Wednesday, October 14, 2015

First test of Strawbees

My Strawbees came into the mail today! How exciting! I ordered the 368 piece kit for $50.

I opened the box to my only complaint about the item. It contained sheets of the connectors. I had to hand pull off every single piece with a kit of 368 pieces. It made me wish I had a volunteer handy. Make sure you have a hole punch because the middle circles of each piece all need to be taken out too.

All the pieces were separated into small Tupperware containers for later use and I got to work.

Engineering attempt #1
Like most maker space tinkering activities, there are going to be those students who don't know where to start (neither did I honestly). You can build ANYTHING. That's alot of possibilities! So I thought, why not a helicopter so I have something that moves? My first attempt right out of the box without instructions was less than stellar. So I consulted the internet and used this lampshade strawbee tutorial to begin with a cube. My favorite part of the tutorial was they laid the cube out on the ground first. If you were working with younger kids, tracing this outline would be much more approachable to start. 

Laying it out on the floor helps connect the pieces
Another important factor would be introducing the kids to all the different connection options to test which is the right one for your structure. This would help with some examples. What would be the right one for a propeller? How would you build a triangle?

The propeller in my first design wouldn't stand up so I evenly added circles to try to make it sturdier. When that failed, I cut the straw in half to balance the weight.  These are all good thinking aloud examples to act out. When that didn't work I concluded that I was using two different straw types with size and width so perhaps the bottom wasn't sturdy enough.

To turn my cube into the helicopter, it required a one connector, two connector, circle and 3 way connector at each of the 4 corners of the cube. The package comes with yellow and white connectors, it doesn't matter which color.  The top of the copter required a 5 connector piece and a one connector piece.

Engineering attempt #2
Like most STEM open ended toys, there are so many ways to get the same results. If I was going to host a program around these, I'd have everyone group build a helicopter starting with the standard cube, then invite them to build individual helicopters to see how they would design it differently. That way it's still tinkering but I provided some light guidance towards their path.

I don't think 4 year olds would master this product without help. It does take some force to put straws in the middle circle (depending on size of the straw) and to lock some of the strawbee parts together.

This has great potential to add to a makerspace cart in your library for drop in programming. Just beware of choking hazards and be prepared for missing pieces ending up in the vacuum. 

For a long term investment, you can also buy the accu-cut to make your own pieces, that way kids could take them home.

1 comment:

  1. Our library just purchased a kit - can't wait to try them out! AccuCut is running a deal on kits - 50% off. We got our kit of 1034 pcs for $40 + shipping. We are sharing the task of "popping" the pcs out. :)


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