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10 Engineering Toys From Your Youth

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Jim A
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Iron
Another Construction Toy
Jim A   5/3/2014 7:38:59 PM
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About the same time I was playing with Lincoln Logs in the late 40s or early 50s I had a set of rubber bricks similaer to legos except narrower, they only had one row of prongs and holes. As I recall the bricks had two prongs and were redish brown (brick color) and there were longer gray blocks that could be used as foundations or to bridge openings in walls. Anyone remember what they were called?

cookiejar
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Gold
Meccano sets & Heathkit
cookiejar   5/3/2014 4:58:01 PM
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Frank Hornby patented the Meccano set in 1901.  The Erector set was first sold in 1913.  I got my first Meccano set in 1949 at age 5 from my uncle in the U.S.  Meccano rather than Erector was popular in Canada.  It was my favorite toy, until I discovered Heathkit at 13.  Meccano and Heathkit were my main influences in entering engineering.

At University I started noticing pieces of Meccano sets in my classmates homes.  So I did a survey of the popularity of Meccano in Engineering students, Science students and Arts students.  In that era, every engineer had a Meccano set and loved it.  In the Science faculty it was about 50%.  If an Arts student had even heard of Meccano, he hated it.  Meccano encouraged creativity within strict part boundaries, just like engineering.

In our Electrical Engineering graduating class, it was only the students who were into Heathkit that ended up in electronic design for their careers.  Heathkit's clear documentation really helped one to get into electronics.  I still have my over 30 Heathkits in working order.

I found out quickly enough when hiring engineers that it was the ones really into related hobbies that ended up the best designers, not the ones with the highest marks.  These days Meccano, Heathkit and cars seem to have been replaced by robotics as the most influential hobbies.


tinstaafl
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Iron
chemistry set
tinstaafl   5/2/2014 5:13:52 PM
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ah, yes, the chemistry set ... 

 

i didn't mix everything into a stew; i tried to get it to catch fire; after all, if smoke is good, flames are better!  i had to do a double-take when i saw the Heathkit; i built a paper-tape reader and punch that was in a box almost exactly like the one shown, and it actually worked.  couldn't use it too much, though, because it was *really* loud (huge solenoids).

 

Cabe Atwell
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Blogger
Re: Girder and panel available again
Cabe Atwell   4/27/2014 10:43:54 PM
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With the multitudes of electronics learning kids out now, like Lil' Bits, kids born today have so much more. The next generations better be tech-masters! If they end up end-user plebians... all is lost.

 

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Girder and panel available again
Charles Murray   4/24/2014 6:49:10 PM
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I was big on Lincoln Logs, too, Cabe. I'm willing to bet that a lot of engineers had Lincoln Logs when they were kids.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Girder and panel available again
Charles Murray   4/23/2014 6:08:24 PM
Girder & Panel was also one of my favorites as a kid, Jim_E. A couple of years ago, we did a story about Bridge Street Toys. It was founded by a husband-wife engineering team.

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1395&doc_id=235912

Cabe Atwell
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Blogger
Re: Girder and panel available again
Cabe Atwell   4/23/2014 3:42:00 PM
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Oh man those toys were great! Tinkertoys were a staple in our house, as well as the Lincoln Logs and the Erector Set. Legos were also a huge deal and they were everywhere. 

Pubudu
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Girder and panel available again
Pubudu   4/23/2014 2:22:03 PM
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Waiting for your next recall Rob.......................

Pubudu
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Engineering toys
Pubudu   4/23/2014 2:16:34 PM
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Very true Curious all these toys are based on the physics which will give strong base for the children's mind, rather than base on the technology such as video games which give only the entertaining.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Girder and panel available again
Rob Spiegel   4/23/2014 1:06:12 PM
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Yes, Pubudu. Next week we'll run a slide show of new engineering toys. Those will be easily available.

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