An inventor and special education teacher found that his students needed an easy method of counting coins in everyday living situations and he addressed the problem by designing the Coin-U-Lator. Instead of standard numbers, as on a regular calculator, the Coin-U-Lator uses buttons that resemble pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar bills. The device also has an “oops” button which would subtract out the last entry if an error was made. Each push of a “monetary” button is automatically added to the total. In performing addition, fewer steps are required with the Coin-U-Lator than with a regular calculator. The Coin-U-Lator is primarily for individuals with special learning needs or cognitive challenges to assist them with counting change. The Coin-U-Lator also has two learning games that teach money values as players match random money amounts that have been programmed into the Coin-U-Lator. Working with an engineer, the inventor built a prototype to show manufacturers.
The inventor applied for and received a patent for his invention. However, after researching manufacturing costs for the calculator, he found the costs to be too high to pursue this option on his own. After two years of ‘shopping’ the invention directly to manufacturers with no success, the inventor learned of the T2RERC project from a colleague and decided to submit his invention to the T2RERC for evaluation and assistance in licensing to a manufacturer.
Upon receipt of the inventor’s submission, the T2RERC, as the inventor had already defined a problem and solution, began its involvement at Stage 2 of the NtK model, Scoping, and performed a competitive product and patent search via the Internet to ascertain uniqueness of the invention. From there the T2RERC involvement focused on due diligence in the invention phase verifying, analyzing, and prioritizing customer needs and performing a detailed technical assessment of the prototype. In our research/fact finding efforts the T2RERC also identified a significant secondary market for the invention which we felt would greatly assist in enticing a company to license the invention. The T2RERC then authored a Commercialization Package compiling all the intellectual property, marketing, technical, and consumer information on the invention that had been generated by the T2RERC and the inventor. This Commercialization Package was then ‘shopped’ to educational product companies and PCI Educational Publishing licensed the invention.
Upon licensing the Coin-U-Lator, PCI finalized the business case started by the T2RERC, generated a development plan, tested the Coin-U-Lator with real users and sent several samples to schools for additional longer term testing, ascertained how the Coin-U-Lator fit into their production and capacity plans, and completed Stage 7: Production Planning and Preparation and launched the product. From a promotion strategy standpoint, PCI first contacted several Internet E-commerce web sites, such as Yahoo Shopping and Precision Web for selling of the Coin-U-Lator. Through the Internet, the Coin-U-Lator was first introduced as an educational toy for children. PCI then added the Coin-U-Lator to its catalogs which are widely distributed to educators nationwide and sales took off.
Continue production, monitoring, and support: The Coin-U-Lator is a very successful product selling over 100,000 units in the first few years. Now over a decade later it is still being sold by PCI to educators and consumers nationwide.
Troubleshoot and correct problems: This is the ongoing responsibility of the licensing entity, PCI, who is manufacturing the product in China for distribution in the United States.
Review performance against expectations: The ongoing sales success of the Coin-u-Lator has spawned ancillary products such as Coin-U-Lator worksheets, Coin-U-Lator activity cards and other electronic and non electronic money counting devices being sold by PRO-ED Inc, a company who acquired PCI Education in 2012. The Coin-U-Lator can be purchased through numerous retailers, including PRO-ED Inc, Amazon, and EnableMart.