One of our favorite things about AMRoC Fab Lab is that it serves as a living laboratory to explore all sorts of fascinating science, technology, innovative arts, and exciting hands on learning experiences.  One that seems to combine all of those things is HADO, an augmented reality game similar to dodge ball.   The Foundation for Community Driven Innovation, the nonprofit that founded and runs AMRoC Fab Lab, has partnered with Green Mouse Academy, of West Palm Beach, to bring HADO to Tampa Bay, and collaborate on program development around this engaging technology.

Shane Vander Kooi, president of Green Mouse Academy, was this month’s guest for our First Friday at the Fab Lab program. You can see his First Friday interview below,  and enjoy his thoughts on some of our questions, in the printed interview that follows.



AMRoC Fab Lab: What do you like best about HADO?

Shane: I’ve always looked for ways to blend both digital and physical assets. There are already a dizzying number of apps, games and screen-based tools and anyone can offer that. We wanted to set ourselves apart by ensuring learners could fully engage. What I love about HADO is that it goes beyond sports, it involves collaborating as a team and it introduces the latest in technology through augmented reality. It’s everything that me and my team seek to bring to our community. It blends the physical and digital and offers an opportunity to engage in ‘stealth learning’. And of course, it’s a whole lot of fun!

AMRoC Fab Lab: What caught your interest with it and compelled you to create HADO FL?

Shane: Definitely the two promotional videos (one shown below) caught my interest (which they were obviously designed to do). If you haven’t seen them yet, visit our website! Even my wife, who is certainly not a gamer, was immediately hooked.

As I dug deeper into the origins of HADO, I was really inspired by the story of its founder, Hiroshi Fukuda. He dreamed of creating a reality where he could challenge rivals, firing off energy balls and raising defensive power shields to fend off attacks simply with a wave of his hand – much like being immersed inside a video game and following in the footsteps of his comic book heroes. In 2014 he turned his childhood dream into reality – literally Augmented Reality – inventing a brand new physical esport called HADO.

When seeking out new programs, products and strategic partners, for me its important that there is a STEM/STEAM hero behind the product. For me that’s what sets it apart and HADO has a remarkable story. My own vision has always been to create experiences for learners (young and old) to discover what’s possible. What can they can create through exploration and discovery if given the right tools and simple to follow instructions to help open the door and bring their passions to life. If we do it right, they’ll develop invaluable life skills through the process. Tech, STEM, STEAM, gaming – that’s just the hook. This is why I felt compelled to create HADO, Florida.

AMROC Fab Lab: What do you think most sets HADO apart from other esports?

Shane: I believe the founders of HADO originally preferred not to refer to HADO as an esport, in fact, you’ll see HADO taglines like “Beyond Sport” and “HADO is the first A/R Techno Sport. It may be just semantics, but basically, for me HADO is a form of esports and I think we’ll see a specific genre of mixed reality games and sports develop as a subset of esports. It is undeniable that esports is evolving and expanding at a breathtaking pace like a tsunami. It only makes sense for HADO and other mixed reality games to ride that wave.

There are some elements that set HADO apart though and I think those things will resonate with the greater community at large. The similarities to a futuristic form of dodgeball certainly takes both young and old back to memories of their childhood and the simple physicality of HADO certainly sets it apart. The fact that spectators and fans can cheer on and observe the game play action both in person and virtually is also something that I think adds a level of excitement and engagement. HADO is also a sport that is fully inclusive and it is deceptively surprising how physical it actually is. I challenge doubters to play a few 80-second matches back-to-back and then check their heart rate. ? Competitive HADO players and teams include all genders and a wide range of ages. You don’t have to be a prolific gamer to start playing and you don’t necessarily have to be a star athlete do well in HADO. This is one esport where anyone can go pro!

AMRoC Fab Lab: What are your thoughts on it as an academic tool?

Shane: We feel really honored to have been selected by meleap, Inc (the company based in Tokyo that developed and operates HADO) to exclusively develop a scholastic HADO Academy experience and scholastic HADO League, starting first in South Florida and then expanding nationwide.

