Summer 2020

Kids as teachers

Courtesy SayKid

Early childhood is the most important time for brain development, yet more than half of kids in the United States lack access to high-quality preschool education. That led Carlson School of Management (CSOM) graduate and scholarship recipient DeLonn Crosby, ’03 B.S.B., to launch SayKid—a voice-technology company that created the world’s first screenless, ­Alexa-enabled learning platform in the form of a plush robot. SayKid was a finalist in the 2019 MN Cup competition and won the $25,000 Moonshot Prize, made possible by the donor-supported Dean’s Excellence Fund, at CSOM’s centennial celebration. 

What was the catalyst for SayKid? 

My son was a happy child who loved preschool and his teacher. That changed when a new teacher was unable to relate to him. It drove me to figure out how to help kids foster a love of learning, which stems from feeling competent, having agency, and feeling loved. The next step was developing a scalable means of fostering that that included bringing families together through play.

How does SayKid work?

Kids learn best through back-and-forth interaction, not sitting in front of a screen. SayKid prompts kids to understand and explain concepts through interactive experiences that adapt to varying ages and abilities, and promote critical thinking, language skills, and interpersonal communication. 

What difference did the Moonshot Prize make?

It helped us redesign SayKid in ways that benefit as many kids as possible—for example, kids that lack access to formal education and those with different abilities. Going to Carlson was once my moonshot, a goal that seemed out of reach. The day I got in, I stopped being afraid to think big.    

What’s the company doing right now?

We’ve been testing with schools. As a result of COVID-19, we’re focusing on parents as well. SayKid recently won the grand prize in Amazon’s Alexa EdTech Challenge and is a semifinalist in MN Cup 2020.  And I’ll be speaking at TEDxMinneapolis this fall.