Igniting Budding Engineers & ThinkFun!

Reposted from the SmartPlay blog by ThinkFun President & Co-Founder, Bill Ritchie


Maker Studio Construction Sets: Igniting Budding Engineers

Maker Studio Gears Set

We’ve got some great new ThinkFun products and programs arriving this Spring 2015. I’m proud of them and I want to take the opportunity to describe them to you. The first one I’ll describe is our new Maker Studio Construction Sets.

Our Goals Going In

We usually seek out products that build on our mission to ignite minds and give kids an early advantage. In this case, we wanted to do several things.

  1. Stimulate interest in engineering and creativity
  2. Make a product that was open-ended—not just one-and-done building
  3. Add challenges on top of the builds—ask kids to make their contraption actually accomplish a task

For the Maker Studio sets, we teamed up with two awesome inventors, David Yakos and Parker Thomas; both of them are active in the Maker movement. In fact, on our YouTube Channel, we feature David’s “Pitch Video” to us because the vision was so clear and aligned.

What Is Maker Studio?

Each Maker Studio set consists of a set of parts and instructions for how to build machines using discarded household items like food boxes and plastic bottles. The parts are magical—they are a collection of wheels, gears, axles, connectors, rubber band motor and instructions that show players how to build four machines.. Step 1 is to make household items into moving contraptions. But there’s much more to it. You can create many things with the parts in each set by using different containers and different decorations. The real beauty of Maker Studio is the fact that it has challenges to make your project do something. Push an apple across a table. Lift a soup can from the floor. That’s why we all it Open-Ended.

Made by Bella

Made by Bella – Maker Studio Gears Set – Cable Car Challenge

It Would Have Flopped!

It’s funny… just a few years ago these products would certainly have flopped. How do you explain something that is “open-ended” on a store shelf?

But in a world of YouTube channels and social media, we have a whole new opportunity to present the Maker Studio imagination by showcasing the cool stuff that kids are already making, then inviting our audience to join in themselves and share their own designs and builds.

And to prove our point, we’d like to introduce Bella Yakos and her YouTube Channel, Made By Bella. Bella is the 7 yo daughter of one of the inventors. Take a look at some of Bella’s videos, and you’ll see why we think Maker Studio sets are going to set brains on fire!

This is new territory for us, we’re excited! We are seeing great interest from the Maker movement, STEM and STEAM advocates, and Girls in Engineering programs. It’s the beginning of a whole new category of products for us, products that let the players tell the story.

Here’s hoping that it works! I’ll keep you updated along the way.

You can follow along with Bill and the ThinkFun team HERE!

And click HERE for more about Maker Studio in the News


Maker Studio in the News

Maker Studio, Techlicious 2015

Maker Studio won the Techlicious Best of 2015 NY Toy Fair Award!

Maker’s Studio made quite the impression during it’s release at the 2015 New York Toy Fair this February, winning the Best of Toy Fair award from Techlicious, making numerous Top 10 Lists (listed below), and receiving glowing reviews for its take on open-end play.  Co-inventors David Yakos, of Salient Technologies, Inc., and maker Parker Thomas teamed up with toy and game producers, ThinkFun to create the open-play concept toy.  Three Maker Studio sets have been released: Propellers, Gear and Winches, and the included Engineering Challenge Cards encourage kids in problem solving and thinking outside the box.  Built by engineers for budding engineers, ThinkFun’s Maker Studio puts creativity back in play.

