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the new Learning Tool for STEM Education. Build simple and  awesome with snap-together connectors and soda straws. Free files!
the new Learning Tool for STEM Education. Build simple and awesome with snap-together connectors and soda straws. Free files!
86 backers pledged $2,395 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

STEMginery - build, learn, play, make - straws & connectors project video thumbnail
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$2,395

86

The goal is quality education for all

As a teacher many years, I know that figuring out the best learning method, tool or environment is a very individual thing, not what one-size-fits-all schooling do right now

If you're looking for a construction/building Learning Tool designed for individual and team growth, you're in the right place.

This project is not at all just about you getting a cool Reward and me building a business. STEMginery is about the zillions of kids that deserve better chances to develop their giftings and talents, at home, in clubs, also in some schools. What can we do for them?

ATXinventor at 0.8 years old. He sure could have used STEMginery!
ATXinventor at 0.8 years old. He sure could have used STEMginery!

Why STEMginery is better

Versatile
From simple geometric shapes constructed by a 3 year-old up to very complex chemical representations, STEMginery can do it, often using exactly the very same connectors and straws. The real world can be represented - complex angles, curves as found in nature big and small, wireframes and trusses present in engineering and design...

Easy to use
Simply snap parts together

Real
What you STEMgine can be translated to real life applications right away, or build your skills and a vision for structure, shapes, constructs that will be valuable for the rest of your life. While our prototype life-size geodesic dome used thin wood struts instead of straws, the connectors are substantially the same that you get.

Cheap - even free
Cheap makes it affordable, allows to "fail gracefully", get up, and try again. Free files for the designs allow anyone anywhere to help their own people. Learning and growing up is about being independent, responsible. I sure like that! But if the tools you use are too costly, you can't really use them. STEMginery by design is a inexpensive, sustainable, local as possible, can be replicated and scaled up anywhere by local talent using local resources.

STEMginery is for all ages! here at Austin Mini Maker Faire
STEMginery is for all ages! here at Austin Mini Maker Faire

A construction toy, certainly, also a powerful learning tool to gain hands-on awareness of vectors, stress, thrust, balance...

Goal and Rewards

Rewards available at launch include the STEMginery Angles Tool, The Bridge, Solo Exploration, Team and Advanced sets - including Cooperation and Competition Game modes - and huge projects as Top Rewards.
Rewards
Rewards

Doing STEMginery

Solo or as part of a team learn hands-on the power and strength of good engineering - tension, compression, material fatigue. But you don't need them fancy words here. STEMginery makes it all become natural to you, starting as young as 4. Then, when you go on to become a real life engineer, you already master awareness of these concepts - they're built into your fingertips.

Cooperate Game - we win together by working together, even if our skills are different.

Competition Game - together with friends and family follow one of the STEMginery Construction Challenge Cards or make up your own House Challenges. Share those online and also show off your construction achievements and fails...

Surpass your limits every day as you go beyond graceful fail, create your own designs and imitate the best work of others (from the included Design Blueprints or examples online), figuring out what materials and structure can accomplish. Explore  different strategies in putting together hubs, struts, trusses to get more strength from less material. Use the STEMginery LogBook to keep track of your advance and challenges.

4 year-old building a 2v geodesic ball
4 year-old building a 2v geodesic ball
done!
done!

Will I get my Rewards? (on time?)

I already manufacture and sell educational products through 1montessori.com. This Kickstarter will inject a lot of dynamism in my startup, dedicated to STEM resources for preschool, and enable me to make better designs and lower manufacturing costs - I am not starting from zero, and I can manufacture everything pretty much right now.

In the Updates section of the Campaign I share about how things are going, and how I care especially to reduce costs, for example international shipping.

The most important win for all of us is that through a successful Kickstarter more people get to try out STEMginery and participate in improving the designs - then make those available for copy and sharing.

I don't call it "successful" until all Rewards have been sent. And I do like success.