Esports, a $1B industry with explosive growth, already has a strong support base in Florida and scholastic teams are forming in schools and colleges across the country. HADO is likely to engage a wide swath of students, many of whom may not normally be attracted to STEM/STEAM activities, including underserved and underrepresented groups. HADO gameplay is highly inclusive, and we believe it will serve as an ideal vehicle to develop project-based-learning content that aligns directly with our goals around scholastic, personal health/well-being, social and emotional and entrepreneurship learning outcomes. While HADO gameplay may be the ‘hook’, the program content and comprehensive project-based-learning experience will be the heart and mind of the program.

The project-based-learning experience we’re working on will be structured around two distinct elements; gameplay coupled with students collaborating to build out their own school-based club or league (i.e. creating a micro version of the HADO Competition League, which will resemble a professional esports league). We view this as both a STEAM learning project as well as an esports career discovery experience.

At the moment we are evaluating various curriculum frameworks and hope to begin piloting the very first elements in an out-of-school setting by this summer or early fall. Much will depend on the level of Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements that we’ll have to contend with, but we have protocols in place to work safely within current guidelines.

AMROC Fab Lab: What about other uses like physical or occupational therapy?

Shane: In addition to applying HADO as an academic tool, it also offers many other exciting applications. I see potential for it to be used as a fitness product to help athletes improve their reaction time and focus. I also think it could be a fantastic tool to help with body-brain connections, maybe repairing neurological pathways through systemic improvement in the performance of the brain and central nervous system. I would love to work with partners to test this and maybe undertake case studies and conduct research around using HADO for sensory integration therapy to improve physical, neurological and emotional performance. When learning and therapy feel like fun and games, it’s obviously going to be more effective and hopefully have a long lasting impact.

We were experimenting with this over a decade ago in our after school programs. In fact, we connected with Dr. Lisa Hansen from the USF campus’s Active Gaming Research Lab. She and the department here were at the very forefront of the movement and were studying the impact of active gaming in order to guide the training of physical education teachers. She inspired me to create an active gaming fitness circuit that was part of the PE program we used at a charter school I founded a number of years ago. I would love to make HADO available to every school and PE program in the area.

Can you talk a bit about why you feel AMRoC  Fab Lab is a good partner for HADO Florida?

Shane: This is easy to respond to! For me this is very much about ‘walking the talk’. We are always seeking to provide opportunities for students to collaborate and partner with each other and so it makes sense for me and the team at Green Mouse Academy to develop partnerships also.

HADO represents and exciting and challenging opportunity. While it is already established in Japan and other parts of the world, it is still very much a startup here in the United States. The focus of the team at Green Mouse Academy is going to be on developing the scholastic content to be used in after school and academic settings, and on business development activities. That means we are looking for trusted partners to operate the program and support HADO game play in their respective communities.

Upon sharing HADO with the AMRoC Fab Lab team and seeing their enthusiastic endorsement of the program, I immediately saw them as an ideal partner. In fact, we feel honored that they’ve chosen HADO to complement all of the other great programs they offer.

We’ve worked together before and have observed first hand the professionalism and quality of the experiences they bring to events like ROBOTICON and  Gulf Coast MakerCon here in Tampa. I’ve also watched as they brought their vision for the AMRoC Fab Lab from just an idea to reality here at the University Mall. And, I know they are just getting started as they have much bigger plans and will be able to have a much greater impact as part of the Innovation Project (!P) at RITHM at Uptown, the exciting revitalizing project being developed by RD Management.

And, most importantly, the AMRoC team has an unwavering passion to help students and young innovators succeed. That isn’t something that is learned or taught and it’s the first trait I look for when developing new relationships, whether with a business associate, an employee or product partner. Anyone that visits the AMRoC facility and observes the team there as they mentor the kids and adults that are part of their community will see right away why we are so excited to be working with them.

We feel the same way about working with Green Mouse Academy, and we’re excited to work with Shane and his team to explore all the possibilities surrounding HADO Florida!  Look for more information soon about how you can Get in the Game with HADO at AMRoC Fab Lab!