What began as a school project has turned into an unforgettable experience for two fourth-graders in Novi.
Tyler Parks and Graham Long, both 9 years old, were recently featured on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon for a clever invention they named the “S’Cubed” – a robot that collects Legos off the floor and sorts them by shape.
“The boys both love building with LEGO but hate picking them up, which sparked the idea,” says Melissa Parks, Tyler’s mom. “They wanted to build a working prototype to demonstrate their invention and were able to do so using materials around the house. There were several iterations of the design as they encountered problems, which they solved using their creativity.”
And it paid off. After competing at the school level, the boys advanced to the Michigan Invention Convention and won the Educator’s Choice award, placing them into the 2019 Invention Convention U.S. National competition.
“It was along this journey that they were spotted and invited to submit a pitch for (The Tonight Show’s) Fallonvention segment,” she says.
It wasn’t long before the two families were flying to New York City and the boys found themselves on stage being interviewed for national television with hilarious late-night host Jimmy Fallon.
Graham’s parents, Christine and Allen Long, said their son had never been to the Big Apple before and getting to stay near Times Square and within walking distance of Rockefeller Plaza was “amazing.”
“The show did a phenomenal job of making the boys’ time special. They were treated with so much kindness, enthusiasm and humor,” Christine says. “It was obvious that the producers, writers, Jimmy Fallon, and everyone involved truly enjoyed working with and featuring kids.”
And watching Graham experience such a big moment was surreal, she says.
“To be able to experience something as rare as this and through the eyes of my child was incredible,” she adds. “From beginning to end, it was a wonderful and surreal experience.”
“Surreal” is also how Matt and Melissa Parks described seeing their son Tyler’s national TV debut at age 9 – and they took advantage of the trip to explore as much of the city as possible, with favorite spots including Battery Park, One World Trade Center, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Top of the Rock observation deck.
“But the highlight of the trip was the rehearsing and filming of the Fallonvention segment on the sixth floor of Rockefeller Center. Even though we were anxious about Tyler being on national TV, we were so proud how hard the boys had worked to earn this opportunity,” Melissa says. “Once the filming was over, the entire experience and what the boys accomplished set in. The segment turned out better than we could have imagined, and we were all filled with pride – and a little relief!”
In addition to the positive experience, each kid featured on the invention segment also received $5,000 to help further their education.
It was a whirlwind of a trip, both families agree, and they’re proud of how Graham and Tyler represented Novi.
“We catch ourselves watching the video and going back through the photos just to make sure that it all really happened,” Melissa says.
Q&A with Tyler and Graham
Here’s a look at what Tyler and Graham had to say about their moment in the spotlight.
How did it feel when you were on the stage with Jimmy Fallon?
Tyler: “It was nerve-wracking, but mostly I was excited to meet Jimmy Fallon. I am a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon and his ‘Ew!’ skits.”
Graham: “I was excited, and a little nervous. Jimmy Fallon was really funny during the show and it made me feel comfortable joking with him.”
What was it like being on TV?
Tyler: “Fun! I wish I could have hung out with Jimmy Fallon all day! Also it was overwhelming, especially after my parents told me the entire country could see me on TV!”
Graham: “It was fun, even though I was nervous. We were on stage with Jimmy, and also in front of a live audience – so when they laughed, it made me smile and feel confident.”
Why do you like science and doing experiments?
Tyler: “I liked being able to turn our invention ideas into reality. The prototype building part was my favorite where we picked the tools and materials to build our S-cubed.”
Graham: “I like figuring out how things work. I draw a lot of ideas into my notebooks, and I love to build. It’s fun to come up with new ideas and try to make them work. For the S’Cubed, we learned a lot about vacuums, vibrating motors, and also how to create sorting drawers. I love that we made our prototype using things we had around our houses.”
Want to watch Tyler and Graham in action? Here’s their segment: