A West Hartford resident, who previously invented a life-saving kidney device, is now inspiring future engineers and taking ‘STEM’ to a new fun level through Snapology.
By Michelle Bonner
Inside a classroom of West Hartford’s Unitarian Universalist Church, 8½-year-old Matthew is trying to figure out which gear to use for the robot he is building.
At first glance, Matthew could be using any basic DIY kit, but the components are being used to build a solar-powered robot, part of the Renewable Energy Robotics class offered by the new West Hartford-based franchise, Snapology.
Regardless of the level of difficulty, the natural impulse is for Matthew to reach for the instructions or manual that came with the hundreds of pieces laying on the table that could be inclusive of any LEGO set found on toy store shelves. In this instance, however, there are no instructions. While the kids are guided through a series of steps in pursuit of an end result, the roadmap is one that is traveled with nothing more than instinct and creativity, which is the fundamental philosophy behind the Snapology brand.
“The real world doesn’t have an instruction manual,” says Paras Patani, the owner of Snapology of Hartford-West. “So, my goal is to get kids to be able to create solutions without instructions. Following the step-by-step instructions that come with a LEGO set allows kids to build someone else’s ideas, which certainly has its place. But teaching kids how to build something without a written guide inspires creativity and provides opportunities to innovate and think like engineers, and who knows, they just might end up building something even better.”
With personalized lesson plans based on a variety of themes including animals, space, sports, as well as Minecraft, Pokémon, and Star Wars, Snapology provides a flexible class structure allowing children to be challenged at their own pace, using familiar objects in unfamiliar ways while incorporating the use of LEGO bricks. Beyond engineering and robotics, which are offered to students as young as 4 years old, Snapology also provides kids the opportunity to create amazing movies and design their own video games.
Students work in teams to create their own storyboard, develop their characters, build LEGO landscapes and scenes. and produce their movie or game on a computer complete with dialogue, graphics, lighting, and sound effects.
Also offered is a chance to travel to the Nether dimension in the popular Minecraft series. Students as young as 5 years old are challenged to create their own worlds out of LEGO bricks with the inclusion of animals, creepers, and their very own Minecraft character.
And one-size does not fit all. Snapology has created three levels for this offering – Basic, Advanced, and Epic.
Snapology’s mission is to provide children with an opportunity to engage in “playful learning” activities that stimulate their creativity and spark an interest in learning. “That’s the best part,” adds Patani. “They’re having so much fun, they don’t even realize they’re learning. Next thing you know, they’re telling you why there doesn’t need to be a suspension bridge when going over Trout Brook.”
Patani’s insatiable curiosity to learn how things work began when he was a child. “I’ve always loved to take things apart. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at putting things back together.”
His infatuation for problem-solving and innovation led him to become a Robotics Engineer and just six years ago Patani founded Castle Surgical following his invention of a life-saving kidney cancer surgical device.
“Today, when a patient has kidney cancer, most surgeons remove the entire kidney, even though 90 percent of the kidney is still good and functions normally. They don’t have the necessary instruments to properly isolate and excise just the tumor, a procedure called ‘partial nephrectomy,’ without significant patient complications. Instead, most doctors block blood flow to the entire organ and, as a result, those patients undergo a radical nephrectomy (the removal of the kidney) and are six times more likely to die in the 10-year post-op period than their peers who underwent a partial nephrectomy. With the device we created, surgeons are able to excise just the tumor and leave the rest of the patient’s original kidney alone.”
The technology offers the potential to improve patient clinical outcomes, reduce the risk of surgical complications and lower treatment costs for kidney cancer surgery by 85 percent vs. the current standard of care.
Patani’s life-saving clamp has been recognized in the medical community, but due to a lack of funding he has been unable to bring the device to market. In the meantime, Patani’s 4-year old daughter has inspired him to share his love of technology with the hopes of inspiring the next generation of technology leaders.
“The emphasis today on STEM is critical for their future success. Snapology provides kids with an incredible foundation from which to apply what they learn in school. Just don’t tell them it’s educational.”
Snapology was recently listed as one of the Top 100 New Franchises by Entrepreneur Magazine. Locally, Snapology was recently awarded Hulafrog’s 2017 Award for Most Loved STEM program.
For more information on after-school classes; summer, winter and spring recess camps; and themed LEGO birthday parties, visit the Snapology website.
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