About this project
Marbleocity STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) kits introduce children and adults to engineering principles and physics concepts through dynamic model kits that are made of wood in America. Each “marble machine” kit is an engaging lesson that is told through the eyes of a cast of characters (the “Tinkineers”) in graphic novella format. The principles introduced in the comic are then reinforced through the construction of the kit and, finally, brought full circle with real-world examples and applications. The Marbleocity kits present and reinforce STEM learning concepts and encourage problem solving.
Our first kit is the Dragon Coaster inspired by the real wooden roller coaster of the same name, located at Playland in Rye, NY.
A wooden roller coaster was an obvious choice for our premier module - everyone loves roller coasters and well, of course, our material (Baltic Birch plywood) suited this perfectly. But there was another reason for this choice. From a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning perspective the roller coaster is a classic classroom tool used to communicate lessons about conservation of energy (more on our STEM learning vision below).
The Dragon Coaster is a rewarding project designed to be performed alone or with a parent (depending on age and ability) in a series of bite-sized sit-downs. We wanted our kits to be substantial yet palatable for a beginner to intermediate maker. Our hope is that you and your child will look forward to carving out an hour each night, after dinner, to share some maker time together! Each day's "build" ends at a logical point in construction. You can set things aside and easily pick up later or power through if you're just having too much fun!
The Dragon Coaster is the first of nine interconnecting kits planned for the Marbleocity line. Each assembled kit (or “module”) is designed either to stand alone or to be combined with the other modules in order to grow your marble empire. A special feature we’ve designed into each module allows you to choose to recirculate marbles or, instead, to pass them along to an adjacent module.
Beyond the Dragon Coaster we’ve already designed three additional modules - Skate Park, Maltese Cross, and Amazing Race. These modules have been designed in the computer but have not yet been finalized for production (see Stretch Goals below).
Like Coaster, each of these modules is themed and that theme is harnessed to communicate the STEM lesson associated with the kit. For example, among other things, Skate Park teaches the concept of Centripetal Force which is related to the motion of your marble traversing the rail slide feature.
The modularity of the Marbleocity kits lends them uniquely to a classroom or extracurricular learning experience. Imagine a group of middle-schoolers working together to assemble their own individual modules, helping one another along the way. Once assembled the class interconnects their modules and operates them together for a climactic grand finale!
The Coaster for the beginner Maker! The Mini Coaster harnesses the same STEM lesson as the full Dragon Coaster module in a shorter project. The Mini Coaster is designed for the beginner Tinkineer and can be completed in around an hour. It's a great way to meet our cast of Tinkineers and experience the satisfaction of working with our Baltic Birch material for those who are new to the Maker scene.
The Mini Coaster consists of over thirty laser cut wood parts and features some of our favorite aspects of the full Dragon Coaster but on a smaller scale. The "Mini" is hand-cranked and does not require a battery to run. Nor are tools required for assembly! The only thing you need to get started on this fun maker experience is household white glue.
Thank you backers! Due to the early success of our campaign we were able to proceed with the design and development of a second "Mini" in the series ... as the Kickstarter campaign was in progress! Behold the Mini Skate Park!
The Mini Skate Park packs a lot of cool features into a smaller kit designed to be built in 60-90 minutes. See update #8 for more details!
By the last week of our campaign we had a functional prototype working:
This model will be refined for ease of assembly after the end of the campaign and prior to delivery!
STEM learning was baked into the Marbleocity product line from day 1. We wanted to take our line's association with STEM further than what we'd observed in the market.
Each Marbleocity kit has what we call an “overt” and a “covert” lesson. The overt lesson is what is taught through the companion Tinkineer comic and then reinforced through the model features that exemplify that concept. As important, however, is the “covert” lesson. The Marbleocity marble machines are complex-looking kinetic structures - that’s what makes them interesting! However, we’ve broken the construction down into bite-sized chunks designed to be performed in digestible, hour-long sit-downs. The construction of the kit emphasizes the fundamental engineering tenant that complex machines are necessarily comprised of many smaller, simple sub-structures. Prior to founding Tinkineer, Adam Hocherman, had an “ah-ha” moment as a college freshman that you can read about below under "Founder Story". Once your son or daughter has completed the Dragon Coaster they will be feeling the pride associated with accomplishing a seemingly complex task that turned out to be easier than they thought!
The Tinkineers are an integrated part of our maker experience. They're a group of friends hailing from an industrial town north of Boston. Each character has their own unique personality, backstory, style and skill set.
For example Iggy is a jokester and Mosfet is handy with circuits. Joule and Kelvin are brother and sister and Newt has been Kelvin's best friend since before they can remember. We use the characters to bring humor and adventure to the STEM lessons that are communicated through the graphic novella that accompanies each kit.
