About this project
Lego meets Origami, but better
Troxes are triangular, interlocking building bricks. They were designed at the MIT Media Lab as a medium for geometric play beyond the boxes and right angles that are so common in most building toys. Troxes exercise and deepen spatial thinking, and allow for the construction of objects as beautiful as they are unusual.
What are Troxes?
Meet the Trox family: Tetra, Octa, and Icosa. Each Trox is built from the same pieces, and the resulting shape depends only on how many pieces are used.
Every member of the Trox family can be combined with every other, by aligning their faces and interlocking them.
Putting together your first Trox is a puzzle, but after practice, they become quick and easy to build.
Design for the Ages
Troxes are designed for ages 6 and up. The final forms are elegant enough to keep on your desk, or design a sculptural centerpiece for the table.
Troxes are made from Plike, a soft-touch paper that almost feels like plastic. The specific paper comes in a small variety of colors, so they are shown here with the colors available. I would love to pick a custom color palette for the Troxes and with high enough volumes, I can put the decision for colors in your hands!
Thinking Outside the Box
Our toys shape how we think. If rectangular building blocks dominate our play, we reinforce arbitrary limits on spatial thinking. That’s unfortunate, because unlike our toys, the world isn’t governed by right angles, and the ability to think deeply about space is profoundly valuable. Spatial thinking is critical to building any physical object, playing any sport, moving safely through the world, all visual art, and has been known, now and then, to alter human history.
As just one example, James Watson and Francis Crick used spatial thinking (and erector-set-like models) to deduce the structure of DNA. It lead to the discovery that DNA carries the human blueprint and gave birth to genetics (source). That’s not the only example of out-of-the-box spatial thinking leading to Earth-shattering insight (for example Einstein is famous for arriving at his theories by thinking in pictures), but I won’t belabor the point.
Kirie, not Kyrie
A familiar hobby is finally getting its due praise, NOVA - The Origami Revolution, is only the most recent documentary on the many innovations and advances in math and science through exploration with origami. Troxes are technically a variation of origami called Kirigami, also known as “Kirie.
Hand Holding (Only if you want to)Included in each package of Troxes is a set of illustrated instructions, but nobody will force you to look :)
Maker Faire – Editors' Choice Award
Troxes have been put through their paces. From the MIT Museum to NYC's World Maker Faire, they've been cut, folded, assembled and always taken home. Kids become completely absorbed and I find it is the parents that need to be told, "sorry, you can't take the rest of my supply home with you."
- Previous Events
- 2015 - Play Day at the MIT Museum
- 2015 - Harvard Ed Portal's Pop Up Makerspace
- 2016 - Boston Maker Faire
- 2016 - NYC World Maker Faire (Editor's Choice Award)
- 2016 - New Museum Family Day
- 2017 - MoMath Family Fridays - "Troxes aren't Boxes"
- 2017 - Westport Maker Faire
- 2017 - Bay Area Maker Faire (Come visit us! #60399 in Zone 2)
MIT Invents Disappearing Museum Installation
In 2015, Troxes found their way into the MIT Museum as a student exhibit, but it was after installing them and hearing that they were mysteriously disappearing from the display case that I thought, maybe kids should be able to buy them instead of steal them. A fun fact about the museum, they have a permanent installation of the pattern that Troxes leave behind made out of stainless steel (ask me what I did with the stainless steel Troxes).
While earning my Master's degree at the MIT Media Lab, I took a class called How To Make Almost Anything! It’s as amazing as it sounds. In the first assignment, which was about designing tolerances with fabrication techniques in mind, we made a press-fit kit using cardboard and a lasercutter. ** Press-fit means that no screws, glue, or tape are needed to join two bodies. This requires really tight tolerances, a little too loose and it doesn’t hold, too tight and it doesn’t fit. ** In an attempt to be cheeky, I made a press-fit kit that, once fit together, could press-fit with other completed parts. I learned from a clever design from the 1970s by Jef Raskin and made this meta press-fit kit.
Two years and thousands of hours later, I have refined the initial design to be a products I can say I will truly be proud of. The tolerances are so tight, that it is difficult to believe this is what can be done with paper. Die-cutters and manufacturers along the way have been blown away by seeing 3D forms folded out of the very pieces they are cutting, and the die makers have told me this is by far the most unique and beautiful die they had ever made.
Pics or it didn't happen
The design process is long and complicated, so I won't bore you with the details here. Instead, check out the slideshow of imagery from all of my experimentation, technical sketches, and fun in the process. If you would like all of the nitty gritty, I will do my best to share it throughout the campaign, but that is up to you!
Little Ticky TackySome of you might be wondering, why this song, "Little Boxes" written by Malvina Reynolds, isn't it a downer about suburbia? I love the fact that it is speaking to the deeper meaning of building a set of building blocks that are against the status quo. The song provides a juxtaposition of playfulness against the monotony of suburban life. TROXES are not boxes, they are in some sense, the anti-box.
In true Kickstarter fashion, a last minute introduction to the talented musician (and Origami artist!!!), Larissa Maestro, lead to this cover version. We are grateful to be part of an artist eco-system, one that values a holistic view and is consistently paying it forward.None of this would be possible without the incredible kindness, inspiration, and resources provided by these wonderful individuals and institutions:MIT Media Lab, Kevin Slavin, Neil Gershenfeld, Amanda Ghassaei, Tom Lutz, John DiFrancesco, Che-Wei and Taylor, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, MIT Museum, Susan Timberlake, MoMath, Cindy Lawrence, Maker Faire, Sharon Yoo, Alisha Padwani, Miguel Perez, Benjamin Berman, Mike Lazer-Walker, Chikara Inamura, Tomer Weller, Palash Nandy, Jamie Tsukamaki, UCLA Design | Media Arts, Casey Reas, Rebeca Mendez, Vasa Mihich, Fractured Atlas, Adam Huttler, Lisa Niedermayer, NEW INC, Julia Kaganskiy, Rasu Jilani, Linnéa Mellander, Alex Darby, Rain Embuscado, Adelya Aksanova, Doremy Diatta, Kevin Cadena, Greg Leppert, Kate Darling, Jason Krugman, Rumi Ishino, Nick Bentley, Josh Levine, and last but definitely not least, Jef Raskin.
Risks and challenges
I've shipped 2 successful Kickstarter campaigns, the most recent of which delivered early!! (I know, this is Kickstarter, right?) To avoid much of the frustration of previous Kickstarter campaigns, we have arranged all of our partners for die manufacturing, cutting, stripping, packing, and shipping ahead of time. The most important part is to reach a minimum order quantity to bring this product to market.
Stretch goals and requests along the way. Much of the fun of a Kickstarter campaign is that you, yes you! the one reading this, because you decided reading to the bottom was important, get a chance to suggest stretch goals and features you wish I had already thought of. If we decide to include some of these and reach our goals, we will hustle to make sure it doesn't affect our timeline negatively. Delivering a finely crafted product is our main goal, and we feel ready and set to do it.
Lastly, another possible risk is that we might have too much fun shipping Troxes to all of y'all :) Thanks for supporting and spread the word! #TROXESLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
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