Ethan Wadsworth '17 and the PowerCLIX toy he has helped develop.
In the midst of finishing high school and applying to colleges, one Bay Ridge Prep senior has also found time to work on a new educational toy being sold internationally. For the last two years, Ethan Wadsworth '17 has been working with Guidecraft, the makers of PowerCLIX. The "Explorer Series" of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) toy features characters, packaging and comic guides created and designed by Wadsworth.
The "opportunity of a lifetime", as Wadsworth described it in an interview published on the Guidecraft website, started in tenth grade when he was an intern for the company and showed his boss his sketchbook. A few months later, the head of the company contacted him about a new toy and the need for characters that children could personify and use as an element of dramatic play. Based on his previous sketches, they felt his work was friendly, accessible and had a global point of view. It also helped that his appreciation of Japanese illustration and toy design came through in his work. Guidecraft felt his style would appeal to both western and Asian markets.
"It feels cool because now I can get my own work out there and create toys that I would've loved to play with when I was a child," Wadsworth said.
According to Wadsworth, it took about a year to develop the first set, which is space-themed. To do that, he and the team at Guidecraft first needed to figure out what exactly they wanted the toy to be and what they wanted the outcome of the project to be. The next set of characters, based on architecture, took about six months to design. In addition to creating a main character, Wadsworth also created the story around each character and the world that they live in.
Wadsworth said that he and Guidecraft purposefully made the characters gender neutral so that any child could identify with any character. A strong focus on STEAM was also taken into account when thinking about each character's background.
Ethan at work in the Guidecraft offices.
Photo courtesy of Guidecraft
His work with Guidecraft has allowed him to be part of Toy Fair NY, the toy industry's largest annual convention, and gain an incredible amount of exposure to professional working environments before even entering college.
"It's been an amazing learning experience," Wadsworth said. "My boss has taught me a lot about toy design and marketing and I've started to understand more about packaging, storytelling, the philosophy of STEAM toys and the business side of the toy industry."
Wadsworth, who has been a Bay Ridge Prep student since fourth grade, plans to study 3D animation during college. He just recently taught himself 2D animation on Adobe Animate.
Founded in 1998, Bay Ridge Prep is an independent, K-12 college preparatory school offering exceptional courses and intimate class sizes in a socially-mature and positive environment.
> More about Guidecraft Toys
> More about PowerCLIX