Alumni Spotlight: Rayan Barhouche
We conducted a short interview with toy designer Rayan Barhouche, a mechanical engineering graduate from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA).
After working for two years in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, Rayan took his decision to leave his job, return to Beirut, and focus on developing his construction toy project. Rayan invented and developed Bildits, a children construction kit, with his two close friends, Wael Saade and Elias Chemaly, also former MSFEA student. Bildits was recently sold to a group of investors.
Rayan believes that a toy can impact the world more than a congress for world peace! For him, it's a mission to build the future generations.
Bildits is an educational and entertaining construction toy where kids can build houses with their own hands following the real construction process and using real miniature tools. They can build modular molds, do a cement mix to pour the columns and slabs with miniature steel structures, and after that they build the walls and partitions. They finally canpaint their house. Bildits allows children to design and build any house they want while nurturing their creativity, divergent thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Bildits won many local and international awards. In 2017, the toy represented Lebanon in the Creative Business Cup in Denmark where it ranked third. In 2020, it received Mom's Choice Award in the US. Bildits has also received the second highest ranking from Trend Hunter for the best 30 educational toys in 2020, along with the Harvard Arab startup competition award in 2021. It was also mentioned in Forbes as a unique stem construction toy that will be a big hit.
- What excites you about your work?
I love that my work is completely inline with my passion. I love that it can impact the future generations in a very clear yet subtle approach. Toy designing is a mix of mechanical engineering theories and applications, business planning, marketing, and innovation. The small trick is that it should all be applied by a person with a kid's brain.
- Would you encourage students to major in engineering? Why?
I encourage students to follow their passion, unfortunately engineering has become the easiest way to go into business consulting, and it's being studied as a ticket to big consulting firms. I am not denying the importance of the engineering mindset into these companies, but my encouragement would go to students who love fixing their bicycle, who love the smell of wood, and who love creating solutions for the small problems of life.
- What got you interested in the construction toy kits? How did you come up with the idea or what drived you to do this project?
I really liked the practical part of engineering at AUB, I didn't have very good grades, I spent a lot of time in the manufacturing shops and participated in all the project-based competitions organized by the SME and the ASME. I later became the president of the SME and used to organize competitions that were based on the play and learn concept, like the potato launcher competition in the green field, the RC boat races in the swimming pool, or the engineering Olympics between E1 and E2. At the same time, I was in the scouting movement and used to organize weekly activities that were always games with learning outcomes.
After working in HVAC and industrial equipment, I did not find the passion that was created in me during my time at AUB and went back to thinking about fun projects. I was really bored in one of my jobs at a construction site and was only excited when the concrete mixer started pouring a huge slab. This inspired me to create the first Bildits kit. After winning a startup competition with Berytech I left my job and became fully dedicated to Bildits.
“The moment you stop having fun is the moment where you start failing."