Maze-O, a colorful plastic maze building set, is one step closer to hitting toy store shelves thanks to Proto Labs (NYSE:PRLB), which awarded the start-up a Cool Idea! Award.
Cool Idea! Award winner, Maze-O builds great tracks for cars and other toys. (Photo: Jessica Friedman of Maze-O)Proto Labs, the world’s fastest manufacturer of CNC machined and injection molded parts, launched the Cool Idea! Award in 2011 to give product designers the opportunity to bring their innovations to life by awarding up to $250,000 worth of prototyping and short-run production services to recipients. Maze-O is the first toy to receive the award. Proto Labs provided Maze-O with injection molded parts for the initial working prototypes used to market the toy to potential distributors at New York City’s Toy Fair 2013 in February. The Maze-O journey began in 2012 when Dan and Jessica Friedman discovered that their son loved creating mazes with wooden blocks. Those mazes would inevitably be knocked over by younger siblings, causing great frustration. The Friedmans set out to find a sturdy maze-building toy with pieces that linked together so that it could be used with cars and other toys. Unable to find such a toy, they decided to create it themselves. The result is a set of brightly colored ramps, straights, turns, T-junctions, and dead-ends. “Mazes are everywhere in a kid’s world—restaurant placemats, cereal boxes, and even computer games—but there is no physical play kit that kids can use to build original mazes,” says Jessica Friedman, Maze-O co-creator. “Kids are creative and many enjoy completing mazes and puzzles. It was a sort of light bulb moment that went off in our heads believing a toy like this can exist.”