Thanks, Obama

I came home from a camping trip in August 2015 to find a bright manila envelope waiting on my doorstep from The White House. Honestly, the first thing that crossed my mind was ‘ah crap, what did I do now’.

I opened the envelope and to my surprise was greeted with a letter and signed photograph from our President, Barack Obama. What a cool moment. Was this even real? Did my roommate prank me? But then I remembered.. Five months earlier while working late in the Sphero office I had the crazy idea to write our President a letter. I had just watched his speech in Selma and felt moved to say something… Hello… hi. Keep it up. Please don’t give up hope. I also wanted to update him on our progress at Sphero. Damon and I had famously shown him our robot ball invention a few years back when he said ‘give me some space to drive my ball’. We had just launched Sphero online and had been pursuing Apple and Brookstone to become our first retail partners with little interest. But after this encounter with the President, the buyers at both came rushing back to us and had to have Sphero in their store.

So I used the letter as an opportunity to thank him and share with him the progress we made introducing Sphero into the classroom to teach kids STEM skills, how to code, and design thinking. This is a theme that Tim Cook would later adopt after a successful partnership where Sphero joined The White House ConnectEd initiative alongside Apple. But Sphero had humble beginnings. Launching SPRK was never about selling more robots. Sure, it turned into a meaningful business for Sphero, but business was not our motivation.

We always knew Sphero had potential as a teaching tool, and it wasn’t until 2013 that we made the effort to support teachers and the community. I remember an early conversation with our cofounder Adam Wilson asking about goals for this program. He had a simple answer: “I hope Sphero shows kids the types of things they can create when they think differently. That’s how we make our mark. That’s how we change the world.” He was right.




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Ross Ingram

Ross Ingram

Curious about identity, perspective, and motivation.

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