December 2012 | Vol. XI - No. 12
Q & A With Dane Scarborough of Uberstix
TDmonthly Magazine had the chance to interview Dane Scarborough, creator of Uberstix. Below, he shares how he got started, how his product encourages kids to up-cycle, and what sets his product apart from the rest.
Q. What career path did you originally envision for yourself? Did you ever anticipate working with children’s products?
A. Ha! In the 80s I played drums in a metal band. After that I started a company called Levelution LLC that manufactured precision lasers, levels and tape measures, which I sold to Newell/Rubbermaid in 2003. So now having money and no job, of course I started designing toys...
Q. How did you come up with the idea for your first product?
A. In regards to toys, my first product was UBERSTIX and it was born from the idea of creating a building system that really worked (i.e. build a plane and it really flies, boats really sail and catapults fire real food at the dinner table). Another goal was to design it to be accessible across the economic landscape, and this was accomplished by engineering it to work with recyclables (i.e. Popsicle sticks, McDonald's straws, water bottles, etc...) Lastly, it was designed to integrate with every other build system.
Q. What steps did you need to take to go from the original spark of an idea to actual production? How long did it take?
A. I work in a cad system called Solid-Works, so I would design the parts and send files to the local college (Boise State) and they would print the parts on a 3D prototype machine and mail them to me for testing. The whole process took about six months to finalize the design.
Q. What charitable organizations has your company worked with in the past?
A. We (UBERSTIX LLC) have worked with dozens of groups over the years and we have donated product countless times for fundraisers of all kinds, but my favorite was "Extreme Home Makeover". Patch Products flew me to New York to build architectural structures with Uberstix for this kids room. The family had had a hard time of it and the show was building them a new home. The kid was interested in becoming an architect and, as some of our kits are built using real blueprints, it was a good fit.
Q. Why did you choose to work with this particular charity?
A. In the normal course of running a business, we didn't need to search out charities because they came to us on a regular basis — and how could we say no to a good cause?
Q. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in the toy industry? Why?
A. I believe we have opened the door for many kids to look at world in a new way. Now that's a big statement, but this is why: when a kid opens a kit from Uberstix, they have to go on a scavenger hunt and collect a list of common items that would normally be thrown away. So they are helping the environment by UP-CYCLING and they are building a unique model that they can really play with outdoors.
Q. How do you hope your products affect children's lives?
A. The greatest compliment that we get time and again is this: "My child now walks around the house looking for things that Uberstix can lock on to!"
This is a profound statement because it is an exercise in divergent thinking and problem solving. Kids are looking at the possibility of things around them.
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Writer's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author
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