Taylor got the idea for ChewBots by watching his mother throw a toy to her dog.
“The dog was happy, but I could tell that mom was getting tired and bored with the game,” Taylor said. “When I realized it was a repetitive task, I immediately thought of robots.”
Taylor is no novice to robotics. He helped build a robot for the national FIRST Robotics Competition when he was a freshman at Paideia High School in Atlanta. High school teams from across the nation are assigned a task and given a kit of parts and a budget to build and operate a robot.
“When we programmed our guy to play tic-tac-toe, I fell in love. Nothing could stop me from building robots,” Taylor said.
In fact, he built one that walked across the stage and accepted his high school diploma at graduation.
“The principal said that I had to come up personally and shake his hand, but he handed the diploma to the robot,” he said.
Besides his mechanical engineering major, Taylor is working toward a certificate in finance, which he believes will prove useful for future entrepreneurial ventures . While robots have proven invaluable in manufacturing and medicine, Taylor thinks the field is wide open for personal, day-to-day applications, such as dog toys.
Having built robots for other competitions, Taylor enrolled in Georgia Tech’s student-led Startup Semester program in fall 2012. The program is a startup accelerator program for students who have entrepreneurial aspirations. It was then that he built his first prototypes for ChewBots.
“It’s been a wild ride. I told people that sleep, robots and school were consuming all my time, and something had to go. Turns out, it was sleep,” he said. “I don’t know how many hours I have (invested) in ChewBots. I’d do my homework and then stay up late working on them.”
As Taylor explained to the InVenture judges, the dog toy industry in the United States generates about $50 billion in sales every year and dog ownership is at an all-time high. Yet, there has been little innovation in the market. The toys are either designed for chewing or they make squeaking noises.
Taylor adapted existing toys to design a snowman and a pig that vibrate, and a duck on wheels that moves and changes direction at will. He tested his models on friends’ canines at the Piedmont Dog Park near his apartment.
“I underestimated a dog’s ability to chew through anything, so I’m using more resilient materials now, but the reaction from the dogs has been very positive. They love chasing them,” he said.
Some dog owners have asked Taylor to sell them ChewBots, so Taylor is keeping a list of prospective clients and has launched a website (www.chewbots.co). He plans to market the toys in the $15 to $25 range.