This is part of a series giving you an insider’s view of the products coming out of Pittsburgh to change the world.
At first glance, Da Great Deity Dah might look like an action figure — but his superpower is that he is starting a revolution in the way our workforce is trained.
As the rapper alter ego of Damola Idowu, CEO of East Liberty-based Toyz Electronics, Da Great Deity Dah became a starting point for the mechanical engineer and his son Wole to create a methodology and product line to democratize STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics).
The elder Idowu is no stranger to hip-hop culture and entrepreneurship and has been at the intersection of the two fields for more than two decades. In 2002, Damola created Owners Illustrated, a business lifestyle publication in the hip-hop industry. That led to him covering the Rock the Mic Tour, where he had backstage access to Jay-Z, Beyoncé and 50 Cent, as well as the people who empowered their respective businesses.
With that behind him, he and Wole moved forward with Toyz Electronics, initially funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
Their idea was to allow students to start their STEAM journey by “telling their original superhero story” first by creating an avatar and then using it to learn how to design, make and sell their own products. Along the way, they gain skills that serve them as entrepreneurs or that they can bring to the workforce in other roles.
Both Idowus set themselves apart from their peers early in life — Damola, inspired by K.I.T.T, the fictional AI car from TV’s “Knight Rider,” enrolled at Syracuse University at 15 years old so he could become a mechanical engineer. Following in dad’s footsteps, Wole enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University at 15, and graduated at 20 with a degree in electronic and computer engineering as well as two minors, leading him to be awarded a Thiel 20 under 20 fellowship (now called the Thiel Fellowship).
The Toyz line follows curricula created at Carnegie Mellon.
In addition to learning skills, students can create a product that can be sold at the Toyz Store or any other marketplace, thereby creating a personal revenue stream for participants. Products can be action figures, like the one that Damola based on his rapper persona, or other types of products such as hats and clothing. The Toyz applications give students an exportable digital model that they can take to 3D printers or other output methods.
Father and son are hoping the curricula will be purchased for use within schools to help people from diverse backgrounds explore their best fit in the workforce of the future.
And Damola is a real-life example of the merger of creativity and entrepreneurship: Da Great Deity Dah is using his stage opportunities to promote Toyz and its unique methodology for STEAM learning.
Know of a product or service being developed in Pittsburgh or by a Pittsburgh-based company that is cool, is creating growth, or will change the world? Let David know via email.