Inventor creates device to help fidgety kids learn better
By FRAN DANIEL
Nov. 06, 2017
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Scott Ertl, the owner of Bouncy Bands LLC based in Winston-Salem, is all about movement for children and adults.
"I think movement is one of the best ways to help people stay healthy," Ertl said. "If we can teach kids early on in school that when they have anxiety, hyperactivity and frustration, movement is a way to help them get back on track so that they can be in the zone to learn and to live," Ertl said.
In 2013, he created Bouncy Bands, a product designed to promote learning through kinesthetic movement.
The bands attach to students' chairs and desks allowing children to stretch their legs and bounce their feet "to release that extra energy, anxiety and frustration while they can work quietly in class," he said.
Ertl, the chief executive of Bouncy Bands LLC, also started a program in 2009 called "Read and Ride" at Ward Elementary to promote literacy and get children more excited about reading, as well as to try to prevent childhood obesity.
Through "Read and Ride," children ride on exercise bikes while they read magazines and books. The program is currently offered at Clemmons Elementary School in Clemmons.
"I call it the 'movement movement,'" Ertl said of his ideas.
Brooke Flynt, a fourth-grade teacher at Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, has Bouncy Bands for the majority of her students, typically 27 to 32 in her classroom.
"They love them," she said. "It keeps them quiet."
She said she has been using Bouncy Bands for years, adding that she and her son both have ADHD.
"That's why I like them, because I can see it helped him," she said of her son.
She said that her students tend to focus on everything better when they use the Bouncy Bands while simply reading a book or coloring.
Researchers at Clemson University recently did a study called "Wiggle While You Work: The Effect of Bouncy Bands Use on Classroom Outcomes" to assess whether Bouncy Bands promote student learning and improve classroom behavior.
"I think about the Bouncy Bands as an acceptable way to fidget," said June Pilcher, Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clemson University.
She said that children often fidget in ways that are distracting.
"So the question became: Can the Bouncy Bands help alleviate that?" said Pilcher, the study's lead researcher.
Other members of the research team were Jennifer Bisson and Sarah Sanborn, lecturers in the psychology department, and multiple undergraduate students at Clemson University.
Participants in the study were 25 elementary students in third and fourth grades who were enrolled in a daily afterschool tutoring and educational enhancement program.
The researchers are still looking at the data, but Pilcher said that findings so far suggest that the children who were higher in passive off-task behaviors at the beginning of the study showed fewer off-task behaviors while using the bands.
"In other words, when they had access to the Bouncy Bands, they seemed to be able to focus more directly and engage more directly with the tasks that they were working on," Pilcher said.
The researchers plan to do future studies looking at Bouncy Bands.
"Obviously, at this point, we are very interested in looking at Bouncy Bands in certain clinical populations, like autism," Pilcher said.
But she said that they first want to make sure they know what's happening in standard classrooms.
In May, the researchers completed another study in which students in a standard second-grade classroom in Clemson, South Carolina, used the bands.
Bouncy Bands LLC has come a long way since Ertl created his company in 2014. Back then, Ertl was working full time as a school counselor at Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem and running his company part time out of his house. At the same time, he was starting to get calls for appearances on national television shows such as Today Show on NBC.
"It got to the point that I couldn't do both jobs," he said.
He tried being a school counselor part time then decided to focus full time on his company.
"For right now, I feel like my calling is to be able to help kids around the world be able to have a way to get some movement in class," Ertl said.
He said that Bouncy Bands LLC had sales of $1.6 million in 2016 and is expected to have $2.5 million in sales this year.
Three years ago, Ertl had a few employees and worked out of his home basement. His initial product was made from white PVC pipe and a rubber rope.
Today, he operates out of a 2,500-square-foot warehouse in Winston-Salem. He now has six full-time employees and up to 12 people working during the summer. His product has also undergone a new look and is now made from industrial strength specially molded rubber and pipe supports. The bands are manufactured by a company in Ohio, and the pipes supports are made by a manufacturer in Asheville, N.C. The product comes in different lengths for different styles of chairs and desks.
Ertl received a patent on his Bouncy Bands products from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in May 2016.
Bouncy Bands are sold at www.bouncybands.com, on Amazon.com, through Kaplan Early Learning Co., based in Lewisville, and to more than 80 other retailers throughout the world, including in the United States, Iceland, Argentina, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
"The biggest growth is being able to help teachers get funded," Ertl said.
He said that 5,000 teachers have received funding for Bouncy Bands through DonorsChoose.org and another 1,000 have gotten funded through GoFundMe.com and AdoptAClassroom.org.
In addition to the Today Show, Bouncy Bands and Read and Ride have been featured on The Queen Latifah Show and The Dr. Oz Show. Bouncy Bands were also mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article in June 2016.
Bouncy Bands won the Teacher's Choice Award from Learning Magazine this year and was named the 2016 Product of the Year at the EDexpo.
Ertl said that he is currently working on other Bouncy Bands products, but his ultimate goal is to return to being a school counselor.
"My idea is to be able to help as many kids as I can and be able to let another company buy me out," he said of his business.
Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com