Get to Know Us! Featuring Product Manager, Nancy Balter

How long have you worked at Educational Insights?

I started here in 2005, so eight years.

What drew you to working here?

I was a teacher. I had been a teacher for 11 years and I really enjoyed it, but I was ready for a change. I wanted to stay in education, and I found this job off monster.com and it looked interesting. That’s how I wound up here!

So, you taught math and science, right?

Yes, 7th and 8th grade. It’s fun because the kids are old enough to talk and interact with the teacher, but they’re young enough to come running into the room and say, “What are we doing today, Mrs. Balter!”

What was your favorite toy growing up?

It might have to be my stuffed rabbit, Marshmallow, which I still have in my closet.

What’s your favorite toy here at EI?

My current favorite might be the Solar System Mapping Tool, just because that’s my idea. I find it useful, and I think it’s fun and cool to take your class out. I love the idea that you instantaneously understand relative distances in the solar system with it.

In terms of my kids, my favorite toy is the Wonder World Map. It’s a gigantic map with velcro locations that you take on and off; it’s a map of the world. That thing has been growing with my kids since day one. As babies, it hung over the changing table, so when they were frustrated with their diaper changes, they could just pull the pieces off and throw them on the floor. And now as they’re getting older, they’re interested in what’s on the map, where things go, and where we live. My sister’s been doing that with her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter (I gave her one). That map is just super cool. It looks good on the wall! It’s a really great product.

Are there any products that you got the okay for, but never got manufactured?

Oh yeah, there are a whole bunch of things. Last year, we had a math game that the inventor of Inching Along sent us that I liked that involved using a balance scale, and that never got manufactured.

How is your life outside of work? What is life like for Nancy outside of the office?

Chasing two children around. That is all I do. I do love it—sometimes it’s boring, but most of the time I love it. I either pick up the kids or have my husband home with the kids, and we chase them around or try to get them to consume something and change their diaper, or usher them into the potty!

How old are your kids?

I have a 3 –year-old and a sixteen-month old. They’re perfect and they stand around being cute all day.

Do you have any kind of thing you do that gets your creativity flowing?

Right now as my kids are getting older, watching them and seeing what they’re interested in and seeing what they’re doing in school helps a lot in terms of my creativity and coming up with product ideas. Searching online helps a lot. Just before I came here I was actually just looking on YouTube to see what people are doing with the metric system. Seeing what teachers are doing now also helps a lot.

I sometimes laugh that the only free time I have is when I shower or when I drive. And, honestly, that’s when I come up with most of my ideas because you can’t do anything else but think when you’re in the shower or driving. That’s pretty much where I get my inspiration.

List of Favorites:

Favorite animal?

Rabbits.

Favorite color?

Blue.

Favorite season?

Well, I was born on the first day of spring, so spring.

Favorite movie?

I love The Shawshank Redemption.

Favorite food?

There’s a coconut soup that I love at Thai restaurants…and really good pizza. Chocolate, always. The hip things that I love at the moment are goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. Over the summer, blackberries and mangoes.

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Get to Know Us! Featuring Product Manager, James Tu

How long have you worked at Educational Insights?

For a very short period of time, actually. I started last February.

What drew you to working here?

Actually, a connection! Nancy Balter is related to my wife. We moved here to California from New York last June. So I left a user-experience design job there.

For that company, we worked on a lot of non-traditional user experiences. One of the biggest projects that we worked on was for the World Expo in 2010. Our company was tasked to design the visitor experience for one of the pavilions, the Shanghai corporate pavilion. We did everything from the queuing experience, lining up to get ticket, and figuring out what to do while you’re getting tickets. We had to design something to do while they were waiting. So we did things like videos and interactivity, where you can control some of the lighting patterns for that building. All in sort of preparing visitors for the inside of the pavilion. So they go inside and they were treated to this multi media show. Some of the stuff is interactive, and in the end, they get lead into this big theatre where they experience this interactive film.

When I relate my past experience to my experience here, I say that I make large-scale toys. Everything is a user experience. Kids will manipulate things, press on buttons, and listen to the content. When you’re designing a product, you’re really crafting a user experience. I’m just taking my experience from designing things in spaces to products.

How do you like it here so far?

Its great! The people are great; the things I work on are really cool.

What was your favorite toy growing up?

I liked Lego building blocks, and I liked some of the electronic toys like speak and spell with the funny electronic voices. The interesting thing is that now in the age of high fidelity with amazing sound and images, if the use experience isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how good your media is. So although back then those toys were “low tech”, the designs of the products were still pretty good. The speak and spell really taught you how to spell things, and there were others like speak and math.

What’s your favorite toy here at EI?

I haven’t experienced all the products, but we used to carry Blokus. It was a board game that I first connected a product with EI and that’s how I got to know EI. I like KaBam! It’s really cool. Play foam is an interesting product. BBQ Blitz is a good product that I’ve seen kids really gravitate towards. I gave it to my niece and she really loved it; she was flipping the burgers and matching them up. I think that it’s just a nicely designed game for that age group. Blurt is also pretty good.

What is life for you outside of work?

