Alquimétricos
Index Award 2021 Finalists
Toys for Quarantine
Building STEAM toys to upskill the next generation

What’s the design in a nutshell?
Toys for Quarantine, by company Alquimétricos, is an open-source method to bring tech resources and learning to low-income communities so they can build their own educational resources and engage with a global network of STEAM Open Educational Resources (OERs) developers.

Why is it needed?
According to STE(A)M Truck, the top skills needed to succeed in the 21st-century are critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity and innovation. STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) have been identified as one of the key learning methods to achieve this and the earlier kids begin to learn through a STEAM framework, the quicker they develop these key skills.

But in developing areas and poorer regions of the world, the focus on education is not always first priority or accessible. In 2018, four out of five poor people lived in rural areas and of these, half were children. Around 70% of the global poor above 15 have no schooling or just some basic education. These are bleak numbers to begin with, but due to the pandemic, extreme global poverty rose for the first time in 25 years – forcing an additional 120 million people into poverty.

How does it work?
Based in Brazil, Alquimétricos is determined to provide the access needed to bring STEAM learning into low-resource households. They do this through an international community of designers, educators, and artists who’ve committed to providing educational resources for the world's vulnerable communities while making them environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

They produce and teach a variety of building block systems using simple tools and recycled materials, as well as digital fabrication equipment. They have online guidelines and videos that users can download and freely remix and share. In short, the e-learning platform inspires them to use what they have to build creative toys at home.

"In developing areas and poorer regions of the world, the focus on education is not always first priority or accessible."

How does it improve life? 
Toys for Quarantine wants to empower challenged communities to solve their own educational challenges. As many of the 20th-century jobs have and will disappear as we know them by the end of the decade, there’s a need and responsibility for upskilling the next generation. 

“During the current Covid-19 pandemic, we detected most children belonging to vulnerable communities were having poor access to education and almost no science and technology practices at all. We packed all our educational content on our website and released them for free so educators, families, and social initiatives can access them and channel them to the children, perhaps fabricating the actual toys with their own resources at home,” says Founder Carlos Fernando Daguanno.

What’s the impact to date or projected impact?
Over the past years, Alquimétricos and Toys for Quarantine’s work have not gone unnoticed. They’ve won several awards, including the MIT Media Lab Creative Learning challenge's fellowship. They’ve already engaged with more than 12,000 children in workshops, play sessions and street interventions and trained almost 1000 teachers in 150 workshops in 50 cities in 10 countries. They have active hubs developing educational materials in Spanish, Portuguese and English languages in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina.