Saturday, July 02, 2011

Craft-stick CoinStruction

CoinStruction sets were introduced several years ago with the gimmick of using coins as the construction elements, held together by a variety of clips that were the only elements, aside from instructions for the models, inside the boxes.

At four bits for a package of fifty, pennies are cheap, if you are looking for sturdy little disks, but even then, kids might abscond with them. Using dimes & quarters, recommended for some structural positions in the instruction I have, seems to just cry out for filching.

Besides, I felt that they made unattractive models. They looked all fuzzy from the density of clips, and the coins esthetically detracted, rather than enhanced.

I bought a set when a local store had them on clearance. Partially because I thought I shouldn't condemn them without giving them a fair try, partially because I thought the little clips ought to be good for something, even if their advertised purpose was dumb.

My actual experiments with building with coins impressed me little, and I set the CoinStruction set aside for potential use as clips - and more or less forgot about them.

The other day, I ran across a building toy called TomTecT, from the Kapla folks. Consisting of Kapla-like sticks and clips to hold them in various relations to won another. Intriguing.

Eventually I recalled CoinStruction, tracked it down, and explored various options for the sticks. I experimented with various things, including 100% post-consumer recycled Popsicle sticks, and concluded that most worked just fine, but that the latter would make the best cheap bridge components, in their commercial bulk guise of "craft sticks." About as cheap as pennies in the local dollar store. Cheaper for a box of a thousand at the craft store, but my calculations were that 50-100 would do my bridge.

They did.

I like the result.

So basically, with the clips from CoinStruction, using four of the six different shapes, and a small package of craft sticks, I have a fine new construction set.

Not an emulation of TomTecT - the CoinStruction clips differ greatly in geometries available. But good fun anyway.

As many bridges as I have built with a good many different type of construction set, I learned something new about bridge engineering from building with Craft-sticks+Coinstruction: in general, our models tend to be too strong, at best letting us only explore a single type of structural weakness at a time. CS+C modeled some new weaknesses in joints and gave me some new insights.

Good Block Play.

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