Entrepreneurs have an uncanny knack for experiencing a situation and turning it into a new idea or invention. Case in point: Mark Stolten was waiting for his appointment with a physiotherapist for treatment on his torn bicep tendon when he was gazing at cross-section images of the complex inner workings of the human body. The networks of tendons and muscles that added a flexible dimension to bones intrigued him, and he says he suddenly saw the human body as a marvel of “perfect engineering.” Cue the light bulb clicking on and “aha!” finger pointing to the sky in excitement!
The Auckland, New Zealand-based toy and games inventor then took another mental step: What about adding flexibility to building blocks so they could be used in new, exciting, fun ways? And so the Flexo was born.
Flexo has been five years in the making, but is now launching through a crowd-sourcing campaign. Each set is comprised of both bricks and tendons, instead of just the bricks that make up other big building block brands. The tendons have a full range of movement from flat to 180 degrees, so you can build models that pivot, bend and can even be worn. Additionally, the brick and tendon system is 100 percent compatible with traditional brands (yes, Lego, we’re looking at you), so it can be added on to what’s already in your house. Team Flexo says the combo can have great results: “Vehicle suspension, catapults, swing bridges, reinforcement and strengthening, plus so, so much more.”
Constructive, imaginative play takes on an important role in education, and Flexo products are a great way to teach the principles of flexibility, friction, potential energy, recoil, elasticity and more, boosting interest in the STEM topics. Even grown-ups can use the block system — the inventors envisage architectural modeling and design as uses for their Flexos.
The blocks are also key players in the “fun” category, Stolten says: “Flexo performs in any type of build from basic accessories to brick animals to wearable jewelry to toy vehicle suspension to spring doors to swing bridges and even to large, complex engineering structures.” You can build a bow and arrow, balls and train tracks, too. Just add imagination to the Flexo set and see what emerges. (And adults are allowed to play too, we feel obliged to add; no guilt required.)
Mark Stolten and his son John hope the company will spawn a vibrant community of users that will develop into “a place where people can share their amazing builds, hacks, techniques and improvements so we can all get the most out of Flexo.” They also intend to keep developing more exciting Flexo products as well as creating “an online library of how-to building instructions, users’ own building instructions and creations, as well as a forum for discussion and ideas.”
Right now, early crowd-funding backers are already getting their deliveries. The rest of us have to wait until early in the new year, but if you’re feeling lucky, you can try to win some Flexos on the company’s Facebook page — an easy way to get the blocks and be ahead of the curve.