I have come across two products that would make cardboard/recyclable construction creations (especially for younger kids) much easier without all that scotch tape, staples, and box cutters.
Strawbees securely connect to straws to allow them to move and build crazy contraptions. After watching the video, I was sold. The opportunities are endless: bridges, masks, even a lantern fish that actually works! They come in sets ranging from $20-$80 through their store with a $15 standard flat rate shipping. I bought the $40 box which includes 368 connector pieces. Could I have printed out my own on a 3D printer? Possibly. I'll have to see when the kit comes in. We have LOTS of straws at the library that I discovered after cleaning the craft closet. They could be left out on a makerspace cart for students to explore on their own time or built into an already designed program. This will be used in our Tinkering Tuesday STEM programs as well as our drop in building programs (which have integrated Lego club and STEM together by leaving out K-NEX, KEVA planks and other building materials in addition to Legos for wider appeal). A case for strawbees is it could easily eliminate the need for building with food (think the marshmallow challenge, spaghetti challenge or toothpick challenges whatever you call them) while still learning design principles.
The next one, shamefully, we have had in our craft closet for a while now and just rediscovered, Makedos. Makedo are "strawbees" for cardboard. Makedos also include tools like a safe cutter for cardboard (although a bit jagged finish). They got a makeover since we purchased them, with a new screw capability and a screwdriver tool. The older models are being sold in kits on amazon or you can purchase the new screw kits through their store which range from $12.50-$480 as they are marketed to classrooms. They are also testing a free 3D printing gallery to make hinges and other items. Most of the programs I did this summer involving cardboard could have incorporated these. I could have had real working hinges on the car doors to swing shut in my Superhero Cardboard Drive In or "Lair" building project.
As part of the Global Cardboard Challenge, participants came together using Makedos to make a maze. The challenge occurs every fall. It is set for October 10th this year, same as Star Wars Reads Day.
Imagine the possibilities together? Storm trooper cardboard costumes? Deathstar maze? Make your own Podracer? Then add electronics littleBits or arduino to make something light up or make noise? Say R2-D2 perhaps?
The one drawback to either of these items is what happens when the kids want to take their creations home? Based on the price, do we let them? If you had a ten kid program and gave them their own $12.50 Makedo kits it's only $125.00 for the entire program with the idea that kids could explore and create more at home. The alternative idea could be a $12.50 supply charge from the patron to fund the program. I'm going to say no for now but promise to display them somewhere prominently until I see sad faces that I cannot resist anyway.