The next big new idea to hit the toy industry might be as close as the flip of a syllabus page. At least that was the case for Cassidy Wolfe ’19, a psychology major, and her husband Steven Wolfe, who, after being inspired by a Hotel School class, are already well into the production of their first product: Coaster Cubes.
Sold in sets of 48 cubes and tracks, each set can be assembled to create a track for a marble to roll down, giving the classic childhood toy a more modern, updated look.
But designed to foster complete customization, the product is not your average “Mouse Trap” marble run: Users can assemble the individual cubes and tracks to create a wide range of sophisticated tracks, loops and designs.
“I always liked playing with marble tracks when I was a little kid, and I thought … maybe there would be a way to make these a lot better and easier to make,” Cassidy said.
The pair’s decision to make the leap from rough idea to a fully-fledged business plan came in February 2019, while Cassidy was in her senior year at Cornell. Steven was taking a Cornell course titled “Leadership Skills for Executive Management,” taught by Prof. Emeritus Jonathan Rich, applied economics and management, which he said gave him the confidence and skills needed to tackle “the whole entrepreneurship thing … [from] business valuations to finding angel investors.”
From there, Coaster Cubes had its humble beginnings in Mann Library’s Makerspace, where Steven used the lab’s 3-D printer to fabricate a prototype, despite having no previous experience with the machines.
“What really helped me get going, actually, was I had a lot of time to spend at the libraries at Cornell, I did a lot of reading on business, I read a lot of biographies, and I used the Mann library maker space to … build my first prototype, and that was extremely helpful,” Steven said.
After building the first version, Cassidy and Steven conducted a demo at the Sciencenter, a hands-on science museum in Ithaca. There, they discovered that the product was particularly appealing to fathers who passed by the table with their children, prompting the duo to believe it could be a useful tool for encouraging kids to bond with their dads.
Beyond the entertainment factor, the Wolfes say the product could also be used for teaching both kids and adults basic physics principles.
“It’s a really good demonstration of kinetic and potential energy, acceleration, things like that,” Steven said.
The product is currently in production and the team is looking to launch a Kickstarter campaign by the middle of November. They hope to ship out the first batch of products in time for Christmas.