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Engineer's Toy Becomes a Profession
11/30/2011

The Clarksville Elementary School Building Set is one of the engineering-inspired offerings from Paul Flack's Bridge Street Toys.
The Clarksville Elementary School Building Set is one of the engineering-inspired offerings from Paul Flack’s Bridge Street Toys.

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William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Engineers Toy becomes a profession
William K.   12/1/2011 10:42:05 AM
I certainly wish them success in the venture. I do wonder about how it will work with the current hysteria about toy safety. Small parts that can be swallowed always were an indication that toys should not be available to those children with a propensity to eat everything that they could see. But when did a dhilds safety cease to be a parental responsibility that required a bit of parental judgement? It will be very interesting to see how the molded PE parts last, and how they work at staying assembled. The set that I played with wore out in some areas, as I recall.

Probably the most effective way to produce all of the different pieces would be to mold them in a string and then cut them apart as part of the unmolding step. There are some real experts in injection molding available who would enjoy contributing to such a venture, I am sure.

I wonder about the patant portion of the project, although it certainly should be possible to make a similar product that gets around the claims. Or perhaps Kenner agreed to let them use the same design, since they had ceased to make the product many years ago.

IT would be very interesting to see a report on this venture a year down the road, it might offer encouragement to others. And all of us could learn something from it.

Oldfortman
User Rank
Iron
Re: Hasbro AstroLite
Oldfortman   12/1/2011 10:00:30 AM
NO RATINGS
I had all the Kenner sets as a kid. I was born in 1951 so was just the right age as a kid to love these toys.

I liked the set with the tanks and valves the most.

I wore out these sets playing with them and they were my most prized toys as a child.

I have found a few of the orginal toys on sale on ebay as collectables.

I am so glad that someone is making them again. I am sure they will inspire many new young engineers.

wbswenberg
User Rank
Gold
Kenner
wbswenberg   12/1/2011 9:58:19 AM
NO RATINGS
Yes, this really took me back.  I received one for Christmas when the family was TDY Salina, Ks.  On reflection I should have wished for an Erector Set.  Dad was a electrical power engineer.  I'm more into power electronics.  I've seen some PLC & micro processor kits I should explore.  This really brings back memories.  We visited a KC135 where I sat in the boom operators seat.  And we went down a Titan site under construction. 

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Hasbro AstroLite
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   12/1/2011 12:56:25 AM

Gosh, Charles, you are really taking me back.  In addition to Legos, Lincoln Logs & Erector Sets, one toy that I spent hours with was the Hasbro AstroLite; (it was the 3D answer to Hasbro LiteBrite, which I also spent hours with).   AstroLite was very, “Meet George Jetson” with 21st century domes that I just couldn't create with Legos!  A quick Google for AstroLite, and sure enough, there on eBay is my old favorite toy which I have not thought about in 40 years.   Even just the retail box image is hauntingly  familiar.  Thanks for that!

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Toys
Charles Murray   11/30/2011 10:42:32 PM
I played with the Kenner Bridge & Turnpike set as a kid and later ended up designing bridges (and later on, nuclear power plants) for a few years after I became an engineer. I believe Paul Flack is right: Many of us were drawn to engineering because, somewhere in the deep recesses of our minds, we connected engineering to the fun we had as kids.

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Comparible pricing
TJ McDermott   11/30/2011 10:21:30 PM
The pricing of these models compares well with current Lego sets.  The startup company is doing good matching a giant like Lego.

The article states they went outide the home for production.  I hope they didn't go offshore; it would be nice to see domestic toy manufacturing come back to this continent.

Tim
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Toys
Tim   11/30/2011 6:49:52 PM
Building kits are great.  I agree about the Legos.  My kids have some of the Star Wars sets and really get upset when they can't find one piece that is needed to finish a piece.  It usually takes some convincing to have them use an alternate.

As a kid, I found an old lawnmower engine that I tried to use to make a go-cart.  I learned a lot about gear differentials and the benefits of a slip clutch.  I also learned that mufflers get really hot and that gas is really flammable.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Toys
Rob Spiegel   11/30/2011 2:25:02 PM
Thanks for the comment, bdcst,

Yes, I noticed that Heath Kits were back, which is great. I forgot all about the chemistry sets. I went through a number of them. Like you I remember chemicals that didn't come with warnings. I remember playing with the mercury that spilled on the floor when I dropped a thermometer.

When I was a kid, a stick was a gun. A hunk of dirt was a cannonball. You could play in the woods all day. I made my own skate board (using roller skate wheels and plywood) because you couldn't buy a skate board. We all did.

The Lego toys today are good -- though they're a bit by-the-numbers. I agree homemade 

bdcst
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Toys
bdcst   11/30/2011 2:17:22 PM
Hi Rob,

So many of us started down our paths with Lincoln logs, Erector sets and AC Gilbert Chemistry sets.  But I also made toys of every day household items such as quick silver from broken fever thermometers.  As children we had access to material now deemed so dangerous you need to send in enviromental specialists to clean up the smallest spill.  I can't tell you how much mercury must have seeped into the cracks in the floor in my bedroom or the yards of asbestos I cut up for my junior chemistry experiments using reagents commonly provided in those children's chemistry sets.

My first Heathkit was their OM-1 oscilloscope I built at age nine.  I sorely missed them when they folded their tent having built some of their test equipment.  I still own and use a Heathkit Nixie tube style frequency counter that I modified to run on much cooler lower power 74LSXX family logic.  It was a lot of bang for the buck being able to directly count to over 200 MHz without any pre-scalers!  And the audio frequency multiplier had a huge range such that I could meaure FM stereo pilot at 19 kHz out to two or more decimal places  19,000.00 Hz in real time!  Only magnitudes more expensive calculating counters from HP could do the same.

Anyhow Heath is back specializing in educational kits consisting of course material and experiment boards.  And they are planning to venture once again into household and ham radio kits.

For those who prefer not to attempt to build electronics from scratch due to the miniaturization and robotization of circuit board construction, SMD's etc, there are opportunities to assemble kits from fully soldered and even factory tested and aligned modules and boards.  You still need a good eye, steady hand and patience as mechancial assembly can be quite involved for today's miniaturized chassis.  An example is the Elecraft K3 HF transceiver which is a partially software defined amateur radio.

Jennifer Campbell
User Rank
Gold
Re: Toys
Jennifer Campbell   11/30/2011 12:14:28 PM
This is definitely cool, and what a great way to spend a day at work! Ann, don't knock the Lincoln Logs and tinker toys - those have stood the test of time. I still have an old set that I plan to pass along to my daughter. I also think it's refreshing that a lot of companies are coming out with lines of wooden/organic toys, stuff that better allows children to use their imaginations.

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