Jessica Hendrix of Killer Snails Answers Four Questions for Founders
The mission of Killer Snails is to create the next generation of changemakers and to bring science out of the laboratory and into the hands of learners globally.
Killer Snails creates virtual reality and augmented reality game-based science learning experiences in the K-12 education space. Founded by a scientist, an educational psychologist, and an MBA, Killer Snails’ vision is to empower learners to use scientific skills to make a positive, tangible impact in our world.
1. Tell us about the journey since Killer Snails’ launch.
In 2014, a national survey came out that showed that 57% of 8th and 9th grade students said “science isn’t me”. Right after that, in 2015, my co-founders and I met — Mandë Holford, a marine biochemist, and Lindsay Portnoy, an educational psychologist. The three of us shared a passion for getting students excited by and comfortable with science. The three of us sat together and thought that one of the best ways that we can do that is through play — using games where students feel comfortable taking risks, to show children what the actual journey of a scientist is like. To use a “mirrors and lenses” strategy, in every game that Killer Snails creates, we put players in the role of a scientist and always includes diverse scientists. Our whole mission at Killer Snails is to inspire a love of science in all of our players.
2. How are you applying transformative technology to create a positive impact?
Our world is facing many challenges. One thing we know we’ll need in the future is more scientists. So, Killer Snails creates games and experiences that enable students to take on a role of a scientist. We do that with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. In our leading product, BioDive, students use VR created for mobile VR — just a phone and an inexpensive headpiece, alternatively – you could do it online with web VR. They use that to go on dives and expeditions, and they use their own individual digital science journal to take the data that they gathered in VR and apply it through their journal just in the same exact career pathway as scientists do. With those tools, we have enabled another generation of students to take on and see science in a way that they never could have without these kinds of virtual tools.
3. What has been your biggest challenge as founder, and how have you learned from it?
One of the biggest challenges of any founder is feeling alone, and realizing that it is on you to make sure that everyone is getting paid and that you’re building your business, and building it in a sustainable way. As a founder, there are amazing highs, and some incredible lows. For us, figuring out a way to power through that, a way to compartmentalize what you’re doing with your work and a way to really develop a network of people that you can rely on, that you can ask for advice and gain from their experience. Being part of a network helped us to think about what we can offer others so that later in life, when we need help, we can also count on them to give us the same kind of guidance.
4. What role has Newlab played in helping you advance Killer Snails?
The Newlab team has been fantastic in a couple of different ways. One way is through funding mechanisms — Killer Snails has been incredibly fortunate to apply with Newlab for a grant that we’re waiting to hear about through a vehicle that I have not heard of without Newlab. In addition, it allows us to be a bridge between these companies that are working on incredibly high tech engineering feeds and the work that we do in education — so much of our work has always been about showing children the different kinds of scientists they can be, diverse scientists that work in a whole range of areas, and teaching kids that anybody can follow a scientific process if you’re following your curiosity. Being around the people in Newlab has been an exceptional opportunity to see the many, many ways that plays out here in New York City.
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