Check out some of the great reviews at these links:


April 14, 2015: No Monsters In My Bed Blog Review of Maker Studio

April 13, 2015: The House of Boys…And a Girl Blog Review of Maker Studio

April 13, 2015: Cummin’s Life Blog Review of Maker Studio

March 6, 2015: KBZK News Piece on Bozeman local, David Yakos & the invention of Maker Studio

February 20, 2015: Maker Studio named in the CNET “Most Amazing Stuff of Toy Fair 2015” list

February 19, 2015: Maker Studio named in GeekDad’s Top 10 of NY Toy Fair 2015

Techlicious Best of Toy Fair 2015 Award

Techlicious Best of Toy Fair 2015 Award

February 19, 2015: Makezine is all about Maker Studio promoting the make-movement

February 19, 2015: The Maker Studio pieces “feel great, fit together well, and demand open-ended play”, says Amy Kraft of Makeroni

February 18, 2015: Kidscreen ranks Maker Studio in their favoriate non-tech toys

February 18, 2015: DadDoes places Maker Studio on the “Good” end of his article, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Toy Fair 2015

February 16, 2015: Out of 150,000 products, Maker Studio is awarded Techlicious Best of Toy Fair 2015 List along with 7 others

February 11, 2015: Reuter’s Magazine lists ThinkFun’s Maker Studio as a great toy for kids who want to “build, do and explore!”

February 7, 2015: The Making of and Inspiration behind Maker Studio

If you’re into videos, check out the Made by Bella series – where Bella and her Friends work through the Engineering Challenges of Maker Studio

Made by Bella

Made by Bella – creating a Princess Carriage with Maker Studio

Salient Product Design Mentorship

In partnership with HATCH, Salient is excited to announce we are now accepting applications for the 2015 Product Design Mentorship!

Launching in just a few short weeks, Salient will accept up to 6 candidates for our hands-on Mentorship.  Good applicants are students who are (most likely) pursuing degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Design, Product Design or it’s equivalent – OR, those who have a marked interest in Product Design and the skills necessary to contribute to the program.

The Salient Mentorship is created in partnership with the HATCH 360 Mentorship that uses a bottom-up and peer to peer approach to build meaningful relationships, share knowledge and expertise, and challenge each other.

All students will be coached by Salient Technology owners – David Yakos and Stephen Sanford on Salient’s 3 Phase Design Process: 1) Concept Design, 2) Prototype Development, and 3) Design for Manufacturing, and invited to participate in all three ares on an actual project.

The Mentorship is not paid, nor is it for credit. The Application Deadline is Thursday, February 19th, and Classes will be held from 3 PM – 5 PM, Thursdays, March 5th, March 19th, April 2nd, and April 16th. Some work will be required outside of class time.

Email info@salient-tech.com for more information and application forms.


Salient Mentorship

Salient’s Top 10 Highlights of 2014

Top 10 Highlights of 2014

It’s been a pretty big year for us here at Salient.  Following are some of our Highlights, “Letterman-style”:

No. 10:  Salient featured in a webisode of “In The Making”

No. 9:  David as Keynote Speaker for the RJ Young 3D Printing Conf. in Nashville, TN

No. 8: Rolling out the new Salient Website

No. 7: New PC SolidWorks Workstations (that we built ourselves!)

No. 6: Hiring two new Salient Team Members – Seth & Christina

No. 5: “Product Testing” Blue Ribbon Nets’ Aquafade nets in the Beartooth Mountains and catching a hoard of trout

No. 4: Participating in HATCH 2014 in Big Sky, MT

No. 3: Attending the Chicago Toy & Game Fair & The MMEC Compete Smart Show in Billings, MT

No. 2: Flying to Dusseldorf for the World Valve Expo

And No. 1: Working on over 130 product designs THIS YEAR!

Bonus:  Numerous Epic NERF Battles in the office.

Merry Christmas

3D Printing in the News

Just in case you missed it – here’s a short feature* on 3D Printing by ABC Fox Montana starring Salient Technologies, Inc. owners David Yakos (VP, Director of Creativity) and Steve Sanford (President)!

Reporter, Rachael Aragon takes a quick look at the how’s and what’s of 3D Printing at the Salient office in Bozeman, MT…

ABC Fox Montana 3D Printing story - November 2014

*Update: March 18, 2015 – We regret that the video for this feature is no longer available, but you can still click on the photo above to read the full article.


