Toy inventor hits the big time
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
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.