The device resembles a foot-wide hockey puck. Watching children slide it across the flat test track, one could almost be forgiven for mistaking it as a game of shuffleboard.
In reality, this is Gravbot, the first product to come out of Curio, an ASU startup.
"It's an educational tool, toy, however you want to phrase it," Kyle Burgard, a junior in mechanical engineering, said.
The Gravbot, a large puck surrounded by foam bumpers and topped with a colorful laminated faceplate, is intended to teach children about gravity. Holding the toy in his hands, Burgard explained each of its features.
"You can see the slider right here," Burgard said. "This adjusts the gravitational field that it's simulating."
As Burgard pushed the slider to the right, a small drone fan mounted inside the device whirred to life, pulling the device closer to the floor by making the toy heavier. Pushing the slider left had the opposite effect. Each setting on the slider is accompanied by an illustration of the celestial body whose gravity it is simulating.
"A colloquial way to describe it would be 'a self-contained air-hockey table,'" Burgard said.
The startup, run by Burgard and his friend, Eric Johnson, a junior in civil engineering, began as a class project for an introductory engineering course. After their professor, Ben Mertz, expressed his confidence in the Gravbot, the two students decided to try and sell it as a classroom toy, they said.
"STEM organizations, like outreach organizations and stuff like that have been our primary customers," Burgard said. "One school pre-ordered ten of them."
The two co-founders have had trouble meeting demands for the product, but having a dedicated team on the project has been a big help, they said.
"We have a lot of people," Johnson said.
In addition to the co-founders, the team has a web developer, an app developer and a video editor. In addition to their in-house staff, Curio has had the assistance of Olenka Cullinan, founder of Rising Tycoons.
"My daughter is seven, so she was able to play with the Gravbot, kind of test it out, and she loved it," Cullinan said.
She has made a career of coaching and advising teens in the realm of entrepreneurship, and Curio is her latest project.
"I kind of overlooked all stages as they were growing," Cullinan said. "I gave them pointers on pitches specifically."
While Cullinan thought the young company could use her help with pitching, she had complete faith in the product itself, she said.
"They're really strong on the technological side," Cullinan said. "To be honest, I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but they're one of my favorites just for the sake that they do so much work. They really follow directions."
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