Boosts learning and entrepreneurship with robots

Graham Ryland
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Graham Ryland

Location: Davis

Impact: Inspiring innovation to help children learn

Watching robots on PBS as an 8-year-old boy inspired Graham Ryland’s dream to be an engineer.

Tapping into the power of computerized automation is what Ryland is doing today as president and co-founder of Barobo Inc., which builds programmable robots to help bring math alive to students in K-12 classrooms.

“Robots have this magical quality of getting kids to sit up and listen,” Ryland said. “We’re bottling the magic so teachers can use it without having to learn programming.”

Ryland graduated from UC Davis in 2009 with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Barobo, founded in 2010 and based in downtown Davis, is a commercial spinoff from research that Ryland conducted with his graduate adviser, Harry Cheng. Cheng, a professor in the College of Engineering, is co-founder and chief technology officer of Barobo.

Since 2011, Barobo has been awarded over $800,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation to commercialize the research. The robots have been sold to more than 55 middle schools, high schools and universities in California and on the East Coast. Their current goal is to raise $2 million to expand nationwide.

Ryland graduated from the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s UC Entrepreneurship Academy. The institute is a center at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Barobo was one of the first startups to graduate from Davis Roots, a nonprofit business accelerator bridging the city of Davis and UC Davis.

Ryland credits the company’s success to the skills, connections and invaluable insights that he gained from people such as Graduate School of Management Professor Andrew Hargadon, the institute’s faculty director and Davis Roots founder, and Davis Roots mentor Joe DiNunzio.