Build an Engineering Masterpiece with Leftover Soda Straws
A new Kickstarter project meets children at the intersection of education and engineering, with a little whimsy thrown in.
Strawbees are colorful, key-shaped bits of recycled plastic designed to link straws together to create three-dimensional structures. Each piece has a notched flat end, which you can insert into a quarter-inch plastic straw, and a circular head, which acts as a connector and pivot point for multiple straws and pieces.
Essentially, they're a low-tech version of the TinkerToys you played with as a kid — and just like TinkerToys, they bury the educational experience of designing and prototyping complex structures beneath the facade of play.
On the project's Kickstarter page, which launched Jan. 21, Swedish design collective Creatables shows off a number of its Strawbees creations, from simple domes and cranes to mechanized pyramids and claws.
The appeal of the toy, according to co-creator Erik Thorstensson, is its simplicity. A pledge of $25 on Kickstarter buys 100 pieces, enough to make a large dome or umbrella. A box of quarter-inch straws, which are not included, come fairly cheap at your average local supermarket — or you can punch holes in strips of old cardboard boxes for sturdier structures.
Creatables hopes to raise $20,000 in funds to mass-produce the plastic pieces and custom die-cutting machines, as well as generate public interest in the toy. The campaign ends Feb. 20, and it has already raised more than three-quarters of its goal at the time of writing.
Thorstensson and Creatables co-founders Petter Danielson and Oscar Ternbom formed the sustainable design collective in 2008, using recycled industrial materials to manufacture offbeat products such as children's mobiles, wall hooks and the Ass Saver, a bicycle mudguard designed for Sweden's wettest cities.
The creators plan to make several of their Strawbees blueprints available online, so backers can start building colorful contraptions right away. But Thortensson and his cohorts are confident that users will do just fine without them — your imagination is the only limit.