High Tech for kids! (and the rest of us)

What sort of toys did you play with as a child?

I didn’t have video games – instead I had sports, like baseball, and…um…well, I guess baseball was the only organized sport I played.  But there were lots of kids in the neighborhood, and everybody had large back yards, so we played football, shot hoops on the neighbor’s driveway, rode our bicycles, and just generally had a lot of low-tech fun.

My now-grown son was heavily into video games that involved killing all sorts of bad guys with incredibly cool weaponry ranging from daggers to lasers to magic spells.  One day I was rummaging around through some old stuff, looking for of all things, my college diploma (I was trying to remind myself what subject my actual degree was in), and I found some of his old kindergarten papers.  Incredibly, on one paper where he was asked to list his favorite toy, he wrote “blocks”.

Ah, yes, toys that require imagination.  Down deep inside, we always go back to those.

Well, so did Kelly Harrigan, a 4th year industrial design student at Virginia Tech.  For a class assignment to “develop a creative product capable of commercialization“, she came up with a toy concept that is sure to fascinate children of any age.  It’s a set of dumbell-shaped pieces that have embedded magnets.  Here is a photo, stolen, er, I mean borrowed, from Kelly’s site.  Thanks Kelly.

How cool is that?  Magnets!  Kids love magnets, probably because they don’t understand the invisible forces they exert on each other.  In this case, the magnets are covered by wooden shapes that lend themselves to arrangement in all sorts of temporary shapes.  Check out Kelly’s Coroflot profile to see more, and learn about Kelly.  Also check out this story that was released when Kelly’s design was awarded a design patent.  Nice resume builder there, eh?

But most cool of all is that Kelly’s Ferra toy design won first place in a contest sponsored by Naef, the Swiss toymaker.  Their toys are really interesting, and Ferra looks like it would fit perfectly in their catalog.

What is the best thing about this high-tech, low-tech toy?  Well, for me, it’s that my video game master son can’t beat me at this game.

Ok, he is a graphic designer and artist, so probably he can beat me at this also.  But when most of my faculties have escaped me (possibly as soon as next month), I’ll still be able to have fun with something that has a law of nature built into it.

Oh, my degree was in Physics, as it turns out.  Who woulda thunk it?


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