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Flexure = Flexible Structures. Flex, connect, build, learn, play! Read more

Boone, NC Product Design
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This project was successfully funded on March 9, 2014.

Flexure = Flexible Structures. Flex, connect, build, learn, play!

Boone, NC Product Design
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About this project

  • An interactive building toy made of flexible connectors and wooden sticks.
  • Easy enough for a one-year-old, complex enough for a chemist.  
  • Intuitive assembly - simply push parts together and pull apart.
  • Includes six different connectors and three different stick sizes to create endless possibilities.
  • Use Flexure to build spaceships and butterflies, or dodecahedrons and molecular models.  It’s up to your imagination - bend the rules and come up with new structures.

"Colorful, engaging, robust... and fun!  We are interested in this toy."  - Cindy Lawrence, Co-Executive Director, Museum of Mathematics, MoMath in NYC

"As Montessori students, our children were very comfortable with the natural wooden materials as well as the flexibility of the pieces. The suction cup connectors were also very popular. I could see the pieces being used to teach a variety of mathematical and scientific concepts within our curriculum." - Glenn Grizzard, Director, Mountain Pathways Montessori

"I want one!"  - Mrs. Rebecca (Simon's pre-school teacher)

Build structures that bounce, wiggle, and move!  Flexure connectors are made of a flexible food-safe silicone.  Their flexibility makes construction easy:  when connecting two sticks, if the angles don't line up then just flex and make them align.  This simple, intuitive building process creates ever-expanding possibilities.

Connect pieces by simply pushing them together.  It's an easy force-fit.  Add or remove connectors, swap a 'triad' for a suction cup, switch a short stick for a long one. The flexible connectors grip the sticks and let them pull apart easily.  This is based on how a wooden handle is stuck into a rubber spatula.  In fact, the idea for this toy came from watching my 1-year-old take a spatula apart.  Simple and easy... A baby can do it!

The sticks are natural wooden dowels, and come in lengths of 3, 5, and 8 inches. These numbers are part of the Fibonacci Sequence, and provide a convenient additive relationship, 3+5=8.

Flexibility in the silicone parts allows you to easily add, remove, or swap sticks.  If a longer stick is needed, just add it in and the rest will flex to accommodate.  Add more sticks and connectors to any structure to extend it further.

Fun Forms - With a little imagination, quick models can be made to represent just about anything.  Here are some things my son likes to build:

Regular Geometries - Flexure can be used to study and play with geometric structures.  Learning can be fun!  Here are some examples of regular geometries that can be constructed with Flexure:

Chemistry/Molecular Models - More learning opportunities with simple molecular models.  Some examples of molecular models made with Flexure:

Irregular forms/structures - What makes Flexure unique is the flexibility of the connectors.  You can start with a mathematical model like a dodecahedron, and then stretch and pull it in new directions. The whole structure will flex and morph with you, providing infinite construction possibilities.

The Pieces:  Flexure includes the six different connectors shown above, and three different stick sizes: 3, 5, and 8 inches long.  There are different sets of the toy with different numbers of pieces.

  • Small Set (expected retail $40): Includes 30 connectors and 30 sticks.  This includes 5 of each of the six connectors, and 10 of each of the three stick lengths.
  • Large Set (expected retail $70):  Includes 60 connectors and 60 sticks.  This includes 10 of each of the six connectors, and 20 of each of the three stick lengths.
  • Extra-Large Set (expected retail $100): Includes 90 connectors and 90 sticks. This includes 10 extra orange, green, and purple silicone parts and 30 of each of the three stick lengths.  Includes enough pieces to make the Dodecahedron (orange ball) in the video.

