GROTON -- When a guy with a love of designing wooden toys combined his graphic skills with sense of social responsibility he created something unique. So appealing, and so unusual, that the man and his toy were asked to be on ABC's "The Toy Box."
Pre-Bot is a collection of colorful wooden pieces fastened together with string. It has arms, legs, body and a head. Rod Lowe of Groton has big plans for his robot-like creation.
Pre-Bot comes with a book, written by Lowe and illustrated by Gatto. He and the graphic illustrator both work for Maxim Enterprises, a wooden-toy company in Lakeville, Mass.
Pre-Bot and the stories help children, ages 3 and up, learn about important things in their lives.
"A lot of the story is based around Pre-Bot because he's the learning robot," Lowe said. Other characters, called Shape-Bots, are planned as the series evolves.
The first book deals with bullying. "In the book, the robot copies everything the bully does," Lowe said. The children in the book must change their own behavior to stop the robot from bullying them.
It teaches children common sense and sets a good example for how to make the right decisions, he said.
Plus, Pre-Bot is fun. And, cute.
"I like to make toys the kids want to play with," he said. Stores usually stock the most cost-efficient toys.
Pre-Bot is pricier than the toys his employer, Maxim Enterprises, usually produce.
Now, he is marketing Pre-Bot, attempting to raise enough money to manufacture 2,000 units overseas. Factories require a minimum order in order to make the product.
One toy and a book would end up retailing for around $30, he said. If he could order a larger quantity, the price would decrease.
A 2014 Kickstarter campaign did not raise the money he needed. Since then he has increased his social media footprint, built a website and spiffed-up his presentation.
He was invited to appear with Pre-Bot on ABC's show, "The Toy Box." The professionally-packaged toy made it through the first round, judged by professionals.
Alas, Pre-Bot did not pass muster with the child testers. Designed for age 3 and up, the wooden robot was not favored by the 10-year-old judges.
They chose a different toy that to go into production at Mattel.
The exposure brought attention to Lowe and Pre-Bot. The inventor said he is talking with librarians and educators to get the word out about the toy.
With all the good publicity and new, professionally-produced photos and a video, Lowe is turning to Kickstarter again.
This time, his goal is $60,500. This will cover an initial production run and packaging, shipping to contributors and Kickstarter fees.
Pre-Bot has a Facebook page, a website at pre-bot.com and can be found on Kickstarter by searching "Pre-Bot" from the homepage.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.