Well right now we have an 8-month-old daughter, and she’s basically everything right now, like our lives center around her. She’s actually an inspiration to me. Well, she’s too young right now, but eventually, hopefully I’m designing things with her in mind. Also, I’m trying to be fit. I used to play a lot of volleyball. I’m a big competitive volleyball player in high school and college, so coming out here to the beach and seeing all these volleyball nets makes me kind of want to get into it. I sort of did, but I need more time!

List of Favorites:

Favorite animal?

This is kind of silly and simple, but I really want a dog! It’s kind of a boring answer.

Favorite color?

Blue

Favorite season?

I really like Fall. I like the changing colors of the leaves, and I actually like fall fashion. Fall is a nice in between where you see people layering.

Favorite team?

I don’t actually follow professional sports in that way, so I don’t necessarily have a favorite sports team. But I’m rooting for Brazil for the Olympics volleyball team.

Favorite food?

I love Ramen.

Favorite movie?

I really like Cinema Paradiso. It’s an Italian movie about this kid who really loves movies. Eventually he becomes the projectionist in this theatre, but they would censor movies take out all these kissing scenes. But in he end, he takes all the kissing scenes and turns into one big movie. It’s good.

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Get to Know Us! Featuring Product Manager, Brent Geppert

How long have you worked at Educational Insights?

I’ve worked here for 2 years.

How do you like it?

I hate it. [Laughs]. No, I’m just joking. It’s wonderful. Incredible. It’s a dream job in many ways. I get to make toys, make games, and play games with the kids. It’s awesome. I love it.

What drew you to working here?

I was attracted to being able to develop something that would enrich kids. Its fun, but there’s also enrichment and educational value. There’s something about just building toys and games that are educational and all that that’s exciting to me.

I have a little background in this but I am not, by trade, a product manager. I’ve done marketing and whole slew of different types of things. So, this is a very new thing for me. I don’t come from a huge background of developing toys and games, but I had a lot of experience as a kid.

When I was a teenager I had my own skateboard company. I’ve always had a creative flair. My dad was an incredible craftsman and woodworker. He could make anything out of anything! He would make suits of armor out of cardboard, he would do spaceships and swords, and I just watched him!

So what was amazing was that when I got this job, it all just came out and I was able to do just all this… All these great things.

I’m an artist too, I can paint, I can do so many things, and it all just came together in this job.

So you invented the EI Puppets. Tell me about that.

I love puppets, I grew up watching the Muppets and with my boys… I’ll put a sock on my hand, and boom, instant puppet! Anything can be a puppet! A dinner roll can be a puppet. A pillow. Anything. That’s what I would do with my kids… have fun little puppet shows. All kids love puppets.

Somehow I realized, hey, puppets are great. How about come up with a new kind of puppet? Something that kids could use…something that’s easy. Something that’s fun, that’s imaginative.

What was your favorite toy growing up?

It was called Fisher Techniques. It was this building set from Germany. We played with Fisher Techniques for hours and hours. All the different combinations of pieces. They’re very durable. Once you put something together, you were able to play with it.

What’s your favorite toy here?

Well I am partial to the puppets, but I love play foam! It never gets old.

What was your most unconventional inspiration?

Well, I came up with the talking bug net. So, I love bugs. I am always looking at bugs. If I see a bug, I’ll stop and I’ll look at it. I’ll try to pick it up as long as it doesn’t have a stinger.

My sixth grade teacher had a praying mantis in the room, and it was just the coolest looking thing. We went away on a weekend and the mantis layed an eggsack and it had hatched, and there were baby praying mantises all over the room! So that was really cool to me!

So a couple years ago, I bought my own praying mantis at a gardening supply store. I got one, hatched it myself, and I just watched them! So that was where I thought it would be cool to have an electronic praying mantis!

There are more bugs on the planet than humans by far. They’ve been here forever, and they probably will be until the Earth blows up! You know, roaches have been here since dinosaurs and they’ll stay here.

Bugs are fascinating to me, so I took that inspiration from  my excitement from bugs and made the talking bug net.

What’s your favorite animal?

I think most animals are really fascinating. But I think I’m fascinated by… well here’s another inspiration. You know the fish puppets? The deep sea angler?

Deep sea creatures are really fascinating to me. For one, they’re weird, and for 2 they’re just unbelievable that they can survive at the depths of the ocean. So, I’d say deep sea angler if I had to pick one.

What’s a day in the life of Brent outside of work?

Well I’m a father on two very active young boys who are constantly moving and wanting to interact with me whether it’s playing a video game, basketball, or wrestling.

How old are your boys?

6 and 8. So, I do a lot of that. [laughs] I also love surfing, and I brew beer!

List of Favorites: 

Favorite color?

Blue

Favorite season?

Summer

Favorite team?

Lakers

Favorite movie?

I’m a world war history enthusiast…

Saving Private Ryan (Drama) and Forest Gump (feel good)

Favorite food?

Carne Asada Burritos!

Check out our Puppets in Parent’s Magazine!

Kai and Lex are ready for their close-up! Check out our adorable Puppet-On-A-Stick™ feature in the February issue of Parent’s Magazine. Puppet-On-A-Stick™ is a great way to pass the time when that winter chill keeps you indoors. Get your own at: http://www.educationalinsights.com/product/puppet-on-a-stick–8482-+(set+of+3).do