The CarMax Foundation and KABOOM! Explore How Play Helps Kids Develop 21st Century Skills

Study finds that play with Rigamajig® promotes behaviors that help prepare kids for STEM careers

Washington, D.C. (February 18, 2020) · 

The CarMax Foundation and KABOOM! released an independent research study providing new data describing the engineering-related, physical and social play behaviors kids display in a semi-structured play environment using Rigamajig®. The study found that when children engaged in high levels of engineering play, they were more likely to exhibit 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

This research is a part of the recently launched Future Innovators Program developed by The CarMax Foundation and KABOOM! that addresses the need for early development of STEM interest and 21st century skills through child-directed creative play. It was conducted by Dr. Zachary S. Gold of Concordia University and Dr. James Ellicker at the Purdue University Human Development and Family Studies Department.

Researchers filmed and observed elementary children participating in group play with Rigamajig®, an innovative play and learning solution with a collection of wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, nuts, bolts and rope that allows children to follow their curiosity through play. The findings determined the following:

  • Elementary children engaged in high rates of engineering play behaviors, such as communicating goals, explaining how things are built/work, using patterns/prototypes, and problem solving/solution testing that can help prepare them for STEM careers.
  • Children who engage in more of these engineering behaviors are more socially competent and employ specific physical skills to accomplish their goals.
  • Small group play with Rigamajig® offers rich opportunities for school age children to develop and exercise a variety of 21st century and engineering skills, including collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, active play and physical movement.

“This research proves that exposing kids to Rigamajig® can have a lasting impact on their lives, including enhancing core skills needed for development,” said Lysa Ratliff, vice president of partnership development at KABOOM!. “We are grateful to expand our partnership with The CarMax Foundation through the Future Innovators Program to encourage interest in future STEM careers and support all kids getting more meaningful opportunities to play.”

The CarMax Foundation and KABOOM! will award 23 STEM-focused, youth-serving organizations in communities across the country with a Rigamajig® set by 2021. These organizations will host an “Innovators Challenge” where CarMax associates will coach teams of kids to tackle a challenge using the Rigamajig® and work together to flex their creative problem-solving skills. The next Innovators Challenge event will take place at National Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C. on February 27 at 11 a.m.

“Expanding our KABOOM! partnership to explore the intersection of STEM and play is paramount to the future of youth education programs,” said Matt Aman, president of The CarMax Foundation. “We are excited that our associates across the country will help kids cultivate important STEM skills that will be essential in their future careers.”

The CarMax Foundation and KABOOM! are invested in creating opportunities for kids to develop 21st century skills through active play, reaching more than 170,000 kids by the end of 2021.

Rigamajig® is created by Cas Holman, founder and principal designer at an independent toy company.

About The CarMax Foundation
The CarMax Foundation enriches the communities where our associates live and work. Together with CarMax, Inc., the Foundation has donated more than $65 million since 2003. Funding programs are made available through a portion of CarMax, Inc.'s pre-tax profits. CarMax, the nation's largest retailer of used cars, revolutionized the automotive retail industry by driving integrity, honesty and transparency in every interaction. CarMax continues to innovate and is currently rolling out an omni-channel experience, providing customers the option to complete transactions entirely from home, in store, or in a seamless combination of both. CarMax has more than 200 stores nationwide, and during the latest fiscal year sold nearly 750,000 used cars and 450,000 wholesale vehicles at its in-store auctions. With more than 25,000 associates, CarMax is proud to have been recognized for 16 consecutive years as one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®. For more information, visit

KABOOM! is the national nonprofit committed to ending playspace inequity – the reality that quality places to play are not available to every child, especially in communities of color. Since 1996, KABOOM! has partnered with kids and communities to create or transform 17,000+ playspaces and ensure that nearly 12 million kids have equitable access to the crucial benefits and opportunities that playspaces offer. In 2022, KABOOM! launched the 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity, the $250 million plan to accelerate its mission in 25 high-priority locations over five years. Learn more at and join the conversation at,, and LinkedIn.