Construction kit for kids promotes innovation using household waste

Interesting Engineering

A construction kit for kids developed by Swedish company Creatаbles allows them to try their hand at architecture using simple household waste like drinking straws, milk cartons, etc. and a set of plastic connectors.

strawbees-construction-toy-2[Image Source: Kickstarter]

The kit, which is being marketed as “Strawbees”, uses a series of low cost plastic connectors. These connectors can be used with almost anything that fits in the groove, to create multi-directional linkages which can then be multiplied to form gigantic structures. Though there is technically no limitation on the structure built, Strawbees' co-creator Erik Thorstennson believes that children should ideally suspend a single connector from the middle of the room on a thread and proceed with construction that is wide instead of tall. In his opinion, “this makes them learn all about balance and triangles without knowing it.”

Going down memory lane, Thorstennson mentioned that the idea came to the team when they were called upon to build a bike fender made of plastic for a local school. The school's DIY programme had purchased a plastic construction kit that proved quite prone to breakage. Proceeding with a vinyl cutter, hole puncher and offcuts from their own fenders, the team found themselves with “ this little strange pacifier-shaped plastic piece” that eventually became the concept behind the connectors in the Strawbees.

strawbee-cranes[Image Source: Kickstarter]

Balances and triangles are great, but will it entice kids away from their iPads and consoles ? Createbles is aware of the challenge, and is tackling it through introduction of electronic components, including LED lights which can easily be fitted into plastic drinking straws. Indeed, Thorstennson hopes that this kit will gain popularity, because of one crucial difference between it and others – Createbles is willing to sell the tools for making the connectors to the kids.

Though it doesn't come cheap - $700 for the “Infinite Kit” to be exact – the tools do allow kids to make their own connectors from milk jugs and other household waste, so that they never run out of connectors. This not only removes the incremental costs associated with constantly buying new connectors (like you have to buy bricks for Lego), Thorstenssen believes that ““There’s something very pleasing about making your own connectors instead of just going out and buying them. That’s just a ‘wow’ experience, and allows you to ask what would you build if you had an infinite amount of pieces?” Keeping parents in mind, he added, “it doesn’t hurt to step on Strawbees on the floor.”

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But that's not all that sets Creatables apart. The company appears unfazed regarding competition from the likes of Jits, Makedo and Littlebits, all of which make construction kits. Indeed, Jits even makes a straw based construction kit. However, Thorstennson believes that companies in this space are more complimentary than competitive.

Indeed, the company appears confident of selling this new innovation, since it has initiated a funding campaign on Kickstarter that will continue till the 20th of the month.

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