There are plenty of toys that turn kids into engineers. Lego uses interlocking plastic bricks; Technic even includes mechanical elements like axles and gears. You can make amazing things with both, from starships to car engines, but there are limits to their realism. One example: If you shake a model of the Empire State Building made with Lego bricks, it will not crumble like the real building would under the force of a strong earthquake. The physical properties of the plastic and its form don’t allow it.
But the inventors of the third generation of the Mola Structural System, which launched recently on Kickstarter, claim that their updated toy design can simulate the actual physics of very large structures, like suspension bridges, at a much smaller scale.
“The aim of [using Mola] is to develop an intuitive knowledge of structural behavior, which is essential for architects and engineers, specially in the early stages of a building design process,” the creators write on their Kickstarter page, which has already surpassed its target funding level (at the time of publication, backers have contributed more than $150,000 out of their $85,000 target).
The system achieves this by using metallic pieces like poles, springs, and chains connected with powerful neodymium magnets. $119 will get you get one of these kits with enough pieces to build nearly anything, including simulating cable behavior, stayed systems, suspension bridges, tensegrity, and any other cable-net system like the ones used to build large tensile tent structures.
The campaign features a slew of engineers and engineering professors proclaiming their support, like Dr. Alain Nussbaumer–engineering professor at the École Polytechique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland–who says he hasn’t seen any structural model able to show as many engineering phenomena as Mola.
Looks like the perfect present for engineering and architecture students of any age. The system will arrive in February 2020.