Toy in­ven­tor hits the big time

Bay News - - FRONT PAGE - By Re­becca Mauger

IF you’ve ever played wa­ter pis­tols with kids, you will know that half the time is spent fill­ing the pesky things up. An­noy­ing.

An­drew Parker was en­joy­ing a nice sunny af­ter­noon with his sons play­ing wa­ter fights but the con­stant fill­ing up was “do­ing my head in”. It gave him an idea though.

“I re­ally didn’t un­der­stand it. You’ve got this tiny hole to fill up wa­ter while air is try­ing to get out... decades of toy mak­ing and they still can’t make the hole any big­ger?”

So he filled up the bath, grabbed an ice­cream con­tainer, stabbed a few holes in it and tracked the time it took to fill two litres. Even­tu­ally he got it to fill in less than a sec­ond... an “aha” mo­ment.

With the help of toy-mak­ing gi­ants Zuru, An­drew’s in­ven­tion, the X-Shot Fast Fill now sits in re­tail stores in 121 coun­tries, in­clud­ing at Wal­marts. Lo­cally they're on The Ware­house and Kmart shelves across New Zealand and Aus­tralia. The Fast Fill joins the Zuru X-Shot blaster range.

An­drew, from Greer­ton, had his idea in late 2015 while re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken neck. Ear­lier that year the dodge­ball ath­lete was train­ing at a tram­po­line park and at­tempted a run­ning dou­ble back­flip off a plat­form. He broke his neck in three places, rip­ping his left shoul­der mus­cle and in­jur­ing his scapula.

He had to quit his job as a tiler and shower in­staller and didn’t work for more than two years. Dur­ing those first few weeks home from hos­pi­tal wear­ing a ster­nal oc­cip­i­tal mandibu­lar im­mo­biliser (SOMI) brace when sons Tay­lor, 10, and Kur­tis, 5, were play­ing wa­ter fights. The Fast Fill was born.

An­drew carved early gun mod­els from wood, taught him­self CAD (com­puter aided de­sign) and played around with 18 de­signs to cre­ate a bar­rel that ejects air and fills at a faster rate than other wa­ter guns.

Al­to­gether, 900 hours were spent on de­sign and draw­ing, An­drew says. He cre­ated a pro­to­type made of wood and plas­tic and called it “the plunge”.

An­drew was work­ing to­wards a diploma of ap­plied com­puter sci­ence at Toi Ohoimai.

His gun idea was dis­missed as unim­por­tant at the time, he says. “I got told to for­get about it.” An­drew surged ahead re­gard­less while other in­ven­tions were form­ing (and are un­der­way now). The cor­re­spon­dence with Zuru— which pro­duces the mas­sively pop­u­lar Bunch O Bal­loons— in­cluded send­ing a video of the first work­ing pro­to­type. An­drew sent the pro­to­type in a box which in­cluded Mar­mite, Pineap­ple Lumps, Milo and Farm­bake cook­ies. He was soon con­tacted by Zuru own­ers and a year later had signed a con­tract with them.

An­drew is full of ideas. His new com­pany In­ner Va­tion has three more toys ready to be man­u­fac­tured. There is an­other par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing me­chan­i­cal in­ven­tion, which can’t be di­vulged just yet. He has also started an in­de­pen­dent gam­ing com­pany, PGI, which will build games com­pet­ing against the likes of Fort­nite.

An­drew has had strug­gles in his life. As a young man and bouncer at a night club, he was beaten se­verely and had to learn to walk and talk again. The neck in­jury means he still suf­fers from chronic pain. His en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit has helped him through though, he says, along with sup­port­ive part­ner Alana Wil­liams and sons. He is thrilled he will soon be in a po­si­tion to give back to the com­mu­nity.

You’ve got this hole to fill up wa­ter while air is try­ing to get out ... decades of toy mak­ing and they still can’t make the

big­ger? An­drew Parker hole any

Photo / An­drew Warner

An­drew Parker has had his in­ven­tion, a toy gun, mass pro­duced and it’s now on shelves.

The first pro­to­type which went on to be­come the X-Shot Fast Fill.

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