Authenticity is the keyword that defines Super Nano Trucks, a new app designed for kids ages 3-8. The app allows kids to manage their own ready mix plant and to learn more about the concrete industry beyond the truck toys they play with.
Super Nano Trucks is a collaboration between Ozinga Bros Inc. and Bughouse Inc., a Chicago-based kids app and toy company. Bughouse’s co-founders John Ostler and Heather Brown worked with Ozinga Bros Inc., a fourth-generation construction company based in Chicago, to design the app. Ostler and Brown toured the company, getting inside the truck, learning about the different mixes for different projects, and learning about the concrete production process. All of this was done to make sure that the look and experience of the app showcased an authentic feel of working in a ready-mixed plant.
“We asked ourselves how can we be authentic so that someone who works at Ozinga can download it for their kids and say, ‘Yes this is right,’” says Ostler.
The idea of the app was to take kids’ first exposure to the ready-mix industry, through playing with trucks in sandboxes, and take that experience further. “The goal was to remove some of the abstractions. When we were growing up we had trucks and sandboxes. We usually never got any further on how cool they looked and basics of how a bucket gets dumped,” says Ostler.
And it looks like they’ve achieved just that according to Tim Ozinga, Co-Owner of Ozinga Bros Inc., “We are a family company. So a lot of the people I heard from said, that they couldn’t get their kids to stop playing with it.” Ozinga was heavily involved in the development of the app working with Bughouse through storyboards, and constant communication.
“I was really impressed with working with Bughouse and the fact that they wanted to get inside a plant and had that type of feature characteristic in there. It’s pretty cool that you can drive a truck into our plant, which is fashioned after our plant in Chicago,” says Ozinga The app has, “all kinds of little details that you might not pick up on at first, but from a load ticket being generated to the driver… I think the whole functionality of having the live concrete plant is really neat.”
In the app, kids are welcomed by a narrator to “the world of Super Nano Truck.” From there, kids can begin a “mission” mode where they can complete tasks and earn hardhats for each mission completed. They can choose from five trucks and learn how each different mix is made for different projects.
Kids learn how to mix concrete, laid it into a concrete mixer, deliver to a building site, and then control the trucks throughout the game. Kids can also use the innovative features such as using a CB radio to talk to other construction workers in the game and gain awards for safety within the app.
Kids using the app can also choose not to go into a mission mode, and instead go into builder mode. There, they can simply create their own world by building sidewalks, roads, etc. “No two worlds will be the same in the app,” says Brown.
The app is also parent-friendly, allowing parents to set a timer for how long their kids can play within the app. When the timer runs out, the break whistle comes down and the workers in the game “take a break” just like they would in the real world. It’s part of a real-world narrative built into the app that makes sense for kids, while allowing parents to control the screen time without fuss.
Not only did Ostler and Brown want to create an app that was fun and educational, they wanted to create an app that was inclusive. They’ve made the app race and gender neutral. By being inclusive, the goal is to expose the industry to more people and promote diversity.
The apps development comes at a critical time in the concrete and construction industry as an aging workforce leaves the industry. A new generation will need to take over these critical infrastructure jobs, and it may take some time. Super Nano Trucks could inspire a new generation of young kids to want to get trained in the construction industry.
Bughouse is working on upgrades to the app that will include possibly incorporating Ozinga’s natural gas truck fleet and expanding to other vocational focused apps.