Imperial College London

Imperial alumni launch Tio, the invention kit to inspire tomorrow's inventors


Team Tio

A team of Imperial alumni have launched an invention kit that allows children to make remote controlled toys from the contents of the recycling bin.

Tio, which launched on crowd-funding site Kickstarter yesterday, is a kit to create app-controlled toys and inventions with everyday objects. Using Tio the user can transform any combination of objects and materials - from drink bottles and 3D prints to old toys and gadgets - into app-controlled machines with moving parts.

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The Tio team is made up of Peter Spence and Ashley Wiltshire, both Innovation Design Engineering alumni, and Mario Morello. Their goal is to inspire tomorrow’s inventors with a new way of inventing, playing and learning together.

Tio allows children and adults to create remote controlled toys and inventions. The versatile kit allows the user to animate objects using motorised building blocks with built-in LEDs, magnetic mounts and colourful wheels.Tio Kit  

The kit is supported by a free iOS and Android app which allows the user to communicate wirelessly with the creations to customise and program them. The app controls many features like motor speed and direction as well as LED colours, rotation and patterns. 

During the testing phase, children and adults used the kit to create inventions from a spinning duplo carousel and a water bottle racer, to a flapping butterfly and a 3D-printed buggy.

The idea for Tio originated back in 2014 when co-founder Peter Spence was a student on Imperial and the Royal College of Art’s Innovation Design Engineering course. As part of his project work he decided to create a product to fuse craft and tech with the aim of inspiring a new generation of designers, engineers and inventors.

Peter Spence

A young Peter Spence


Peter said: “I've always loved making my own creations. As a kid I spent most of my time making with anything I could get my hands on, whether that be Lego, cereal boxes or old toys. I love the process of creation, exploring materials, testing ideas and seeing my imagination emerge into a tangible invention.

“This passion naturally evolved into the goal of transforming one of my ideas into a product to enable kids to imagine, create and reinvent with anything. I vividly remember building a wooden racing car with my grandpa and the urge to get it moving and racing like a real car. However, my main challenge was that the wheels only turned with a little help from gravity. This got me thinking… what if I was able to make anything move? What if there was a magical engine to do that?

“Fast forward 20 years and following an engineering degree, I set out to invent my dream toy to be enjoyed by kids of all ages.”

Tio won the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs Varsity Pitch competition which aimed to find the greatest college and university entrepreneurs in Britain. The competition was judged by a panel of technology industry leaders who were positive about the impact Tio could have in enthusing young people about engineering and STEM.

You can find Tio and learn more about the product on Kickstarter

transform any combination of objects and materials - from drink bottles and 3D prints to old toys and gadgets - into app-controlled machines with moving parts


Jon Narcross

Jon Narcross
Communications and Public Affairs

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