It’s not unusual to see celebrities and professional athletes making appearances at CES each year. Most are brand ambassadors or have partnered with a company for the show as part of an endorsement contract. It’s rare to see a name athlete actively participating in the operations of a tech company by aiding in product development or sitting on the board of directors, but eight-time major champion and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Andre Agassi, is no ordinary athlete or person.
Best known for winning big matches and his lethal forehand, it’s now all about forward thinking for Agassi, as The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education looks to transform public education with the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas as well as through state and national advocacy with investments in public education.
To use a tennis term, Agassi stood at “ready position” as he and the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education debuted an attractive app and phonics play-set from tech startup, Square Panda, at the Bellagio to start CES 2016. For many at the press conference, this was a first look at Square Panda’s line of educational products. Aimed at children up to the age of eight, the hardware and software is about promoting literacy, which is the building block of everything in education. Square Panda also announced the appointment of Andre Agassi as a board member.
“Square Panda is unique and has the potential to create a generation of confident readers,” states Agassi. “I know one of the most important skills for a child to possess as they enter kindergarten is a basic understanding of phonics. If you can teach a child basic reading, then the child will begin their educational experience with self-confidence. We are excited to team up with Square Panda to launch this revolutionary new learning system.”
Agassi said the fact that he didn’t have a complete and formal education makes him even more passionate about taking what he has learned from tennis and offering that to kids. Agassi was joined at the press conference by Square Panda CEO, Andy Butler.
“Square Panda Phonics Play-set is the first connected device for early learners that teaches phonics and print in a completely multi-sensory way,” offered Butler. “Square Panda is currently in pilot programs at various Head Start chapters, as well as day centers in the Las Vegas area. We are encouraged by the education community’s positive responses and look forward to continue working with parents and educators around the country to advance reading readiness skills for young children before they enter kindergarten.”
Square Panda’s platform combines humor with learning and vibrant graphics thrown in for good measure. Square Panda’s new hardware and software will soon debut for children to play with while improving growth and language skills. Check out a video of the phonics play-set in action here. Available for iPads and on iOS, and soon for Android, the Square Panda phonics play-set is available for pre-orders here.