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ScienceMedia to Market Toys Developed by MIT Scientists

Debut at this weekend's Toy Manufacturers of America fair in NYC

Cambridge, MA--Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ScienceMedia are working together on an unusual joint project for a university--the development of toys.

Faculty and staff at MIT, working with the Newton, MA toy manufacturer and marketing firm, have developed experiments for child's play based on scientific principles--for example, where the "sweet spot" is on a bat and how to throw a curve ball.

The SportsTech (TM) toy line packaging will carry the words, "Designed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology." Royalties will go to MIT's Council for Primary and Secondary Education, which develops programs to improve K-12 education in the United States.

"Working with ScienceMedia gives us an opportunity to reach a much larger segment of the population with educational messages about science," said Ron Latanision, MIT Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chairman of MIT's Council on Primary and Secondary Education.

The first toys to be developed as part of this agreement hit the wholesale market this weekend at the Toy Manufacturers of America annual international toy fair at the Javits Center in New York (655 W. 34th). These sports toys are focused on baseball, football and basketball--teaching kids how to play and excel at a sport by using simple tools and experiments that demonstrate scientific principles.

Joan Roth, founder of ScienceMedia and MIT class of '81, came up with the idea for the company about a year ago at an auction she co-chaired to raise money for MIT's Council for Primary and Secondary Education. "At the auction we had faculty dressed up as famous scientists of the past, Newton, da Vinci, Madame Curie, Einstein. They were so funny. I thought, why can't we make science more interesting to children so they can enjoy it more? I figured the biggest impact I could make would be through toys or TV."

"I realized I could do something big for promoting science literacy and the Council at the same time," she said.

Each sports science kit comes in a box with 10 tips on sports technique, experiments, scientific explanation and many of the materials needed to do each experiment. The kits are designed for boys and girls from age 7 to 13 and will retail for $19.95. Roth is working with Schylling Associates in Ipswich, MA as the distributor. The toys are expected to be in stores by April.

Plans are to eventually have a line of 20 kits according to Roth. Also envisioned as part of the line are kits designed for children age three to six.

"By the time a child reaches college age, their feelings toward science and math are set.," said Latanision. "We need to reach them early on."

MIT's Council for Primary and Secondary Education was established in 1991 to address problems in American K-12 education, particularly in science and mathematics. The Council sponsors a number of programs including The Institute for Learning and Teaching, a professional development program which prepares educators and community members for instituting education reform in their communities. In addition, the Council has developed a program in which MIT students can minor in education, encouraging graduates to go into teaching at the elementary and secondary level. The Council also acts as an umbrella organization for over 130 education outreach programs in the Greater Boston area.

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