In the first installment which accompanies Dragon Coaster, Iggy finds himself whisked into a secret control room where he meets Marcus, the grandson of the man who designed the real Dragon Coaster on which the story is based ...
This setup gives us a great opportunity to teach the concept of Conservation of Energy all within the context of a group of friends visiting a theme park based on a real place! The theme park in the story was inspired by "Playland" in Rye, NY. Fun Fact: Scenes from the movie "Big" starring Tom Hanks, in one of his earliest roles, were filmed at this same location!
Each Marbleocity kit comes with everything you need to construct the project except standard household Elmer's glue. Wood parts are fully cut out and ready to go. Use of a hobby knife is not necessary!
And, of course, each kit comes with a beautifully printed and bound graphic novella / assembly manual:
Thank you for backing our project! We've crafted a variety of rewards levels that we think you'll find compelling.
If we are able to raise $35,000 we'll proceed with the development of the Skate Park Marbleocity module! This module can stand on its own or adjoin the Dragon Coaster module to allow circulation of marbles between the two.
Skate park has an array of cool marble features including a geared lift, half-pipe, jump, stair descent, rail slide and more!
Unlike the countless injection molded products widely used today, our laser cut wood kits don't require steel tooling which is both expensive and time-consuming to create. We're expecting to deliver early bird Mini Coasters in time for the holidays with the remaining rewards ready early next year.
Hi! My name is Adam and this is my story. I arrived on the Cornell University campus as a freshman engineering student in the fall of 1993. We were lucky to pay only 10 cents a minute to call home on our landlines, fully 2/3 of my possessions (by volume) were CDs and Pearl Jam's second record Vs. would hit shelves in a month's time.
Bewildered and nervous about the program I was walking through the quad one day during orientation when I came across two guys, a girl and an amazing open-wheeled racing car. They explained to me that the car was the result of the efforts of about thirty students over the course of two semesters. The program was called Formula SAE and it was (and is) an international competition between engineering schools who design, build and race a car capable of 60 MPH in under four seconds.
I was dumbfounded. "You built this car? From scratch?" Clearly something had gone awry in admissions. These kids were only just starting their senior year. Cornell was expecting me to be able to design and build an automobile starting a mere 24 months from today.
Fast forward to my junior year. I was accepted to the team which became the cornerstone of my engineering education. So what about that "ah-ha" moment? I was assigned to the drivetrain and cooling teams which I went on to help design and build. These sub-teams along with the teams responsible for the frame, brakes, suspension, steering, etc. came together to produce our car which took 4th place overall that year. As a freshman I saw only an extremely complex looking vehicle. As a junior I saw a series of simpler, isolated systems that were designed independently and later integrated into the finished car. It was like hearing the notes after learning the piano, when before all you heard was music.
At Tinkineer we're seeking to simulate my "ah-ha" moment through a maker experience designed for pre-teens and teens. That way, when they get to school they'll know what to look for when they see that car on the quad. And they'll be prepared that much earlier for an exciting career in design engineering or what I like to call "making for adults."
The Tinkineers behind the Tinkineers are a devoted team of entrepreneurs, product designers, artists and, of course, Tinkerers. Our team has had a great time developing the Marbleocity concept and the Tinkineer experience. We feel that getting young boys and girls excited about a profession in applied engineering is important and what we've built here is how we plan to do it!
Special acknowledgements to Andy and Prescott Goddard, Sean and Charlotte Albert, Corey Smigelski, Sarah Rogge, Pritesh and Alisha Gandhi, Hannah Marklez, Lindsay and Clayton Lehman, Dave Laituri, Ryan Hamilton, Greg Watts, Jason Walsh and Jen Hocherman.
Risks and challenges
High volume mass production of any product is a challenging undertaking. The key to delivering many identical copies of a high-quality product is to define a repeatable process that embeds multiple quality control check points along the way. The great news is that Marbleocity is not the first product that this team has delivered in a mass production environment. Specifically, founder Adam Hocherman has over a dozen years of experience bringing mass produced consumer products to market. He, along with head operations Tinkineer Krista Jakes, have worked to meet the demanding standards of giant retailers such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target. All of this knowledge and experience will be channeled to bring you a beautiful and high-quality product.
Supply chain issues (e.g. the timely delivery of materials and sub-components such as wood, marbles and other hardware) may also be cause for delay. Fortunately, the Marbleocity BOM (Bill of Materials) is relatively simple. We've already aligned with vendors of our signature Baltic Birch, print materials and the other hardware we need to create these kits. We are not anticipating any issues here.
Unforeseen circumstances do arise but our team is experienced in product manufacturing and fulfillment. In the event of problems, we are here in America (Marbleocity is made in New England!) to tackle them. We believe that clear and timely communications are absolutely critical and you can count on us to keep you apprised of how things are going throughout the post-Kickstarter manufacturing and delivery process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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