A Purdue University-affiliated startup is gaining national attention this holiday season from an online publication for its STEM-focused game for children. Explore Interactive has made TechCrunch’s top holiday toy list for its MindLabs product.

The MindLabs: Energy and Circuits pack allows children to use augmented reality via mobile devices to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics while having hands-on fun.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Explore Interactive Chief Executive Officer Amanda Thompson said the exposure to the TechCrunch readers is invaluable.

“We’re just a little company and breaking through the noise is pretty hard in our segment. We’re pretty excited that for this holiday season, we can claim this,” said Thompson.

MindLabs allows a child to point a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, at a series of cards. Users learn how to make an electric circuit by virtually connecting wires and batteries without an actual risk to children. It requires a digital app, physical cards, and augmented reality to learn core science concepts.

“We’re a product that a lot of people don’t quite understand right out of the gate because it’s, ‘Oh, augmented reality and what’s going on?’ So, we have that issue of customer education. And so, the tech crowd is a good one for us to help to address in this first Christmas season,” explained Thompson.

In 2018, Thompson was a guest on the INnovators with Dr. K. segment on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick to explain the company’s vision to make playtime a learning experience.

But it is not only the tech crowd learning about the tech toy developed in West Lafayette. The company also learned last week it had earned a spot in the National Parenting Products Award Jingle Holiday Gift Guide 2020.

NAPPA was founded by L.A. Parent magazine in 1990. It was designed to help parents make the best, most age-appropriate choices in children’s books, toys, games, and software for their children. MindLabs received a “best in its class” designation.

Thompson said the two accolades come from different ends of the education spectrum

“Those are a nice pairing. Now we can hit every day, non-techy parents. That’s actually who we designed the product for….to be an easy ramp for STEM activities for parents who are not super familiar.”

While Explore Interactive is excited to gain praise in the retail sector, it also hopes to grab as much attention in the education space.

“We are working on some deals to be listed it with some major nationwide education distributors, while also pursuing retail placement for next year,” said Thompson.  ”We don’t have high expectations, because we don’t have a marketing budget. But what we’re able to do is pretty exciting. And we’re hoping it will lead to some good things this holiday season and follow us into 2021.”

To read more about the TechCrunch list, click here. To view the NAPPA list, click here.

Thompson said the exposure to the TechCrunch readers is invaluable.

Thompson explained why parents do not need to fear teaching STEM lessons at home.