When you think of a classroom, you would imagine rows of students with their heads buried in their books or doing their homework.
Now imagine a classroom of children with colourful blocks and robots, learning about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) as they play.
This may come true with Arteca Sdn Bhd, a local manufacturer of educational block based toys and robotics kits.
To find out more about this, Vulcan Post spoke to co-founders Amrina Shakirah Binti Ahmad Radzi, CEO of Arteca Sdn Bhd and Mukhlis Bin Ahmad Azam, Strategist and Head Of Product Development.
Block-Based Tech, And No It’s Not Blockchain
Founded in 2017, Arteca is short for Art, Technology and Mechanical.
They make toy based learning systems that expose the children to STEAM, while also developing fine motor and spatial skills.
These toys are made up of block based components (think Lego) which children can use to build various models such as buildings and vehicles, with no limit to their creativity.
There are functional designs too, for example, you can build a working phone holder or a fishing rod.
That’s not all though, as I mentioned earlier, they also have kits that allow you to build working robots out of the blocks. But why?
Amrina believes that their block toys, with their varied shapes and sizes, lend themselves well to cultivating skills such as creativity, imagination, problem-solving and mathematical reasoning.
Play matters. We need a shift from a ‘too academic’ environment towards a play based environment for the children.Amrina, co-founder and CEO of Arteca Sdn Bhd
She told us that maths, writing and reading take up 10% of the brain, which needs to be supported by a strong base of reflexes, sensory and motor skills.
This strong base develops the fastest when the child is aged 0 to 6 years, through playing with toys.
“Children learn best when they are having fun. We hope to translate that in our toys. We want to introduce a new fun way of learning where it is also educational,” she explained.
Third Time’s A Charm
Arteca actually isn’t the first time these toys tried to get off the ground.
It started back in 2011, with co-founder (and now Chairman), Datuk Ahmad Radzi bin Yahaya.
You may know him as the man behind Servco Resources Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian toy designer and manufacturing company.
He was approached by the Ministry of Education to produce toy based learning tools for the Standard 2 Reka Bentuk Dan Teknologi syllabus.
However, the project didn’t go through due to the ministry’s budget limitations.
Undeterred, the team founded REQA in 2016 and continued to market the toys. But they had little success, which they attributed to a go-to-market strategy that wasn’t right at the time.
“That’s when we co-founded Arteca to manage REQA and other products. We had re-strategise and thankfully, this time around, we managed to get the right product-market fit,” said Amrina.
To date, they have sold approximately 10,000 boxes of basic blocks, 14,000 educational kits and 90 robotic kits, over a period of 2 years.
‘Building’ A Brand
Arteca’s master brand is named BENA, which comes with 3 other brands under it:
- REQA, mechanical construction components for children 7 years and above,
- Printis, basic construction sets for children aged 6 and below,
- Hyll, sets for hobbyists to create 2D and 3D art.
The robotic kits are named EUREQA and Printis Robo (still in R&D), featuring functional models of the above block sets that can move using the kits’ electronic components.
The retail prices of these toys can range from as low as RM10 (Printis) to as high as RM200 (EUREQA). When supplying to schools, prices can vary depending on the volume.
According to Mukhlis, most of the blocks and robotic products available now are either of good quality yet expensive or of poor quality and cheap.
“At Arteca, we try to fill in the gap with products that are not just affordable but come with good quality. We believe these types of products shouldn’t be exclusive for privileged children only,” he said.
And they’re not doing this alone. Arteca has collaborated with numerous other players in the industry to build an ecosystem around their toys.
Together with educational partners, they are developing educational modules and STEAM programmes using their toys as part of the activities.
They also worked with tech companies to develop robotic and electronic components.
Currently, they are looking into the application of their block components in things such as autonomous vehicles, robotic arms and drones.
About RM2 million has already been spent on building up their product, mostly on the production process such as plastic injection and packaging.
However, they revealed to us that they have only earned a sales revenue of around RM400,000.
Admittedly, this is a low figure considering the amount of investment that was put in so far.
But MaGIC’s Global Accelerator Programme (GAP) had faith in them, as they were deemed ready enough to pitch to investors at a recent GAP Demo Day.
“Next, we are preparing our robotic toys for mass production. In 2 years’ time, we hope to be a leading supplier for block and robotic kits in Malaysia,” said Amrina.
We’ll have to keep an eye out for Arteca as they usher in an age of robots, starting in our children’s classrooms.