March 6, 2020
Mek Kit in Real Life! Launch The Things.

I must be getting old. I came up with the most brilliant idea for a product feature this week and I couldn't wait to share it with the team. I did, only to hear our Community Engagement Guy say, "yeah if you remember we actually discussed that last year in December."

I can't believe I missed this. It's one thing to be repeating myself, which must be exhausting for those who work with me (sorry, guys). But what's worse is not pressing the launch button on what we've said from last year. So this week I'm committing to launching the things!

One thing we've been thinking about for some time is releasing Mek Kits. The idea must have resonance because we have had it for a while and it still comes up. But now, parents whose children came to the workshop last month are  pre-ordering Mek kits.

So I'm excited that we're putting them out into the world. Next week. We're doing the things.

You Wouldn't Believe How We Got Here

Playing an early prototype

It's important to share why we're not just doing a tech focused learning app. This isn't a typical product origin story that follows a straight line. You know those? They go something like:

"We had an idea, we tested it, and boom! Success! Then an angel investor swooped down from above and the rest is history."

That's not this story. Our path to making Mek Kits has been a maze of discovery. We got here by following the answers to the question: what do kids (and their parents) in the developing world really want in a learning game?

Mek the Planet didn't start out as an adventure experience for kid inventors. We actually started out creating a spelling app for children. But in the early development process, 3 things kept coming up:

  1. Kids love to explore. They love adventure, puzzles and creating things.
  2. Parents were looking for activities that reduce screen time for their kids, so they could also learn by making juice box trucks and being out in the world around them.
  3. Parents felt that knowing how to spell is important, but knowing how to think critically is priceless. In fact, 1 parent said "I want to know that my child could survive on a deserted island." They wanted their child to learn critical thinking in a way that's fun and engaging.

"I want to know that my child could survive on a deserted island."

If I was being real with myself, I didn't really want to make a kids product that just sucks children into screens, but instead balanced screen time and off screen time. And the team was motivated to create a game that encourages children to use their brains and hands. So we started exploring activities that stimulate critical thinking and encourage making. Our vision? To inspire kids to create imaginative and caring solutions that inspire positive change to local problems.

What's a Mek Kit?

Mek Kits in the Making

Mek Kits are immersive story experiences in a package. It's like an 'escape room' in a box, that kids use to read missions, build inventions and save the day. It includes hand crafted and selected materials they use to make things, solve challenges and be part of a storytelling adventure. Then they interact with characters from the story online.

The responses from kids who tested has been amazing! Kids complete the missions, feel they saved the day, and want to continue the journey. And parents see their gears turning too so they're happy they're learning in a novel way. Here's what some parents said:

"She's always wanted to be a lawyer. Now that she  made something with her hands, for the first time ever she now wants to be a construction manager!"- Ava
"The fact that Mek lets her build things as a solution to something is a special touch. I love it. I love the idea of having something local that has local references. This is bliss for me."- Jan

Our Promise: To Launch the Things

Old age is coming for us all. My lesson from this week is that even if you've had an idea for a while, seize the moment and put it out into the world. Especially if it's scary. That's a good indicator you're inspired.

I can't share exactly what the December idea is just yet, but it will be unfolding in the Mek Kits to come. So I'm excited about launching them! If you want to pre-order this experience for a 7-11 year old you know, join our mailing list! We'd love to have you on Mek the Planet. If you can guess what that idea is, shout me and I'll tell you if you're on the right track. :)

And thank you for being part of this journey. Parents who have signed up your precious little ones, children who play with what we make and just anyone who's cheering us on from a distance. You motivate us to continue when you RT, DM or come to the office. You remind us we're doing something right!

Kenia Mattis