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Startup crowdfunds math app to unlock TV and gaming signals

January 30, 2015
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Startup to kids: Math = screen time
Tim Smock, the founder of Test 4 Time, describes how the startup’s app would allow kids to watch TV and game — after solving math problems. Photo via kickstarter.com

A startup is crowdfunding an interactive product that stops the flow of TV and gaming images into the home — until kids solve math problems to earn every minute of their screen time.

Math = screen time

Test 4 Time in Grand Rapids launched a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter on Jan. 16 to fund further development of its prototype to the production-level stage. The all-or-nothing campaign ends on Feb. 18 at 9:08 a.m. ET.

The educational product is four years in the making and would include two parts: a set-top box with a cable for receiving video, or HDMI cable, which is used to inhibit the video signal to the television set; and a companion mobile application for Apple iOS devices; the app would eventually be developed for Android mobile devices.

The innovative product has a utility patent pending, which was applied for on Sept. 6, 2012.

The app would prompt the child with age-appropriate math questions to earn television or gaming time.

One a child begins using the screen time they’ve earned by solving math problems, a two-minute warning would let the child know their signal will be cut off unless additional questions are answered.

The basic Test 4 Time app would include math questions relating to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The idea

Tim Smock, founder of Test 4 Time and a father of two young boys, said the idea combines parents’ desire to have their child reach their highest potential with a child’s desire to watch TV and play video games.

Smock developed the product as a way to automate a process he used with his son and also grant a tangible reward for strengthening fundamental math skills.

“I would write down 20 math questions on a sheet of paper and then my son would answer them,” Smock said. “I would give him an hour to play his games. I would set the time on the stove for that hour — and then force number three took over: distraction. I would realize the timer went off long ago and would go down to tell my son it was time to stop and of course he wouldn’t want to.”

With a goal to build confidence and strengthen children’s skills in subjects such as math by using playtime as an avenue for learning, Test 4 Time’s initial target market includes students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

“It is unique in that it gives kids the ability to earn the time on the television or the video game device,” Smock said. “It is different from other learning tablets. They are all self-contained in their tablet, while the Test 4 Time gives the tangible reward.”

Post-Kickstarter

The startup would use the funds from the Kickstarter campaign to develop a production-grade version of its prototype, including creating a custom circuit board. The prototype now uses standard components.

“Getting up to this point, where I was able to build the prototype, was through original investors at the very beginning, plus friends and family,” Smock said. “Kickstarter is the right thing right now, because if successful, then I have raised that much for the development without having to give up equity in the company.”

Smock plans on working with West Michigan companies to build the product and has been working with an electronics firm based in Holland and an industrial design team out of Zeeland.

The set-top box and mobile math app would be sold as a package for $120 initially, according to the Kickstarter campaign.

Based on the success of the fundraising campaign, the product could be introduced to the market six months after capital infusion.

In the future, Smock anticipates building on and expanding the product to include a $5.99 per month subscription for a premium app, incorporating more difficult questions and additional topics and subjects: fractions, decimals, percentages, geography and science.

“There is going to be a development of the actual product, almost a 2.0 of the Test 4 Time,” Smock said. “After the initial sales period, there is going to be a subscription service, which will allow people to have an expanded set of mathematics questions. It is going to be really quite expanded and on top of that, we are going to give the parents to ability to customize a few questions, so they could ask phone number, address and emergency number.”

The founder

Born and raised in Muskegon, Smock recently returned to the West Michigan region in the winter of 2013 after residing in Chicago for close to 20 years.

Most recently, Smock worked as an option trader on the floor at the Chicago Board Options Exchange from 1993 to 2011 before launching Test 4 Time.

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida and an M.B.A. from Grand Valley State University.

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