Tufts Innovators Form the Future of Learning-through-Play with LEGO Ventures

Tufts community members are generating and refining ideas to build the future of play, leveraging TGI’s partnership with LEGO Ventures.

Looking to shape the future of play and learning, entrepreneurial-minded innovators across the Tufts community are joining forces this summer to turn their ideas into reality. And the concepts are getting a kickstart, too, with valuable insight from a series of ideation workshops Tufts Gordon Institute hosted in a new partnership with LEGO Ventures.

“At LEGO Ventures we understand that at the heart of play is learning. Children are intrinsically motivated to play, and it has a central role in preparing them for challenges throughout their lives,” said Siddharth Muthyala, Experience and Design Lead for the LEGO Ventures Incubation Studio. “LEGO Ventures Incubation Studio is a launchpad for exploring new systems-in-play and a global force for establishing and innovating Learning-through-Play … We explore new opportunities in collaboration with our incubation network, which among others, consist of partnerships with academia and where Tufts Gordon Institute comes into the picture.”

Workshop participants ideated to break down barriers between physical and digital play spaces for children, who are adopting technology at an increasingly younger age. One group explored using comics to teach 3D design. Another envisioned learning about agriculture through compostable toys.

“The students from Tufts University demonstrated a passion for solving problems and addressing opportunities to combine play and learning. At LEGO we call this playful learning,” said Siddharth. “We were impressed with the professionalism they showed and also the warp speed at which they got organized and worked on their ideas.”

Following the sessions, several generated ideas will be selected to move into the summer-long Tufts Venture Accelerator. Workshop participants interested in continuing the experience can join teams to refine the selected concepts. In August, they will pitch for an opportunity to join LEGO Ventures Incubation Studio, and in turn, receive support to launch businesses out of the ideas.

“I’m a firm believer that the best ideas in the room are going to come from the combination of the people in the room,” Kevin Oye, Executive Director of Tufts Gordon Institute and Director of the MS in Innovation and Management program, said at one of the sessions. “It’s the collective power of all of us that is going to create some really great ideas; that’s why I’m so excited.”

Considerations for Launching Successful Products and Ventures

As Tufts innovators continue to perfect their ideas, success doesn’t happen by chance. According to Siddharth, innovative minds must often put aside personal affection for a project and be “fearless in stopping projects and ideas” that don’t meet basic criteria. He says there are three fundamental aspects to any successful product or venture:

  1. Desirability: Do people want to use your product?
  2. Viability: Does a user want to pay you?
  3. Feasibility: Is what you want to do technically achievable?

When developing new products and ventures with children in mind as the target end-user, there are additional considerations to maintain a playful experience as outlined by research from the LEGO Foundation.

“At the LEGO Ventures Incubation Studio, we constantly put our hypotheses to test via rapid experimentation. We let user data guide us in our decisions on projects,” said Siddharth. “Every project and idea are based on assumptions, gut feel, and early observations. We call these the ‘leap of faith’ assumptions, and they are the riskiest assumptions we are making about our idea.” 

Siddharth added, “We are adamant about not pursuing unvalidated ideas, so early on in the project, we go through an exercise of identifying and listing all of our assumptions from the smallest assumption to the largest for every idea we pursue.”

Undoubtedly, the future of play is changing, and accordingly, the confines of each dimension – whether digital or physical – aren’t barriers, but rather, are opportunities for Tufts and the world to imagine a new way to play.

About LEGO Ventures

Founded in 2018, LEGO Ventures is the strategic investment arm of the LEGO Brand Group focusing on the future of creativity, learning, and play. LEGO Ventures works with entrepreneurs and ventures that are closely aligned with the core LEGO Idea of learning through play and developing systematic creativity. Learn more at www.legoventures.com.