This week, David Child, inventor of Tectonic Toys, gave the fellows some hands-on education about the relationship between fun, and fruitful invention. Before he became an inventor, David was, and still is, a professional architect. Having an affinity for math from an early age, David was enthralled with the makeup of geodesic domes as they related to his field of architecture.
David said that he stumbled upon his invention when he was playing with business cards one day. After folding them longways, David noticed that you could hinge them together in a 3, 4, or 5 member configuration. With these hinges, you could create a plethora of shapes, which would then be further extrapolated into larger in more complex structures.
From the mathematical and scientific standpoint, the structures that David assembled were identical in nature to the Platonic Solids - the core structures studied by ancient Greek mathematicians and philosophers.
From the business cards held together by tape, David added more ways of interlocking the pieces, making the ends snap together, the sides grooved for perpendicular locking, and the middle a poly-propylene hinge rated for 1 million bends. With this design, David created a toy, based on a single piece, that can make up a nearly infinite number of structures. The beautiful simplicity of his design is one of its obvious strong points.
Toys are one thing, but interestingly enough, they were an afterthought in David's patent process. David received the patent for the concept of the linking framework, and then from there created the toys as an offshoot of that patent. Given his architectural background, plans are in the works to create mobile, easy-up structures that rely on the same linkages found in the toys.
After the presentation, students were implored to try their hand at creating a new structure for the toys, as new functions and features are discovered as different minds play with the toys.
Next week, Kodak's Senior Patent Strategist, Mark Henry, will present on intellectual property to the fellows.