Less than one year ago, 14-year-old Taj Pabari was like any other kid, toiling away on a 3D printer at school (ok, maybe not quite like any other kid). An assignment required the class to sandwich two pieces of plastic together, but where some students simply saw air, Pabari envisioned the makings of a new kind of educational toy. Fast-forward some 10 months and he finds himself shortlisted for a Young Innovator of the Year award and pitching his product to potential investors. So what is it that has catapulted Pabari from the classroom to rubbing shoulders with industry leaders in the space of a year? Gizmag caught up with the Australian entrepreneur to learn all about his Lego-inspired tablet kits and how he plans on changing the face of IT education.
"I was in class and we had to stick two pieces of plastic casing together," explains Pabari. "So I thought, why not make this into a tablet? I pulled apart my Nexus, reworked the casing a little, cut out a display and built a computer in between."
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Mix the possibilities of 3D-printing, a working knowledge of computer hardware and a dash of youthful optimism and you have the beginnings of MechTech Creations, Pabari's Brisbane-based tablet startup. Early iterations of its tablet kits were set to cost less than AUD$50 (US$46), among the cheapest available. However, a number of problems relating to personnel and suppliers prompted a change of direction, leading Pabari's team to pursue something a little more educational.
"Like most children, we loved Lego and that feeling of accomplishment when a creation comes together," says Pabari. "What we are trying to do is deliver that immediate satisfaction but with the long-lasting, educational benefits."
The ImaginTech Tablet Kit is designed to teach children aged four to 14 the inner workings of an Android tablet, and not just its physical components. After piecing together the tablet's hardware, visual programming software called ImaginCoder enables kids to experiment with building their own games and apps.
"What we are trying to do is inspire young innovation," says MecTech's COO, Ben Mandeville-Clarke, who is comparatively ancient at 19 years old. "We are creating what we hope will be the Lego of the 21st century."
Trading plastic bricks for processing chips and lithium batteries may sound like quite a leap, but anyone who has witnessed a child within arm's reach of a smartphone or tablet will know how captivating they can be. Harnessing this fascination while inspiring a little technological curiosity is the name of the game for Pabari, and he's confident his team have got the balance just right.
The ImaginTech Tablet Kit includes a 7-inch, 1024 x 600p multi-touch display and a 1.2 GHz Dual Core Processor. Equipped with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage (extendable to 32 GB via MicroSD slot), the tablet is powered by a 2,500 mAh rechargeable lithium-polymer battery. Once these components have been fitted together, the final product measures 180 x 115 x 7 mm (7 x 4.5 x .27 in) and weighs 120 g (4.2 oz). It also sports a 0.3-megapixel front-facing and 2-megapixel rear-facing camera for good measure.
Unfortunately, Pabari didn't take out the Young Innovator of the Year award, but that won't be holding him back. The educational tablet kits will come in white, blue and pink and priced at AU$219 (around $US203), and will be available for pre-order on MechTech's site in the coming days, with shipping slated for December.
Source: MechTech CreationsView gallery - 4 images