Parents @ Play: The art of science meets the science of art

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune

Anyone who loves or even just appreciates science will tell you that there’s something beautiful about it. At the same time, those who love or even just appreciate art, often admire the technique and scientific precision that can go into creating a masterpiece. This week we had a chance to experience several engaging products that blur the lines between art and science.

As far as we know, Augie is the first coding robot that (who?) comes with AR technology. What’s especially cool about Augie is that after introducing the basics of coding (using Blockly), he or she (it?) then grows with your child through six distinct progression-base modes. Your little programmer will soon have Augie dashing around your house, nimbly avoiding obstacles, spinning, and making sounds, all while stealthily stimulating your child’s imagination, critical thinking, logic, and problem-solving skills. The app is free, as are over 60 AR coding tutorials that follow the standards set by For ages 5+. Under $95.


Augie the Coding Robot Featured on CBS News

SAN DIEGO – STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

While most science and technology curriculum that is taught in school today are focused on starting in 7th grade, Jeane Wong, CEO/ Founder, League of Extraordinary Scientists & Engineers (LXS), believes that children benefit from being taught this same curriculum starting as early as possible.

With this in mind and understanding the research, LXS is answering the call by bringing together a literal League of Scientists & Engineers with educators to make available “hands-on-science-ing” to Pre-K to 5th grade learners and in-classroom support for their educators.

Research from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center shows that kids are more excited to learn when they use a tablet or a toy, because it does not feel like forced learning.

Tablets and apps can also help enrich and improve a child’s ability to learn, because their educational experience will be deeper with a more interactive toy. The top STEM toys include:

  • Boolean Box ( is a self-contained computer engineering kit for girls (and boys) that encourages them to code, build, invent, and animate.
  • The Curiscope Virtuali-Tee ( is an Augmented Reality T-Shirt that allows children to learn about the human body — on a human body. Getting started is as simple as pointing your phone at the shirt and opening a portal to another reality – the world under your skin!
  • Augie ( is the first premiere coding robot equipped with augmented reality technology. Developed to introduce children to coding language, it engages imagination and creativity while helping children further enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  • Circuit Conductor ( teaches children about electricity, currents, and magnets through fun, imaginative Augmented Reality play. Use 12 different electrical function blocks and special insulated wires to build fun circuits and learn about electricity through the free app.
  • Easy-Macro ( Makes your phone camera even better!  Easy-Macro is the simplest, most convenient and easiest to use macro lens available for smartphones. It’s 4x magnification gives your phone’s camera close-up powers that you never thought possible. 20% off with PROMO CODE: STEM.

For more information, visit the League of Extraordinary Scientists & Engineer’s website:

5 Reasons Students Should Learn to Code

As featured in USA Today!

1. Technology is everywhere

Children attending K-12 were born into a digital world. Some say that computer literacy is as foundational as reading, writing and math. Teaching code not only prepares students for STEM careers, but gives them a better understanding of machines they will interact with the rest of their lives.

2. Programming exercises multiple areas of the brain

A 2014 study found that when people work with source-code, five brain regions are activated related to language processing, working memory and attention. While more research is needed, this indicates early computational thinking can mold multiple regions of the brain.

3. Diversity in STEM begins in PreK-6

In a study conducted by Bayer, more than 77 percent of female and underrepresented minority chemists said gender and race disparity in STEM is caused by lack of encouragement to pursue STEM at an early age. By targeting basic STEM skills like coding, schools can facilitate early interest in STEM careers.

4. The world needs computer scientists

While 71 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing according to, only eight percent of STEM graduates studied computer science. Today’s students could fill those gaps in the job market more easily if they learn coding at an early age.

5. Coding is creative

More than just a science, coding enables students to develop important personal abilities like their sense of creativity and self-expression. When developing code, students impact the world around them while fostering problem-solving skills. Engagement soars when they see real-world connections to lessons they’re learning.


Become a Whiz with Cubetastic – Surviving a Teacher’s Salary

We were so honored to be featured on the awesome blog, “Surviving a Teacher’s Salary!” Check it out here:

Remember that colorful cube most of us have had at least one of in our lifetime but most of us couldn’t actually do anything with it?! Sad to say I have never successfully completed a Rubik’s Cube – and not for lack of trying! Until I picked up my Cube-tastic! cube – then I had it solved in just about 1 minute! It combines this modern cube with a 3D augmented reality via free app that not only helps teach you how to solve your cube but also gives you challenges to work on!

