Interview with Norm Goldstein, Founder and CEO of By Kids For Kids Co.By Natalie, Jr. Assistant Editor
Find out how Mr. Goldstein helps kids all around the world launch their inventions through By Kids For Kids Co., a company he founded! Visit their site at: http://www.bkfk.com!
AK: What does BKFK do?
NG: We are in the business of helping connect kid innovation to corporations and industry. BKFK provides a platform that empowers youth invention, innovation and entrepreneurship. BKFK’s ‘cycle of innovation’ helps kids to develop problem solving skills at the same time we offer corporations with a link to the great untapped creativity kids have to offer. The company provides educational resources and online challenges that promote social change, product development and entrepreneurial endeavors.
AK: What categories of competitions does BKFK run?
NG: BKFK competitions run the gamut from inventing toys and games, to fashion, eco/ green, sustainability, financial literacy, social entrepreneurship and more. We like to connect kids and their creativity directly to industry—and maybe come up with some real-world, kid-created solutions to topical problems.
AK: What’s your biggest success story?
NG: We like to think that every kid that participates in our programs is a success story. From the student who comes up with a new toy during a classroom activity to the winner of one of our National competitions who wins a U.S. Savings Bond and a trip to a corporate sponsor’s headquarters to learn how their idea might be developed into a product. Each participant learns something about problem solving and working to create solutions to real world problems. It is really tough to come up with our “biggest success story” – maybe Max who invented the Home Dome, a shelter for the homeless made from recycled materials, and built a real full size prototype at Continuum Labs in Boston, or Rachel who won the Signature Style Fashion challenge and toured Tommy Hilfiger Studios and has now launched her own fashion line. Or Dan, whose new video game is being produced by EA and will be available worldwide as a new free downloadable game! All of these are big successes in our mind.
AK: What was your favorite competition and why?
NG: I would have to say one of my favorite competitions thus far was our recently completed NYSE Financial Future Challenge. We had an amazing winner, a 12 year old boy from Conroe, Texas named Fabian Fernandez-Han. Fabian created and utterly unique new iPhone App called “Oink-a-Saurus” which teaches kids to become more conscious about the products they buy—and clued in to investment opportunities with the companies behind the products they are already buying. The NYSE Foundation is financing the development of the App—and it should be to market in just a few months.
AK: Did your dreams as a kid inspire you to do what you do today? Did you have someone who inspired you or mentored you in preparing for your career?
NG: As a kid I dreamt of building things and solving problems with inventions. To further that dream I took things apart and used the components to build other things. As an example I took apart an old phonograph player (this was a machine that played vinyl records) and used the motor to open and shut my bedroom door. I did this when I was sick once to keep the steam from a humidifier from escaping my bedroom when my mother brought in food. These activities inspired me to pursue my career in inventing. My Uncle Pete and my father were both influential in providing me with guidance and inspiration in this career.
AK: Can you tell us a story of a kid inventor who has overcome major challenges?
NG: How about a story of a kid who took challenges they saw in their immediate world to find a new, innovative solution. We had a young girl from inner city Baltimore, Brenda, who had a friend who was blind. She developed a paper with raised lines that would help her friend learn to write. Or Max, who saw homeless people on the streets during a trip to Chicago and decided to invent an inexpensive shelter that could be built out of recycled materials. Or Chandler who had a neighbor in a wheelchair who couldn’t reach her backpack hanging on the back of the wheelchair to get her books out so he developed a device to hang the backpack on that would swing the backpack around to the front of the chair for easy access. As you can see… I have so many wonderful stories of kids who have come up with great ideas to help others overcome challenges in their lives.
AK: Do you have any advice for kids who want to invent or who have an invention?
NG: Keep a journal. Document your creative idea and its development with words and sketches. We offer tons of free advice for kid inventors, including inventive thinking toolkits and journals, on our website, BKFK.com. Be on the lookout for BKFK competitions which suit your passions and creative niche. Winning one of our competitions, or even placing as a finalist- offers many rewards including; publicity for you and your idea, financial rewards, access to marketing and licensing deals, mentorship, etc.
AK: What’s the most fun part of your job?
NG: Witnessing the self-esteem elevation of all the kids who participate is a pretty awesome thing. That’s why I love my job so much and why the mission of BKFK is so important. There’s nothing quite like seeing a kid’s face light up when they are recognized and rewarded for their creative ideas. Inventing is fun and all kids can do it. Everyone who participates is a winner.
AK: What’s the most important thing you hope kids will learn from being involved with BKFK?
NG: That they are far more powerful than they realize! Kids have special abilities in creative thinking and ideation—which can literally change the world. BKFK actually provides a platform for kids to design, to create, and to work with Corporate sponsors to forge an exciting future for themselves and our country.
AK: What do you think is most imperative thing for kids to learn that will help them succeed in the future?
NG: Problem solving and Inventive thinking skills! Of course, we also need better success with the kids in learning science, technology, engineering and math. Maybe we should challenge kids to come up with a more engaging way to teach these skills. What do you think?
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