Taking Ideas from Good to Great

“Salient has been a vital part of The Ripple product development process, not only from an engineering perspective, but also in terms of design conception and education.  Developing an innovative and functional product is not a black and white process and what separates Salient from the competition is their willingness to dive in and explore all the possible ways your product can look and function. I would definitely recommend Salient to anyone who is ready to turn their idea into a reality.” – Kevin Scharfe, Founder, Warum Studios, LLC

Here at Salient, we get to work with lots of people who have really good ideas, and we love nothing more than helping our clients develop their good ideas into great ideas. So when Warum Studios, LLC approached us with The Ripple, we knew it could be a great product, and the collaboration began.

With some “expert tweaking” – including improving on the bayonet design, size and depth of the bowl, and the ergonomic handle design – Salient kicked out manufacturing files, and The Ripple began a Kickstarter campaign to fund the next phase in production.  In a little over a month, Warum Studios was able to raise almost $30,000 in Kickstarter backing, collect market research and narrow down their target market to people in their 20’s who live in dorms or small apartments; young families and the disabled.ripple-3-horizontal

Now, 10 months after producing their first run, founder Kevin Scharf is proud to say they’ve sold almost 4,000 Ripples to customers all over the world! “What makes The Ripple truly special”, says Scharf, “is not that it’s a detachable bowl and plate, but the possibilities for different dishes and devices that can connect quickly and securely with our bayonet mount.  We are now in the market research phase of adding a smaller bowl to the lineup for kids and possibly a dipping cup/drink holder!”

The Ripple is currently available in retail stores across Montana and was recently published in Japan’s version of the Wall street Journal.  Friday, November 14th, you can tune into the DIY Network hit show, “I Want That”, at 9 PM Mountain Time, to see The Ripple featured as one of the shows coveted items. The Ripple has also been accepted into the “Discover Design” section of the juried Chicago-based International Housewares Show in February 2015. But, if you can’t make it to Chicago, you can purchase your very own Ripple HERE.


The Importance of an Animation – Using 3D CAD to Tell Stories

If a picture is worth a thousands words, then at 30 frames per second, a video is worth its weight in gold…

Seal Master

In the product design world, a high value is placed on sharing ideas, which springboard to greater things. Animations are helpful for both proof of concept prior to an idea being fully fleshed out and for products that are ready to manufacture.  Today, videos play a pivotal role in getting a product seen by the right person or group, and often lead to purchase or licensing agreements. With social media playing such a large role in our society, creating a video that highlights the key features of your design and why it stands apart from others can be a key player in getting a product to market.

Take Kickstarter for example. Each crowd-funding campaign is required to have a video to share the story behind the idea of what’s being pitched and all the elements that make this particular product worth monetary backing. Frequently, these products are still in a prototype phase, so the value of an animation is immeasurable in being able to paint a picture of something that could potentially exist, but needs funding to actually reach the manufacturing stage.

Earlier this year, Seal Master Corporation approached Salient Technologies, Inc. for help showcasing a product. Using 3D CAD and video editing software, the STI Team was able to provide Seal Master with a technical animation showcasing their inflatable seals and the components that set it apart from the competition. Salient delivered the video they envisioned to communicate product features to potential client and grow their business.

Check out the video animation below:

After working with STI, Dan Jackson, IT Manager for Seal Master Corporation had only good things to say:
“Salient Technologies has been wonderful to work with. From initial draft to final revision, our animation has been created exactly how we envisioned. When many other design firms fell short with our concept, Salient had the knowledge and vision to deliver. They provide quality work for a fair price. Looking forward to working with them in the future for all of our technical animation needs.”

Let Salient Technologies, Inc. help share your idea and vision through the power of animation!