Play & Learn with Cube-tastic by Pai Technology

In the summer we spend a lot of time on the road exploring the USA and Cube-tastic! is absolutely perfect for my entire family. My husband and I enjoy it as much as the kids do! And to be honest this is a GREAT product to use for quiet time in the classroom as well. It makes no noise, is extremely affordable (runs under $20), and not only encourages hand-eye coordination and memory skills but it’s great for helping to develop problem solving skills.

Play & Learn with Cube-tastic by Pai Technology

How do you play Cube-tastic!?

Buy your Cube-tastic! here (USE PROMO CODE Roadtrip for 15% OFF!) , then download the free app on the App Store or Google Play. The app walks you through how to learn and play with the cube! It will remind you to scramble up your cube, and then scan each color specified on the cube. Next it will walk you step by step exactly how to turn and twist the cube to solve it!

Play & Learn with Cube-tastic by Pai Technology

When I first started playing I began just randomly scrambling the cube then following the directions to solve it and timing myself. Now I scramble the cube, try to solve it myself, and then use the app to get the steps and complete the cube. It’s a great tactile and visual activity! You can also do specific challenges to solve in the app. Once solved it unlocks new combinations for endless play.

Play & Learn with Cube-tastic by Pai Technology

The cube is non-toxic and 100% BPA-free. Plus would you believe that the cube is biodegradable!? I LOVE the smooth feel of the cube and like the rounded edges so it’s not quite so boxy feeling. It’s a fantastic price and can be used in so many ways! It’s small enough to toss in your bag and travel with too!

Play & Learn with Cube-tastic by Pai Technology

The Cube-tastic! App is Compatible with:

iPhone 4 or newer
iPad 2 or newer
iPad Mini or newer
iPad Pro
Android smart phone 4.0.3 or newer

Real Mom of SFV Features Pai Technology

Let’s face it, as much as we want our kids to be playing with physical toys, it is rather inevitable that they are going to end up playing with tablets. I know as a mom, I try to place rules that limit my daughter’s screen time, as well as ensure that the games she is playing with on the family iPad are educational & meaningful.

With Pai Technology’s Augmented Reality (AR) Toys, not only do they provide an interactive educational experience, but they engage kids in such a way that they want to keep playing AND learning!

We recently got to test out two products from Pai Technology – Ocean Pets & Cube-tastic. Both toys were really neat; however since my daughter is a huge fan of fish & other sea creatures, she really took to Ocean Pets quickly.

Pai Technology Ocean Pets Packaging

First we read the instructions & downloaded the app. Then she used the non-toxic, food-safe putty to shape into different ocean animals.

Once the clay animals are done, you can take the ocean pets & scan them with your iPad to watch your creature come to life in augmented reality!

Pai Technology Ocean Pets

You get to read fun facts about your pet, learn to take care of it & play special games!

Pai Technology Ocean Pets Fun Facts

Cube-tastic is a 3×3 Puzzle Cube that uses AR technology to solve a puzzle cube with step-by-step tutorials.

Pai Technology Cube-tastic

It’s a great brain teaser toy for kids, as there are countless combinations that you can do that exercise both their hands AND brain!

For readers of my blog, Pai Technology is offering a special coupon code! You can check out their website here to get info on how to buy. Then use “SFVMOM25” to get 25% off of your purchase! The discount code is good now through April 30, 2017.

Pai Technology Ocean Pets Featured on Tech Age Kids

Make a Virtual Aquarium with Ocean Pets – Review

Pai Technology is on a mission to create products for modern families to help kids play, grow and learn with technology. They have a number of different and really interesting products including Ocean Pets and Cube-Tastic! Pai Technology kindly sent us these AR enhanced toys to try at home.

In this post, we will look at the Ocean Pets activity set and will tell you more about Cube-Tastic in another post.

Disclaimer: Pai Technology provided us with products to review. This is not a sponsored post and our views are always our own.

I got a hands-on demo of Ocean Pets at the recent Bett Show and loved the idea immediately. Ocean Pets is a craft activity injected with AR technology for digitally minded kids. What you end up with is a virtual aquarium with your own homemade fish swimming around in it.

So let’s find out how we got on with the Ocean Pets kit with our kids ages 6 – 10.


Ocean Pets comes in a nicely designed compact box – a perfect size for a great birthday or special occasion gift. The kit comes with 8 silicon fish-shaped moulds, a couple of crafting tools and lots of little, plastic, reusable pots of brightly coloured air drying clay – eight to be exact.

There are 4 small fish-shaped moulds and 4 larger silicon moulds. They are all numbered 1 – 8. This is important for when you get to scanning your fish into the app!

The air drying clay comes sealed to prevent drying out. Once opened and in use, the lovely plastic pots close nice and tight to keep the clay from drying out. When you run out of the clay provided in the kit, you can top-up the pots with more air drying clay.

Our kids were able to make fish with all 8 moulds twice over with the clay provided in the kit.

Crafting Fun

I love the fact that you can mix technology and craft with this kit. Tracy and I set up an Ocean Pets crafting table for our boys to make their fish using the air drying clay. At ages 6 – 10, they all enjoyed the activity. It is a perfect activity for younger kids. Ocean Pets is recommended for ages 3+.

Air drying clay is a fantastic medium for kids to craft with. It makes little mess and is easy to mould. The kids really enjoyed blending colours to make new colours and marbled effects.

The idea is that you use the mould to make your own fish. You can either try to make the fish as it is in real life, or make your own creation. The app has a tutorial on how to make each fish if you wish to make more “real” looking fish.

Once you’ve completed the fish you need to scan it into the app. Go to the app, select the number that matches your mould and scan your fish. We found holding the device at an angle works really well. The kids managed to scan all their fish without any adult support.

Let the fish dry in the mould and then you can pop it out and you have a real life pet fish to play with or make an ocean mobile or hang on your backpack.

The App

The Ocean Pets app is free to download for iOS and Andriod devices (it’s not available on Amazon Appstore yet). We had no trouble finding and downloading it from the AppStore.

Parents may appreciate the fact that no sign up is required to use this app. Just open, scan your fish and you’re ready to play.

We were quite impressed with the accuracy of representation of the crafted fish in the virtual aquarium. The kids were delighted to see their own fish come to life in the water.

Real World Fish
Virtual World Fish

In the app, kids can learn a few facts about the types of fish in the aquarium. They can also take photos or record 10-second videos of their fish swimming in the aquarium. There’s also voice recording capabilities built into the app. Once they are happy with their aquarium, kids can use it as a picture frame or take a selfie with them in the fish tank!

Picture from app in AR mode

We did notice there were more ocean creatures in the app, which we didn’t have moulds for. It’s unclear whether there is an add-on pack to get these moulds, but it says coming soon. We’ll update the post with details soon.

Augmented Reality Experience

The Ocean Pets app introduces young kids to the ideas of augmented reality (AR). Unlike virtual reality which replaces the real world with a simulated world, AR aims to enhance your perception of reality.

We’ve seen lots of different AR apps appear recently where toy makers want to enhance kids experiences by mixing real-world objects in digital environments. Pokemon Go is just one example of AR experiences accessed by children. And there are lots more coming in 2017. (see London Toy Fair Roundup)

Ocean Pets makes it possible for kids to independently scan in a real-world object into a virtual world. Inside the app they can either watch the fish swim in the aquarium or put on some virtual goggles and swim with the fish. They can overlay this virtual world onto the space they are physically in, to experience the fish swimming around the house.


