Teun van Roessel, the founder of Solly System, has a vision for the future generation: “I would like to educate a green generation with Solly: to make children capable of understanding what happens in the world and help them in finding solutions for the future”. As the creator of the educational robot “Solly”, which has stepped forward from the original brother BYOR (Build Your Own Robot) built with waste products, Teun wishes to educate children in energy generation and usage and inspire future sustainability.
Teun, how would you describe Solly in one tweet?
“Solly is a robot, which brings to life science and technology for children to learn further about sustainability in a fun and engaging way.”
What does this look like?
“It’s an educational robot focused on teaching science, technology and sustainability. Schoolchildren develop different skills through experiments, which are targeted at moving towards a ‘greener’ world. Solly measures solar and wind energy generation and records the results. This is followed by experiments and lessons based on the data improve participants awareness of the physical phenomena. It’s a fun and engaging experience for the children, where they can earn digital points to use in the Solly game.”
What is your vision?
“We have to treat our planet differently. To build a Solly robot the incorporation of education is a necessary element. Nowadays, we need to know more about sustainability and technology. Solly is used to make children more aware of energy. The original BYOR, however, emphasizes sustainability through reuse and recycling, as this robot is built with old packing material, plastic and boxes.”
Can you explain more about BYOR?
“BYOR stands for Build-Your-Own-Robot. It’s targeted at the consumer market. The package consists of different kinds of materials used to build your own robot in your own creative way.”
Is BYOR capable of doing the same things as a Solly?
“No, you can look at the BYOR as if it’s the brother of Solly. Solly is an extended version, with this robot it’s possible to explore things. Solly is used in schools. BYOR doesn’t have the capability to make measurements, however, it is possible to build a robot out of a used milk carton that can detect when someone enters the room. It can also display light when it receives sound. We chose for a stripped back version of BYOR for the consumer market as Solly appeared to be too costly.”
How did you come up with the idea?
“My granddad was a carpenter and every time I was around, I could create something with anything that was laying on the floor. That’s where my passion for creating began. Later, I went to Eindhoven Technical University to study industrial engineering. With that I made a start on a playable robot with a story, digital and physical content and a complete educational package for the primary school.”
What exactly lead you to Solly?
“My sister’s children. Their teachers were, just like other working people, busy during the day. So, you can’t expect them to pay attention to my vision all the time. That’s why I partnered upwith an engineering firm of a former student to develop something for the children which would allow them to learn more about energy generation and the basic principles of energy usage in a fun way.”
What’s the target group of Solly and BYOR?
“Students and the direction board of primary schools. There is continued attention to new skills and knowledge that students must acquire nowadays. Kennisnet and Stichting Leerplanontwikkeling put this together in a model. Solly adds value by means of critical and creative thinking, solving problems, ICT, informational skills and cooperating. So, BYOR is more useful for children and parents at home.”
How many schools are using Solly at the moment?
“Sixty, more or less. The Solly robot at Wittering primary school in Rosmalen, for example, is sponsored by Essent. The school is incredibly modern and can be seen as a role model to other schools.”
What have the reactions been?
“Children are really enthusiastic, fascinated even. Hopefully, Solly will inspire them to become inventors or designers in the future. Also, the teachers give me positive feedback, even the old-fashioned ones that like to stay away from technology.”
Is there any competition?
“I don’t know any educational company or software developer that does things the way we do it, in such a combination of hardware and method. Solly gives children interactive educational experience. The biggest hardware competitor of BYOR is Littlebits: small electronical parts which you can put together. They focus mostly on investigating new electronics.”
What does one lesson with Solly look like?
“For example, you go outside to take solar and wind measurements! No place is the same, and the possibility of big differences become clear. ‘Solly lessons’ differ depending on age. For young children, the concept of a robot is explained. The basic knowledge of robotics is the focus. Later, energy is induced, and then, finally, the oldest children will read and interpret the results of the experiments and make graphs of the data.”
What does the earning model look like?
“The educational software package for school’s costs between 600 and 4.000 euros, this could be for just one class or the entire school. The BYOR, with the consumer market as target, costs between 65 and 99 euro, and can be further extended through lose parts.”
Would you like to use the robot also for different purposes, like to teach counting?
“I don’t believe in such a thing because a robot cannot replace a teacher. Definitely, it will happen, but it won’t be in the near future. Solly can be used in education, only merely as support, not as substitute.”
Where will Solly and BYOR be in ten years?
“We want to expand our distribution, and start up a community for children, inventors and artists. In that community, people who are interested can share videos about robot building and they can acquire more knowledge about science, technology and sustainability. When that’s successful, we could, perhaps, launch a think tank. Besides, we’re currently working on little attachments for small motors. In ten years, I hope that I’ve got more to offer with respect to variation and opportunities.”
What has the participation on the Accenture Innovation Awards brought you?
“This year, we participated for the third time. We started off with no prototype of Solly. This year we were in the semi-finals and got a lot of publicity. RTL Bright put us in the spotlight in their broadcast. The promotion of Renault Life is valuable as well.”
Read the original article in Dutch on Emerce