Kids interested in honing their abilities in basketball or soccer typically don't have to look far to find a gym or soccer field to practice, but when it comes to improving robotics skills, that's not the case.
Ramier “Ray” Shaik aspires to change that, with the opening of techJOYnT in the Rockwell Plaza.
Following a gym-based business model, Shaik's company — which celebrated its grand opening on Monday — offers technologically-savvy parents a place where their kids, ages 4 to 17, can create, tinker and learn, at monthly memberships of $39; $99 for families. Game design, software application development and other classes will be offered at $10 an hour for members; $30 for nonmembers.
In the 12,200-square-foot space he leases at 8328 Glade Ave., Shaik also plans to offer teacher development classes and robotics-themed birthday parties.
“Kids can use their own creativity to build robots from modular parts,” he said. “Looking at, and touching, a three-dimensional robot, which can go from one place to another, gives them a remarkable spark on their faces.”
Using LEGO Mindstorms kits or TEXTRIX building systems from Pitsco Education, the students Shaik have coached have created everything from ball sorters, automatic toilet flushers and three-dimension printers to automatic scooters, automatic lawnmowers and iPad-operated helicopters, he said.
“They become problem-solvers,” Shaik said, “and realize why they need to take calculus.”
Shaik, 37, moved to Oklahoma from Flint, Mich., where he worked 11 years as a mechanical engineer for General Motors and Delphi Corp. For the past three years, he said he has operated Nowsoft LLC consulting firm for engineering companies and voluntarily taught and coached robotics at area libraries and schools, “testing the waters” for his start-up company.
His ultimate goal? To build techJOYnT to a $200 million-dollar company within four years and take it to an initial public offering. Among other things, he envisions code-activated robotics kits dispensed from vending machines in rural areas.
Shaik said software companies already have gifted the nonprofit foundation arm of his company thousands of dollars of free software.
Susana Rodriguez and Rosetta Funches embrace Shaik's vision.
“I've seen groups of young people given everyday household problems they've solved,” said Rodriguez, an intern with the firm and graduate student in computer science engineering at the University of Oklahoma.
Funches, an acryllic painter and sculptor and founder of the Oklahoma Black Museum and Performing Arts Center, strives to ensure students in northeast Oklahoma City are introduced to robotics.
“It's the wave of future business, and we need all minds,” Funches said. “We don't want our children left out of the mix, when it comes to science and technology.”