The 14-Year-Old Toy Maker

Eagle Scout Noah Cahoon sparks creativity in Roy, Utah


Roy, Utah

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It’s not every day you meet someone like Noah Cahoon. The 14-year-old is an entrepreneur, inventor, toy maker, an Eagle Scout, even a CEO of his own company. He’s an airplane aficionado, an expert community builder, and loves to make cool stuff out of cardboard. Noah’s passion for creating with cardboard, he says, goes back years.

When he was little, he and his father, Brian, would spend hours making airplanes out of cardboard boxes. To bring them to life, they would draw dials, gauges, and buttons on the boxes, and of course take them for a spin.

After a few years of drawing on the boxes, Brian found some airplane gauges and dial images on the Internet. Seeing all the colorful pictures printed out, Noah had an idea: What if he created his own dial and gauge stickers and sold them online to other inspired young makers?

Paper Box Pilots Takes Off

Brian jumped at the idea of helping his son start his own business. Noah collaborated with an artist on the design and creation of the dials and gauges, met with the print company to oversea his creation come to life, and worked with his dad to build the company website.

He even gave his little brother Milo a job at the company. His official title is the ‘Chief Fun Officer,’ and he gets to test out the planes and stickers. After months of planning and preparation, Paper Box Pilots launched in the summer of 2013.

Noah and his brother Milo proudly hold the Paper Box Airplane stickers that Noah created. (Photo c/o Brian Cahoon)

Noah and his brother Milo proudly hold the Paper Box Airplane stickers that Noah created. (Photo c/o Brian Cahoon)

The activity kits sold on their website come with two sheets of stickers, a learning guide to teach kids about the instruments and gauges in a real airplane cockpit, and their “TOP SECRET PLANS” tutorial to help young makers create their very own cardboard airplanes. When a potential buyer comes to the site, Noah wants them to remember two things: “For a child there’s nothing more fun than an empty cardboard box.” And their sticker kits will help kids’ imaginations “soar.”

Creativity, Noah says, is “imagining anything, creating it, having fun with it and just letting yourself run wild with all of the ideas that you have.”

Noah’s activity kits are catching on. In less than one year, they’ve sold to kids in 47 states and five countries. And the kits are available at toy stores in Utah, California, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming. He’s also working on growing his brand of cardboard vehicle stickers and recently launched a line of cardboard fire engine and race car activity kits.

Cardboard Creativity and Military Kids

Noah’s accomplishments don’t stop at Paper Box Pilots. To fulfill the requirements of becoming an Eagle Scout, Noah put on a big event that benefited the community and showcased his leadership skills. Searching for ideas that tapped into his love for cardboard and creativity, Noah came across Caine’s Arcade and The Global Cardboard Challenge. At that moment, Brian says, “the stars all aligned.”

Noah was determined to put together a Cardboard Challenge event at Hill Air Force Base in Roy, Utah, about an hour from his hometown. He wanted to do it somewhere that would benefit kids with parents deployed overseas. For weeks, Noah gathered cardboard and planned the event. He ran into some challenges getting permission to have the event on the base, but he kept pushing through.

“I thought we could help the kids have a better time and not worry about their parent who is deployed.” We also wanted to help the single moms and dads feel “a little more at ease and less stressed with handling all their kids by themselves.”

Noah’s persistence paid off, and he was granted special permission to use the Air Force base for his event. He recruited volunteers, spent weeks gathering cardboard, and enlisted his Boy Scout troop to help him build a cardboard fort for the event. On the day of the Cardboard Challenge, the kids who participated built mazes, costumes and even cardboard airplanes with Noah’s donated toolkits and stickers. One kid made a full body Ironman suit. “It was fun to see what they would think of,” Noah says.

A group of girls in the midst of building their cardboard airplanes at the 2013 Global Cardboard Challenge. (Photo c/o Brian Cahoon)

A group of girls in the midst of building their cardboard airplanes at the 2013 Global Cardboard Challenge. (Photo c/o Brian Cahoon)

One of the girls who participated had just returned from Japan, where her father was stationed. She stepped inside the Boy Scout fort and re-envisioned it into a little girl’s house. She decorated it with wallpaper, cut a small window into it, made a door, a doormat, and ordered Noah to build her a roof. “She had quite the imagination,” Noah says.

After the event was over, Noah earned his merit badge, and his dad couldn’t have been more proud. “It showed him that you can accomplish hard things…and it was wonderful to see him give military kids a place where they can go to play and just be kids.”

Join the 2014 Global Cardboard Challenge!

This fall, we invite kids all over the world to build something amazing out of cardboard, recycled materials and imagination. Inspired by the short film, ‘Caine’s Arcade’, the Global Cardboard Challenge (GCC) is an annual event presented by the Imagination Foundation that celebrates child creativity and the role communities can play in fostering it. This September, kids of all ages are invited to build anything they can dream up using cardboard, recycled materials and imagination. Then on Saturday, October 11th, 2014, communities will come together to play!

Registration will open soon for the 2014 Global Cardboard Challenge. Join our Organizer list, and we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest information about this year’s GCC.

This story was written by Jenny Inglee, the Imagination Foundation’s Imagination Curator and The Storybook Editor. The first collection of stories in The Storybook focus on the work of inspiring individuals, schools, and organizations that participated in the 2013 Global Cardboard Challenge.

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Create With Cardboard!

If you want to inspire your kids to create with cardboard, here are some helpful and fun resources. We've included a link [1] to the Paper Box Pilots website, where you can purchase Noah's fire engines, airplanes, and race car sticker kits and cardboard tutorials; the Imagination Foundation's 2013 Global Cardboard Challenge Yearbook, which showcases amazing creations, including cardboard masks, forts, and robots; and a link to where you can sign up [3] for our 2014 Global Cardboard Challenge, which takes place on October 11, 2014, and download our resources, including a cardboard challenge material list and organizer playbook.

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