Though calling Xyla Foxlin a kid at the age of 20 may be a misnomer. This mechanical engineering student from Ohio has taken the first big steps towards being a successful entrepreneur bringing a prototype into production.
Her love of interactive technology started in high school where she joined the robotics club. Up until that point she had hidden her inner geek, but she joined the team and went to the state championship as a freshman. So, she figured she might as well own it.
In her college major she has a concentration in interactive technology. She believes that these technologies shouldn’t be scary or weird. She laughed about Microsoft’s Twitter AI, TAY.AI and said that was a good example of how these technologies shouldn’t work.
Instead, Xyla started thinking about how as the world gets smaller with new technologies, it also gets bigger. Parents travel for work, grandparents may live across the country and military service and divorce may result in children being separated from their loved ones. Calling, video chat and texting are all great ways to stay in touch, but she also found that children can’t conceptualize the concept of love until about the age of ten.
Armed with that information she wondered if there was a way to hug our kids when we aren’t there. Add a love for piezo resistive materials (you’ll have to ask her) and the idea for Parihug was born. Xyla and a partner attended a “hackathon”. These are events sponsored by technology companies where they lock college students in a room for 36 hours with caffeine and snacks and challenge them to “make something”.
By the end of the event she had her first prototype. While she did not win the competition, she did receive a $1000 grant from the 15/17 Fund. This fund give support to high school and college age inventors and entrepreneurs to continue their work. With that she attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to show Parihug to the industry.
On that trip, something amazing happened. Conference attendees were trying to buy her prototype for cash on the floor. The idea generated a ton of interest from working parents who had traveled to the show. In essence it proved her concept, so she set out to prove a market.
To do that she started a Kickstarter campaign and was fully funded to bring Parihug to market in a week which was a record. She ended up raising 178% of her initial raise and set out to refine Parihug and go to production.
Meet Xyla and Parihug
This experience has taught Xlya a lot about herself and her interests. She calls herself a “jack of all trades” who understands how different technologies can work together and the art required for product design. She thinks maybe this kind of product development is her sweet spot bringing in technical specialists and artists to bring her vision to life.
She is also passionate about STEM education and has partnered with one of her classmates to create a YouTube channel called Beauty and the Bolt aimed a middle and high school students. The best part of this channel is the way Xyla exudes confidence. A petite young lady, rocking an adorable sundress schools the world on how to solder. Fantastic! You can see the introductory video here.
While she thinks it is important to encourage girls to find their inner geek and own it, she also believes that everyone and anyone interested in technology should be valued as an individual. And while she acknowledges the challenges women in particular can face in the tech industry, she is determined to do it her way. She can wield power tools, invent amazing things and do it all wearing perfectly applied lipstick. Love it!
If you would like to follow this young female Phenom as she continues to do amazing things, you can find her @FlyingRobotGirl on Twitter.