecting cubes together. The IQube app also has a Free Form Mode which allows children to expand on their curiosity and build new projects based on their liking.

Designed for safety, the IQube meets the same stringent toy safety certifications and requirements as much larger toy companies, such as Lego. In terms of voltages, the IQube has its maximum voltage set at five volts, using only as much electricity as that of a mobile phone. At its most power-consuming configuration, the iQube has a battery life of two hours.

Setting up the IQube is also relatively simple. Users first download the IQube app on PCs and Macs for free. Each kit comes with a Power Source cube, which users can connect to their computer’s USB port. The IQube application will then start giving projects and instructions for complex circuits, overall encouraging better and higher learning.

Through experimentation, the IQube encourages children to have a more organic understanding of basic electronics.

Scaling the IQube

Currently, Tactiles has been distributing its IQube on limited sale in order to validate its value proposition even further. The team has found its initial customers and distribution partners in four countries namely the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.

In order to scale up IQube even further, Tactiles has also set up an Indiegogo campaign with a flexible goal of US$50,000. The campaign started on November 10 and will last for 40 days.

“Crowdfunding for Tactiles solves a great catch-22 problem when it comes to hardware-related startups,” he explains. “As customers are willing to pay earlier and receive their product at a later date, we are able to use the money to manufacture the IQube.”

With the Indiegogo campaign, Tactiles plans to sell the IQube kits starting at US$79 for the Primary Kit, US$99 for the Junior Kit, and US$129 for the Senior Kit, all with early bird pricing and exclusive of shipping costs. Distribution and shipping for crowdfunded iQube kits will start in June 2016.

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With the ongoing crowdfunding campaign, de la Llana and the rest of the Tactiles team hopes for the best. “We hope there are folks who are just as passionate as us when it comes to education,” de la Llana concludes.

This is part of our Tech Helping Tech series, where we feature companies in Asia that are helping to solve business problems for the tech industry and startup ecosystems. Find out more about Tactiles’ Indiegogo campaign and find out how you can list on the e27 Marketplace here. For more great products and services designed to benefit your growing business, visit e27.co/marketplace

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