Sustainable and local

Baltic birch is a pioneer hardwood species, almost a weed in its native habitat. Cannot go more sustainable than that! The acrylic and the straws are made in the USA. STEMginery is manufactured by myself in the Austin Hackerspace. If you ever are in town, come visit us for Open House on Tuesdays! Especially when the project takes off, all manufacturing will happen here in the US except when local manufacturers copy it for their local markets

The Angles Tool

ATXinventor Blog post:
detailed lesson example on how to use the Angle Tools

Larger pieces, especially designed to learn basic geometry and geometry principles.

Originally I thought they would serve only in preschool - then I realized that the concepts learned are needed at many levels, especially because many students get very confused in the traditional school setting.

Why wait until 3rd grade to learn angles?

Angles Tool prototype - not final design
Angles Tool prototype - not final design
4 year old working with the PK Angles Tool
4 year old working with the PK Angles Tool

Bridge, Solo, Team, Advanced Sets

Important note: All sets are different, as they are designed for different user cases

one STEMginery Set, much designs, many potential. $5 pledge level, wow
one STEMginery Set, much designs, many potential. $5 pledge level, wow
  • The Bridge is a simple starter set. 50 connectors of 6 types. Enough pieces for The Bridge, Godzilla, Windmill, etc...
  • The Solo Set has many 15 connector types, meant for all-around STEMginery exploration. Wheels!
  • The Team Set has many of 5 connector types for building complex structures using a basic truss design. Also for games and competitions, where participants get the same simple set of pieces
  • The Advanced set has even more connectors, of 12 types.
Competition @Protospiel: Tallest event with 3 Connectors; Yellow wins
Competition @Protospiel: Tallest event with 3 Connectors; Yellow wins

The Awesome Expansion Packs

Designed each for one specific Three Dimensional construction puzzle project, although of course a Master Builder can modify them in many ways! Enormous fun with many parts - hundreds. Each of the Awesome Expansion Pack uses particular, specialized connectors that are not available in other Rewards sets.

Bucky This builds two 6-foot diameter geodesic balls (6v), or four 6-foot geodesic domes. About 2,400 straws! The straws are precision cut to size - that's the "secret" for easy, reliable geodome construction.

Eiff-el The 1:100 scale Tour de 300 Mètres becomes the Tower of 300 Centimeters. A highly detailed Eiffel Tower will ask for high ceilings, as it stands 10 feet tall once completed. I will prioritize the shipping of this one so those asking for it can have it by Bastille Day. Over 2,000 connectors! Major stuff.

Helix Want your school to show off how much y'all care for Science? Get this! a 5-foot wide representation of a minuscule portion of the DNA molecule. Color. Did I say huge? I mean, humongous!

Copy-n-Share

You can legally copy and make STEMginery parts and designs, and do not need to ask me for permission - CC-by-nc-sa for the laser-cut parts, CC-by-sa for assembly designs, instructions, and media.

Supporters of the project get early access to files, at least three months before these are published "in the wild".

A bit of a social experiment Yes, you could wait a few months, get the files "for free". Then find a laser cutter, and you have as much STEMginery as you want. But, if everyone does that, there will be no files... Prisoner's Dilemma, here we come!

Stretch Goals

More fun comes!

First, the Rules.

  • I will deliver on the primary rewards described, right away, first-come-first-served - only priority is the Eiff-el, because July 14.
    It has been said that some projects get stuck when they lose focus because stretch goals, delays, etc. Won't happen here. As I said above, when funding comes in I will be ready to manufacture and ship.
  •  I guess that's about it for rules.

Now for the fun.

Reaching the Main Project Goal of $650 unlocked already

  • Ultimate - classroom STEMginery set ($109)

When we pass the Project Goal by 2,000% (we will, yes!), everybody gets 15% more connectors - this is possible because of economies of scale - manufacturing connectors by the many thousands is cheaper than just cutting a few hundred.

