Where’s Fishbowl? Teaching Kids About Wind and Solar Power

Imagine you’re me (Grant Kimball) and you’re back in grade school trying to figure out what you’re going to do for this year’s science project, but the baking soda volcano you did the last five years just isn’t going to cut it this time around. Even worse, imagine you’re my science teacher and you aren’t looking forward to Grant’s sixth volcano. Wouldn’t it be cool, as a teacher, to have some really fun, science-based resources to help teach important science-related concepts to your students? That is exactly what Michael Arquin, the founder of KidWind and 6th grade science teacher, decided to do. He started by providing windmill kits that help teachers convey the basic concepts of wind energy. Take a look at their “Advanced Wind Experiment Kit,” the top-selling science kit currently provided by KidWind. With this kit, teachers can help their students learn the concepts of scientific experimentation by measuring the results of small changes to their windmill such as the size, shape and number of blades, blade material, and pitch angle. Each change has an effect on the amount of energy produced, which can then be measured and compared to other configurations. Advanced features are also available to show students how to build their own generators and measure output variance based on changes to the number of coils in the generator. Additionally, KidWind has developed an advanced curriculum to better assist teachers in the classroom with lessons, competitions, and suggestions for getting the students involved. Workshops and student competitions are regularly scheduled at various locations around the country and internationally. The KidWind Challenge is a more elaborate national challenge where competitors are allowed to design their own wind power systems from scratch, and KidWind brings in a big wind tunnel to measure the power generated by each windmill. To date, KidWind has trained more than 7,000 teachers, impacted more than 500,000 students and have now expanded their offerings to include solar cells, fuel cells, and advanced measuring devices for accurate measurement of each configuration. All of this is way cool, BUT when it comes to success in business, efficiency and profitability are the name of the game. KidWind has always been a build-to-order company but the problem, before Fishbowl Inventory, was that they had too many of the wrong parts in stock and inaccurate sales data to guide reorder points. Stockouts and overstocks were frequent and the end result was delays in shipping and a tendency towards stocking more inventory than was actually needed in order to be prepared for any eventuality in sales. Additionally, the inventory was tracked on paper (later in QuickBooks) and, as often happens with a manual approach, things got lost. Rarely were the inventory quantities accurate, and costs skyrocketed. Adding to the problem was the growth in demand for their products from their new website. It soon became clear they needed an inventory system to manage their growth. According to Rob, their IT manager, they had “only a vague idea of what was there and how many of each part.” They needed a software that would work with both QuickBooks and their online store. That’s where Fishbowl came in. To begin with, Fishbowl Inventory was able to accurately track all their products and where all those products were stored, so they knew what they had on hand. With the more accurate tracking of their inventory came a greater understanding of what their costs were – in particular, inventory costs.  And with the new, and more accurate, sales history Fishbowl was able to help Kidwind better anticipate demand for each product and therefore, the raw materials for those products so that purchase orders could be placed in a timely fashion and product  could be available on the shelves when needed and not before.  Total on-hand inventory has now been reduced from the original $150k to around $70-90k. But, according to Rob, the greatest benefit provided by Fishbowl Inventory is this: “Fishbowl [Inventory] transformed the operation of the organization and in particular radically transformed the relationships among the staff. Prior to Fishbowl [Inventory], everything was on paper and very chaotic. We had no organizational platform between the employees, which caused friction. But Fishbowl is organized into very specific functions like Sales, Manufacturing, Purchasing, etc., which forced us to clearly define everyone’s function at KidWind. Fishbowl [Inventory] helped us make moves to improve organizational health. Six months after Fishbowl [Inventory] was implemented, things calmed down. We now have peace.” That should be our new tagline. Fishbowl: Bringing peace to the world, one implementation at a time! Till next time!