Beth Cady, National Academy of Engineering posted a question on "Community Canvass"

PostedFriday, January 8, 2016 at 2:20 PM

What was your favorite engineering toy as a child? What is your favorite recent toy?
Toys that promote engineering habits of mind have been around for many years, and new toys are being developed every year. What was your favorite engineering toy as a child? What is your favorite recent toy?
7 Answers
  • Kate Gramling , LinkEngineering
    Posted Monday, January 18, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    I really don’t remember playing with toys. I grew up on a farm where there was always something interesting to do outside. When the weather was bad, there were always books to read, which would inspire other adventures. Thinking about this question has made me consider how toys are used define “play” and how engineering toys are still seen as those that involve building things or working with machines.

    Wasn’t I using engineering design when I spent an afternoon trying different combinations of dirt, water, and grass in search of the perfect recipe for mud pies (which doubled as artillery shells when my brother was annoying me)? Wasn’t I exercising the same creative muscles engineers use to improve system efficiency when I was working out the best, most secret and stealthy route to the barn “clubhouse”?

    In my personal experience, a lot of play was engineering. It was about figuring out how to do something or how to use what I found to accomplish what I wanted to do. I didn’t need a toy for that.

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  • Deborah Fike , Spotkin
    Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 9:20 PM
    My 4 and 2 year old girls have "play tested" a lot of engineering toys.  By far and away, the most popular building toy with my children and their friends (and their parents) are Magna-Tiles, which are tiles with magnets that you can build with.   The 2-year-old also  absolutely loves Superstructs, which are similar to the Tinker Toys I grew up on.
    
    Both of my girls like robots too, and some of the new stuff kids can play with are really sophisticated.  I'm hoping to get my girls into programmable robots when they get just a bit older.
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  • Pat Gramling , PictureBookWoman.com
    Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 4:24 PM
    Growing up in the 50’s I spent a lot of time following my dad around and “helping” with his tinkering. He was a great one for taking things you have and making something that would solve your problem or make your work easier. We still use the “Mole Whacker” and the “Super Simple Sod Cutter” he devised.
    
    Probably my favorite toys were my colorful, wooden alphabet blocks. I kept them in a big box along with cardboard rolls and tubes and scraps of wood from Daddy’s workshop and played with them all the time. I built ramps for racing cars, walls for the turtle habitat, furniture for my sister’s dolls, and even a bridge for the 3 Billy Goats Gruff to cross over. Their usefulness was limited only by my imagination.
    
    While I was thinking about this question I did some research into today’s toys touted for engineering and technology. I was pleased to see many more than I expected but soon disillusioned to find the vast majority were just building kits designed to make a particular object according to specific directions. Where is the creativity and trial-and-error? And why should the gender of the individual using the toy be of significance in the labeling?
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  • Linda Kekelis , Linda Kekelis Consulting
    Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 3:15 PM
    I love this question. It takes me back to my childhood and offers a chance to reflect on how toys shaped my world and how they might inspire today's kids and tomorrow's engineers. When I was little I loved playing with my brother's erector set. I designed and built furniture for my Barbie dolls. They had the coolest bunk beds ever. There were no directions to tell me what to build so I got to design and shape my play world. I think that open-endedness inspired my creativity and encouraged me to persevere. When I put away the Barbie dolls, I stopped building with the erector set. Perhaps, with some encouragement or a summer camp I might have taken my building to the next level. What do I recommend today to parents and adults? A toolkit is a great gift that gives kids the means to tinker and learn how things work. I've heard from a number of engineers how their early attempts at taking things apart inspired a lifelong interest in engineering. A toolkit along with encouragement can allow a girl or boy to experience the joy of engineering.
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  • Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 10:19 AM
    My favorite engineering toy as a kid was my father's 1952 MG TD. I loved that car but it broke down a lot and finding parts was really hard. So my father and I would always be looking for innovative ways to fix problems. Chewing gum and duct tape were two of our favorite solutions as was the ever popular "take it apart, clean the parts, say some magic words, put it together and pray". Here is my current favorite toy. We got some from Santa this year and are just starting to put them together and play-- no batteries, no plastic, just fun!
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  • Amelia Greer , National Academy of Engineering
    Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 9:18 AM
    My favorite engineering toy as a child was Legos and, if I'm being honest, they still are!
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  • Mirna Navarro , Pasadena ISD
    Posted Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 8:58 AM
    My favorite engineering toys are A Rector Set: Nuts + Bolts Metal Model Engineering Set / Hot Rod
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