We really liked Ocean Pets, especially the idea of combining physical and virtual world activities. With this activity set, kids can have plenty of making fun and enjoy playing on a mobile device. I reckon most parents would be happy for their kids to spend time doing a digital activity like Ocean Pets.
The app is well thought through with lots of things to do and explore including some gameplay. Kids also need to nurture and care for their fish by feeding them. They do look a little sad when they have not been fed!
We think Ocean Pets is a brilliant craft kit and app for kids from ages 3+ and up (even Tracy’s 10-year old enjoyed it!) Pai Technology has done a great job with the AR (augmented reality) technology

We made a time-lapse movie of our craft activity using the HUE Animation Studio Camera:

Circuit Conductor is a Top Toy For Summer! From Toy Insider


Read the whole list here:

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 9.01.43 PM

This kit teaches kids about electricity, currents, and magnets through imaginative play. Kids can use 12 special blocks and insulated wires to build circuits and learn about electricity through the companion app. Scan in the physical circuits to view electrical flows in real time with augmented reality, follow tutorials, and play in-game puzzles.


 MSRP: 69.99

NYC Tech Mommy Features Cube-tastic!

Finally… now you can enjoy solving the Rubik’s Cube, like never before! Today I’ll tell you all about Pai Technology’s reinvented 3D puzzle cube. It’s called Cubetastic! and comes with a companion 3D Augmented Reality app that will have you whizzing through this puzzle like a pro!

We recently got to test out Cube-tastic! for ourselves. I must tell you we were quite impressed. Not only by how easy it was to solve this Rubik’s Cube-like 3D puzzle cube but also by how much fun we had doing it!

Wouldn’t you love to finally solve the Rubik’s Cube once and for all?

Big thanks to PaiTechnolgy for providing us free product to facilitate this review and for sponsoring our Cube-tastic! giveaway. As always, opinions are my own and I only share what I love and think you will too!

Ever been frustrated by the Rubik's Cube? Now you can enjoy solving the Rubik's Cube with Pai Technology's Cube-tastic! A reinvented 3D puzzle cube + AR app

And don’t forget to pin this because you’ll want to find it next time you need to buy a really cool gift for the kid in your life. Trust me!


If you’re an 80s kid like me, I’m sure you’ll recall the frustration you felt trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube. You probably spent countless hours as a kid trying to solve it! Right?

Well, I brought Cube-tastic! home and my kiddo was able to solve this cube in a matter of minutes. Mind you I spent my entire childhood trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube… and never did! Did you?

Thanks to the power of 3D Augmented Reality, Cube-tastic! combines the virtual and real world to teach kids how to solve a puzzle cube. The companion app gives kids access step-by-step tutorials and challenges that stimulate the brain and help kids master skills like never before. What’s great is that Cube-tastic! enhances problem-solving skills, improves memory, and develops eye-hand coordination as kids work through the puzzle.

Watch this video to see Cube-tastic in action! Then read on to learn more about this reinvented 3D puzzle cube and how it works with the Cube-tastic app!

Cube-tastic isn’t Your Mom and Dad’s Rubik’s Cube

As soon as you open the packaging you’ll notice that this puzzle cube doesn’t look exactly like the traditional Rubik’s Cube you grew up with, although it is solved using the same problem-solving principles.

Cube-tastic! is a 3 x 3 cube puzzle with 6 sides, each side is made up of 12 cubes with colored circles. One of six different colors appears on each side.

Ever been frustrated by the Rubik's Cube? Now you can enjoy solving the Rubik's Cube with Pai Technology's Cube-tastic! A reinvented 3D puzzle cube + AR app

You’ll also immediately notice that unlike the Rubik’s Cube, the Cube-tastic! cube is largely white and the color on each square is actually a lightly textured plastic circle piece, not a sticker.

This unique puzzle cube also includes a great design — smooth edges that are perfect for little hands. It’s also made with safe, non-toxic, BPA free, durable materials! And as soon as you open your Cube-tastic! box you’ll notice how smoothly the segments move and how pleasantly unique and tactile this cube feels.

Ever been frustrated by the Rubik's Cube? Now you can enjoy solving the Rubik's Cube with Pai Technology's Cube-tastic! A reinvented 3D puzzle cube + AR app

You can snatch up one of these fantastic cubes for your puzzle-loving kid on Amazon via our affiliate link (we might receive a small commission but it won’t affect the price you pay). Cube-tastic! is suggested for kids ages 3 and up although I find it most ideal for kids between ages 7 to 9.

It’s also great for any big kid (yes mom and dad, I’m talking to you) who wants to finally learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Cube-tastic! really is a fun way to master one of the greatest puzzle challenges of all time! Whether you’re looking to just get it solved once and for all! Or maybe you’re interested in finally cracking into the thinking process behind the solution? Either way, now you can enjoy solving the Rubik’s Cube with Cube-tastic!

