Meet the Flexure
Richard Elaver stumbled upon the idea while watching his
1-year-old son taking apart and then reassembling a common household utensil.
“I had been trying to introduce him to Legos and other toys, but with the spatula, he was able to take it apart perfectly naturally,” Elaver said.
Until then, his son had encountered frustration while trying to piece together building blocks and pieces from traditional retailers.
From watching his son manipulate the parts, Elaver, an assistant professor of industrial design at Appalachian State University, began the developmental stage for a new toy that could serve as both a teaching tool and for young children to express themselves while developing their motor and cognitive tools.
What came from that was a prototype toy set that includes silicon connecting pieces with wood sticks, which he has named Flexure, that can be used to construct an array of geometric shapes, life-size representations for chemical compounds and whatever else their creative hearts desire.
Unbeknownst of his father’s true intention, Elaver’s son began to test the product in the various stages of development.
“I would come home and say, ‘Hey, I have a new present for you,’” Elaver said, “and he would look up and say, ‘Present!’”
With his son’s stamp of approval, Elaver moved forward with his prototype and the potential mass production of the toy.
Currently, Elaver has been in touch with a mathematics museum in New York that shares his vision of using the toy as a mathematical teaching device.
Elaver also sees the building kits earning a place in classrooms and developmental daycares to nurture the emerging skill-set of youngsters nationwide.
“Teachers all seem to love them because they can be fun, goofy and playful,” Elaver said.
Elaver has already distributed the test kits to local elementary schools, where he said they’ve found a receptive audience.
“When they get into these kits, I will ask, ‘What are you making,’ to which they reply, ‘I don’t know yet,’” Elaver said. “The interaction is exciting. You can also start introducing mathematical concepts when the kids are ready. This is a way to introduce those concepts in a very innocent way.”
Elaver plans to include a small booklet of instructions with each kit, but understands the reality that some kids may just want to “freewheel” with the pieces and build displays from scratch with little oversight.
To help fund the project, Elaver has started a Kickstarter profile to encourage potential customers to invest in Flexure.
To learn more, check out the Kickstarter account at kck.st/1bwJTgZ or http://www.facebook.com/flexuretoy.