WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — School counselor Scott Ertl has invented a product called Bouncy Bands for students that is bouncing upwards in sales, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Since January, he has sold more than 3,000 products on Amazon.com, through his own website and at educator conferences.
“Bouncy Bands attach to student desks so kids can stretch their legs and bounce their feet while they work quietly at their desk,” Ertl said.
His goal is to promote learning through kinesthetic movement. Students at Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, where he is a counselor, have been using Bouncy Bands since late 2012.
This is not Ethl’s first idea to engage students in active learning. In 2009, he started the country’s first Read and Ride program at Ward Elementary for children to ride on exercise bikes while they read magazines and books.
Now, he said, there are “dozens and dozens of schools around the country and actually in other parts of the world that have started a Read and Ride program.”
The Read and Ride program has a two-fold purpose — to promote literacy and get children more excited about reading, as well as to try to prevent childhood obesity.
“I love coming up with new stuff,” Ertl said.
He initially developed Bouncy Bands for students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, known as ADHD, to help them release their extra energy.
He said that ADHD kids tend to be hyperactive “and they’re constantly doing things that can get them in trouble, because they don’t know what to do with all this extra energy. They’re tapping their pencils on the desk or they’re drumming on the table and making noises or leaning back in their chairs. They just need extra stimulation.”
Wendy Brewington, the principal at Ward Elementary, said she is always looking for different ways to help students.
“A lot of our kids have a lot of energy,” Brewington said. This is one more way they can let out energy in the class without being disruptive.”
Linda Bohland, an exceptional children’s teacher at Ward, said that some of her students, especially the ones who move a lot, started using the Bouncy Bands immediately.
“The funny thing about it was I started using them and didn’t even realize it,” Bohland said.
She said that Bouncy Bands is a good outlet for ADHD students who have to move.
“This is an amazing way to keep them focused, able to work and move at the same time,” Bohland said.
Not long after ADHD students at Ward Elementary started using Bouncy Bands, other students at the school asked for them.
“It just depends on who needs it,” Brewington said.
As more and more requests came in, Ertl decided during the summer of 2013 to start a business selling his Bouncy Bands. His company is Bouncy Bands LLC, based in Winston-Salem.
He got the idea for Bouncy Bands while reading a National Education Association article about different forms of active learning. In the article, a teacher commented on using bicycle inner tubes on tables so that children could bounce their feet on them.
Ertl started going to local bike shops, requesting donations of recycled inner tubes.
“But the problem with the recycled inner tubes is that they kept coming untied all the time,” he said.
When students put their feet on the device to bounce, it would come untied then slide down to the floor.
While inner tubes were plentiful during the summer when customers visited bike shops for flat tires, Ertl couldn’t get many donations during the winter months.
“As an inventor, sometimes it’s great to be able to create the concept from origination or create it from scratch,” Ertl said. “But sometimes it’s better to refine something that’s already out there and make it better. “
In January 2014, Ertl started using a heavy duty rubber to make his Bouncy Bands. The rubber has loops on both ends so that the device won’t come untied.
“Then I use this little support pipe so that it doesn’t slide down to the floor,” he said. “It keeps it right at the level that’s best for kids. It’s about 8-inches off the ground, so kids have plenty of room to stretch it to the floor. It’s also not too high that their knees are going to be hitting the top of the desks.”
Ertl provides Bouncy Bands free to classes at Ward Elementary to avoid having a conflict of interest, but sells them to other customers.
To help schools get funds for students who cannot afford Bouncy Bands, Ertl has launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. Interested folks can go to kickstarter.com and search for Bouncy Bands. The campaign will provide Bouncy Bands for students throughout the country from teacher, counselor, and principal requests.
His favorite Bouncy Bands story is about a teacher in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., who got one, then three, then enough for an entire class. After she asked her school’s PTA to buy enough Bouncy Bands for all seventh-graders, teachers in other grades also wanted them.
“So they ended up having their entire school equipped with these Bouncy Bands,” Ertl said. “Every kid in the school has one.”
Bouncy Bands cost $9.95, plus a shipping charge of $5.95 at www.BouncyBands.com.
At Amazon.com, the price is $10.95 with free shipping. Of that amount, Ertl gets about half.
“It’s not much profit left, but they fulfill the shipping,” he said of Amazon.com.
In June, Ertl auditioned for the Shark Tank TV show in Denver, Colo.
He said there was a little over 500 people at the auditions in Denver, but Shark Tank holds auditions throughout the country and has online submissions.
“They have 20,000 people that are applying and auditioning for their show, but they only have about 100 slots,” he said.
Although Ertl didn’t get on the show, he said that a producer for the show described Bouncy Bands as a “solid 8” product on a scale of 1 to 10. Producers suggested that Ertl consider getting his product made in China to save on production costs.
He said they are probably right from a business perspective, but “I want this to be American made with supplies that come from America.”
His trip to Denver, which cost him about $1,000 out of his own pocket, produced ideas from various people, and he is considering them. He was told that he needed a similar product for adults and that he should add a special feature such as beads that provide foot massages.
A manufacturer in Lexington is currently working on a prototype of a free-standing Bouncy Bands model for adults that would fit under a desk. The price has not been determined.
“In the next week or two, that will be ready for production,” Ertl said.
In addition to the professional market, Ertl hopes to reach the parent market.
Darrish Barnette of Clemmons called Bouncy Bands a unique product. He has two children at Ward Elementary — Elijah, 9, and Arianna, 10.
Elijah, a rising fourth grader, has had a Bouncy Bands since January.
“I like to use it to wake my foot up,” Elijah said.
Arianna, 10, a rising fifth-grader, has tried Elijah’s Bouncy Bands and hopes to get one of her own.
“It’s hard for me to sit still,” Arianna said. “I always have to be doing something.”