Hydaway Collapsible Bottle – Ingenious Hydration

“I couldn’t have built this product in the time-frame I did without the expertise of the Salient Team. They blend a great mix of engineered functionality and design aesthetic.  I love that when we get to a problem we need to overcome it’s a group-think that benefits from many different perspectives.  I’m very impressed with what they can accomplish – not only on my project but also the variety of others they’ve worked on…Especially considering how much time they spend in Nerf gun battles. :)”
 – Niki Singlaub, Founder, Hydaway 



Hydaway™ is the brainchild of product designer/inventor/traveler/outdoors man Niki Singlaub of Bend, OR.  As a man-on-the-go, Niki was baffled by the hole in the market for a compact, leak-proof water bottle.  So naturally, he came up with the perfect fix: the Hydaway.
Collapsing down to a 1″ thick disc, the Hydaway is constructed of  BPA free, non-toxic, food-grade silicone that’s dishwasher safe and will be available in 21 oz and 12 oz sizes.  Hydaway boasts a leak-proof cap and hinged design that’s a great solve for a portable, reusable, compact water bottle. Using 3D CAD, Salient has been helping engineer kinks out of Hydaway making all the tooling and molds ready to manufacture.
The Hydaway Kickstarter campaign launched on August 10th and production is slated to begin this fall. Having already gained the attention of outdoor retailers like REI, Singlaub is confident the campaign will raise the funding needed to put the Hydaway into the hands of thirsty people.Click on the picture below to check out all the well thought out ideas and hard work behind Hydaway and quench your thirst for ingenuity!
Visit our Website to see how we can help with tooling and molds for your project.  We take your ideas from in your head and put them into your hands!



SkateRay Lights up the Night

“Salient helped me do what I could have never done alone: design a product that held true to my vision but could also be manufactured in quantity. Working with them is a perfect blend of professionalism and fun!”
~Martin Reaves, Skate Ray and Monolithic, LLC

SkateRay vid pic

Martin Reaves dreams of a better future.  A future where skateboarders don’t have to be afraid of the dark.  Enter the Skate Ray: a high power LED headlight for your board that lights up your path, illuminating obstacles so you can ride with the same confidence at night as you do during the day.  Learn more about Skate Ray and check out the Kickstarter campaign by clicking on the image above.

Designed to fit securely between your board and trucks, Skate Ray is built to take a beating and go anywhere your board goes. The slim profile light is housed in a sturdy aluminum casing with a custom gasket to keep out dirt and water. Indicator lights on the power button let you know when it’s time to hook up a mini-USB to the rechargeable lithium battery so you’re never left in the dark.

Salient has been working with Reaves and the Monolithic, LLC team since January to work up prototypes and design for Manufacture, and on July 21st, the Skate Ray Kickstarter campaign goes live to raise support for production.
We’re proud to have partnered with Reaves and Monolithic, and we can’t wait to see what happens when Skate Ray is unveiled to the world of crowd-funding. We think it’ll be pretty illuminating, and we hope Reaves’ dream of a better future comes true.skateray-4---sized
Monolithic, LLC is: Martin Reaves (mechanical engineer), Joel Martin (filmmaker), Justin Hogan (PhD electrical engineer) and Andy Hahn (animator).
Visit our Website to see how we can help take your idea from in your head and put it in your hands!

CA7CH Lightbox Success!

Congratulations to the CA7CH Team and their amazing success!  Just one week into their Kickstarter campaign, the CA7CH Lightbox project has more than doubled their $80,000 goal – and there are still over 20 days left to raise funds!

Lightbox is a tiny live-streaming, wearable camera maxing out at only 1.5 inches per side with a sleek aluminum body.  This small, powerful waterproof camera connects with your Smartphone to make the experience of “catching” and sharing life’s moments easy, spontaneous and fun.   
Here at Salient, we are delighted to have had a hand in the conceptual design and prototyping of the Lightbox camera housing and mounting system. Through industrial design, 3D modeling and many conversations with the CA7CH crew, we were able to fabricate prototypes and film-ready models to prep Lightbox for manufacturing and distribution. 
Learn more about Lightbox and check out the CA7CH Kickstarter campaign by clicking on the image below.  Good luck, CA7CH

ca7ch video screenshot

Visit our Website to see how we can help make your idea into the next success story!

Get in touch!