Become a Pro with Cube-tastic!

As you move into using the Cube-tastic! companion app you’ll appreciate the countless combinations that will help exercise both eye-hand coordination and brain function. What’s also nice is that as you get better at solving this 3D puzzle cube, you can level up for less help in solving it.

The goal of the game is to eventually become so good at it that you’ll solve the cube without any help. It’s the perfect way for kids to work on critical thinking, sequencing and puzzle solving skills while having a good time and building self-esteem, ultimately becoming successful at solving the cube all on their own. Oh, how I needed this when I was a kid!

Ever been frustrated by the Rubik's Cube? Now you can enjoy solving the Rubik's Cube with Pai Technology's Cube-tastic! A reinvented 3D puzzle cube + AR app
Since practicing his skills with Cube-tastic! he’s now moved on to trying to solve it on his own. He loves the challenge!

Solving the cube really is fun for all ages!

Using the Cube-tastic App

To get started you’ll have to download the Cube-tastic! app available for iOS and Android.

The Cube-tastic! companion app will guide you to solve this reinvented 3D puzzle cube with step-by-step tutorials and challenges to help you master the skill. Start play by scrambling the cube, then use the front-facing camera of your device to scan each side of the cube.

The app will clearly guide you through the entire process. However, scanning the cube may get tricky for younger kids and they might need some adult help. Make sure to keep a steady hand and scan your cube under good lighting. Otherwise, the app may have a hard time recognizing all six sides and will possibly ask you to scan again. As you can imagine, this can get a bit frustrating for young players so keep in mind that initially, they may need a bit of your help. Once you have ensured good lighting, go ahead and use the front-facing camera on your device to scan each side of the cube as instructed.

Ever been frustrated by the Rubik's Cube? Now you can enjoy solving the Rubik's Cube with Pai Technology's Cube-tastic! A reinvented 3D puzzle cube + AR app
Photo Credit: Pai Technology

The “Play” mode takes you step by step through animations that will help you solve your own cube. This mode is timed, so move quickly because the quicker you get it done the better your award at the end of the game. You’ll find several Trophies to unlock.

The app does include two modes — Play and Learn. Once you initially solve the cube in the “Play” mode, you’ll unlock the “Learn” mode and here is where playing with this cube becomes really interesting and fun!

Playing Cube-tastic in “Learn” Mode

Once you have solved the cube for the first time you’ll be able to access the “Learn” mode.

To begin you’ll be asked to scan each side of your cube by turning it so that the colored circle shown in the middle of the cube on the screen is facing up on your cube. You’ll be asked to do this six times, once for each side. Don’t worry the app will guide you each step of the way!

Ever been frustrated by the Rubik's Cube? Now you can enjoy solving the Rubik's Cube with Pai Technology's Cube-tastic! A reinvented 3D puzzle cube + AR app
Photo Credit: Pai Technology

Next, comes the fun part; the app will guide you through the proper twists and turns to return your cube back to its original matching sides. You’ll need to complete each stage to unlock the next. As you do this the app will show you several different options and you’ll have to choose the one that matches your cube. From there just follow the instructions.

Once a stage is complete you will have to scan your cube again to verify that your cube looks like the one on screen and this will unlock the next step. After unlocking all steps, you’ll be able to go back and practice any step in any order and now you can enjoy solving the Rubik’s Cube!

Keep in Mind: Kids might find it a bit frustrating to follow some of the instruction on their own so remind them to be patient and provide a little parent support along the way. My kiddo did get a little frustrated a first (he’s 8) but once he got the hang of it, he took off and no longer needed my help.

Why We Love Cube-tastic and Think You Will Too!

Solving this type of classic puzzle cube no longer has to be difficult and frustrating!

The Cube-tastic! 3D puzzle cube and it’s companion app is a brilliant way to help kids develop problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and critical thinking skills.

We also loved the tactile feel and design of this reinvented cube. The fact that the cube pieces turn so easily and have nice rounded edges makes it easy to play with and just perfect for little hands and big hands alike.