Together we'll figure what do we add when we pass $5,000.

during Protospiel South 2014 testing a prototype of a 6-foot geodesic dome - built entirely with STEMginery parts
during Protospiel South 2014 testing a prototype of a 6-foot geodesic dome - built entirely with STEMginery parts
All STEMginery content is CC-by-sa *except* the design of the connectors. Attribute: Yama Ploskonka 2014
All STEMginery content is CC-by-sa *except* the design of the connectors. Attribute: Yama Ploskonka 2014
The shape of the connectors is released under CC-by-nc-sa. Attribute: Yama Ploskonka 2014
The shape of the connectors is released under CC-by-nc-sa. Attribute: Yama Ploskonka 2014

In Recognition

For the record I want to mention a few among many that have helped me in this and other projects

  • My parents, Estaño and Yolanda, now watching from Beyond. A lot of the best that I do can directly be traced to their work and love
  • the wife unit, my CFO and best friend, Deb. I am getting to be almost reliable when I do what I learn from her, strongest work ethics ever. The very first contributor to this campaign. As it should be
  • The Robot Group has nothing absolutely to do with this Kickstarter - I say so for liability reasons. However, Roboteers are among my best friends, strongest supporters and often sharpest critics, the right kind. As it should be. Jerry, I should have let you help me with the video, Mike, the 100% improvement needed, I will repeat forever, you were totally correct. Vern helped me figure out the business/people context.
  • The ATX Hackerspace, in particular Martin Bogomolni, mentor and friend, who is the agent behind a lot of the good that has happened there, especially the Universal laser cutter used for at least 5 successful Kickstarters adding up to over $150,000. Many other Hackbats also encouraged and contributed to the campaign, too many to risk mentioning a few and forgetting others.
  • Steve and Renee Baker ran the two most successful of those Kickstarters and preparing for one more. Generous with ideas, advice, and encouragement. What made sense of my campaign has a lot to do with that, what was not so good is when I was doing things on my own. Also, if you want to run your own Kickstarter you must read Jamey Stegmaier's Stonemaier KS Lessons.
  • Vlad and family helped me in testing prototypes and regular sanity checks on technological issues, as we confer on some future projects. If you're in town sign up for his 3D printing class.
  • I buy my wood off Fine Lumber and Plywood. They don't give me a special deal for me to say that their plywood is the best in town for the price, they just treat me right. And it is. My acrylic is from Regal.
  • The Tyler Maker Faire was where STEMginery (not that name then) was first presented to the public. Josh was maybe the first person who saw the wide-world possibilities of my connectors. The earliest finished piece was displayed at the Austin Art Science Gallery. The Austin Maker Faire, thanks especially to Kami and Chris, and Re:Make, thanks Francesca, where we saw how really anybody could STEMgine. Then Protospiel, where I learned about some gaming options that I do not know yet how to develop well.
  • Jackson and Robert, you guys are awesome and will do awesome things. If other kids get to do at least a bit of what y'all can, STEMginery will already be a total success
  • Open Source software that I used, highly recommended: Fedora, Kubuntu, Inkscape, Gimp, OpenShot, Audacity, Thunderbird.
    Grégoire Lourme kindly allows anyone to use some of his music for any purpose for free, despite Jamendo trying to confuse you into paying - use advanced search, filter by license.
    Freely you have received, freely give. Please use the free files I provide, pass them on for others that do not know me, put them in your servers, improve them. More files will be posted in "updates" after the campaign ends.
    (I have to use Corel and Windows because that's what the laser will take, but it's not by choice) Google is your paid friend, the USPTO and USPS also. Kickstarter is a for-profit, yet it seems to know how to keep healthy boundaries and collaborate in the best example of capitalism empowered and empowering.
  • Friends, family are great, strangers that now become friends also. To y'all in 4 continents, from Austin, Texas, Thank you!!!!

    If I can ask for anything more, it is that you do keep sharing, your experience, suggestions, ideas, whatever we can each one of us put toward better quality education, for all.