We have shared the prototypes with a broad range of children and adults,  from 1 to 65 years old, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  

  • The 1-2 year-olds mostly like to chew on the parts (admittedly, the silicone parts are fun to chew on…)  They are made of food-safe silicone, but the building is better left to those over 3.  
  • 3-6 year-olds have excitedly jumped into creating wacky structures making comments like, “Wow, that’s cool!”  
  • 6-12 year olds that know more geometry tend to build more complex structures and push the limits of the toy.
  • College-age students have responded similarly, though with comments more like, “Where was this when I was a kid?!”  
  • Other adults have used Flexure to make handles for their beer bottles in a dinner-party contest (Those suction cups stick to just about anything!)  

Everyone seems to intuitively understand how the system works, and then they investigate what it can and can't do.  So far, it has inspired a playful curiosity across the board.  

When I handed my son a dodecahedron sphere, he just yelled out “Ball!” and threw it across the room again and again watching it bounce, sat on it, took it apart, and had a ball.  We hope you will too.

Flexure at the MoMath in May:  We have been invited to demo Flexure at the National Museum of Mathematics in NYC on May 2.  More details will be posted on our FB page - follow us and stay tuned.

Project Timeline:  Once the project launches in February, finished products should reach you in June.  It takes time to make and test the production tooling and to bring together all of the elements, including the packaging to the wooden sticks.

How funds will be used:

The main goal of this campaign is to create the first production run of the product.  To do this requires significant front-end investment in tooling and volume production.  Any additional funds will be used to cover legal fees to secure IP (patents, copyrights, etc.)

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Risks and challenges

Production will be done in Asia through established connections that we trust to manufacture high-quality parts on-schedule. However, there is always a scheduling risk for production and shipping from overseas, and a simple thing like customs can change the shipping schedule by a few days to a month.

Designs have been finalized, CAD models are done, and prototypes have been tested. Through the production process, small design changes may be needed to ensure quality, function, and aesthetics - but the core design will remain the same. I have years of product development experience, and now teach Product Design at a university. After helping to bring multiple consumer, athletic, and medical products to market, I know this is just part of the process.

Cost estimates are based on direct quotes from manufacturers, so not much deviation is expected. However, if production costs should change significantly, then adjustments will have be made to the quantity of parts in a 'set'. This could mean that there are 50 or 55 pieces in a set rather than 60, but no change is expected.

Packaging design still needs to be finalized. I taught Packaging Design for four years, and have connections with talented designers and manufacturers that will help to finalize the branding, graphics, and package design for the production product.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    3 backers

    You'll get a big thank-you and receive a card from us when the product is finished and available. Every bit helps, and we appreciate it!

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    31 backers

    Get a Flexure starter set. This includes 8 'triad' pieces (the 3-sided green ones), and 12 sticks - enough pieces to build a cube. Good for a desk toy, a small gift, or just to play around and see what Flexure can do.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    Pledge $35 or more

    97 backers

    A set of the Flexure building toy, which includes 30 silicone parts (5 of each connector) & 30 wooden sticks (10 of each length). Expected to retail for $40.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $60 or more

    149 backers

    Large set of the Flexure building toy, including 60 silicone parts (10 of each connector) & 60 wooden sticks (20 of each length).
    This is the boxed set pictured in the video.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $90 or more

    132 backers

    Extra-large Flexure set: includes 90 silicone parts (10 more of the green, orange, and purple connectors) plus 90 sticks (10 more of each length). This set allows you to build a Dodecahedron (the orange ball in the video) and other more complex shapes. Make sure you can build all of the models in the video!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    21 backers

    Get the Flexure Super-set. Great for a class or group, this set includes 300 silicone connectors (50 of each of the six connectors), and 300 sticks (100 of each of the three stick lengths). Get Flexure for your school or your next play group!
    This set has as many parts as five large sets, and saves you another $50.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,500 or more

    1 backer Limited (5 left of 6)

    A Flexure party with the designer, Richard Elaver. I will come to you and host a three-hour Flexure building extravaganza. Includes a large Flexure set, small Flexure set & a Dodec Set. Must be within the continental US, and within 2 hours of a major airport. (I reserve the right to cancel and refund your money if travel costs are prohibitive)

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States

Funding period

- (30 days)