More Good Stuff in Kickstarter

Kickstarter has become a strong community. I like that. A healthy community depends on people helping each other. I can't give much to these projects, but I can at least help them reach a wider audience

Dinosaur Snappets: Paper hand puppets you build yourself!
Dinosaur Snappets: Paper hand puppets you build yourself!

The Free font I use in the STEMginery materials is having a Kickstarter: check out Comic Neue

Assembly: a social and educational toy for young architects
Assembly: a social and educational toy for young architects

Risks and challenges

I feel quite confident things will go well, but I know I still have to grow and develop. I already manufacture and sell educational resources, and have access to quality materials and manufacturing tools. I teach an Advanced Laser Cutting class at the Austin Hackerspace, and have some experience in order fulfillment and just-in-time-manufacturing. However, I have never shipped more than a dozen packages per week... That is a big "we'll see". I have some concern for international shipping, but I believe the numbers set are accurate.

Us hackers tend to be very sensitive to Intellectual Property issues - we don't like 'em, but we are all too aware. One major concern early on was whether there is some patent or such IP that would be relevant. I am happy to report that, as far as I have been able to figure doing rather extensive due diligence, STEMginery happens to be a new idea. There have been other construction toys using straws, even two rather successful in Kickstarter - Lynxs and StrawBees. STEMginery is different, offering specific learning content for different ages and levels, game options, and high-level 3D construction projects, easier to use, and quite cheaper per piece and as sets.

Regarding delays: I know I can currently produce about 350 connectors per hour (even taking into account worst-case 10% lossage) at an average cost within the Rewards offered. That means that I could fulfill all of the pledges for the base goal in 10 days (That much because I can use the Hackerspace laser only a limited amount of time per day).

When the pledges go above and beyond the base goal, the additional funds will pay for extra laser time. If pledges go completely ballistic, then a more powerful laser cutter that can spit out 600 pieces per hour will be operating 12 hours per day, and still get all pledges fulfilled in the announced timeframe.

Safety

Small parts - choking hazard. Not suitable for children under 3. Watch out for pets also. Connectors are laser cut plywood, which releases sticky barbecue-smell waxes and other components that might stain clothing, fabric or skin - though some people really like that smell!
Wood and acrylic can break and/or splinter, leaving even smaller parts and sharp ends. Probably the State of California has something else to add :-)

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    1 STEMinion with googly eyes - your name listed in the Project Logs - Early access to Free2Copy Hardware files

    (everybody gets listing and files, whatever level of participation they are in).

    Or simply say "go, Yama, go!" with $1 or more.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    The Bridge. Or Go-zilah. Or anything else with 50 connectors. Already designed and ready to manufacture and ship

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    10 backers
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    Pledge $9 or more About $9

    PK STEM Tools - the preschool STEM angles set. 24 PK connectors (extra large), 10 straws

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    Pledge $16 or more About $16

    Solo STEMginery - over 200 connectors, 100 straws (clear and color) - recommended for exploration and individual training in STEMginery principles

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Team STEMginery - this is the basic gaming/learning set - 300 connectors, 250 straws (color) - 2-4 players in competitive or collaboration modes

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    30 backers
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    Pledge $62 or more About $62

    Advanced STEMginery - for up to 8 players or participants, or older or more experienced Builders. 750 connectors, 1000 straws (clear and color)

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    Pledge $109 or more About $109

    Ultimate STEMginery - Unlocked! - a set designed for classroom use, focusing in activities specifically linked with current school content. Over 1 K connectors. Ready for the Fall semester

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $148 or more About $148

    Awesome STEMginery Expansion Pack - your choice of Bucky, Eiff-el, or Helix 3D construction puzzles. Limited quantity! once these are gone, they will NOT be available again until October 2014! EXTRA The first four Awesome backers get to name the two other STEMinions in the Advanced set and the two in the (currently locked) Ultimate set! 3D puzzles Wingman, Zepe, and Boto are unlocked when total pledges surpass $ 2,000

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Funding period

- (18 days)