Costa Rica math whiz enters world toy industryFrom: www.monstersandcritics.com
Nuremberg, Germany – A mathematician from Costa Rica is entering the world toy industry with a construction toy inspired by the ball-and-stick models of molecules that are often used to teach chemistry in schools.
Francisco Pacheco-Kitzing is not just the first toymaker from Central America to exhibit a product at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in Germany. He is also the sum total – so far – of the fledgling Costa Rican toy industry.
‘We are showing this here for the first time,’ the 43-year-old said at the start of the world’s biggest toy expo, where he demonstrated the M Quarks game. ‘We want to get wholesalers interested in it.’
Unlike traditional stick-based construction sets like Tinkertoy which go back 100 years, the M Quarks, which resemble golf balls, lock onto one another with magnets. They also conduct electricity to one another through metal contacts on their surfaces.
The variously coloured spheres can be stacked up into towers and other shapes. They also contain LED lamps that light up right along the line when the balls are connected with the proper polarities.
‘The goal is to find, by correct positioning, the possible illuminated versions,’ the product documentation says. ‘A short circuit is impossible.
Some children will manage this science toy by trial and error, since the magnets repel at the wrong joints. But many will go a step further, learning about the two forces in physics, electricity and magnetism, predicts Pacheco-Kitzing.
One ball, containing the power source, can be recharged with a standard USB charger. A starter pack is priced at 25 euros (34 dollars).
The inventor describes himself as a lawyer who does not practice law. Instead, he has invested in the past in the distribution and restaurant businesses, and has published an article in a mathematics magazine about his toy, now patented, he said.
Although he has incorporated his toy company, Two on a Seesaw Corp, in Texas, Pacheco-Kitzing said he decided to launch the toy first in his ancestral homeland, Europe, not the United States. His mother is German.
Costa Rica lacks the industrial base to make the components from ABS plastic, magnets and aluminum, so these are imported and assembled in the inventor’s own workshops.
The idea for the toy came from the models of molecules, made of brightly coloured balls arranged into lattices on toothpicks that chemistry teachers use to help children visualize the way atoms lock together to form compounds.
M Quarks can also be used to demonstrate simple chemistry.
‘Look, this is CH4 (methane),’ he said with a smile, then pulled the model apart and formed it again into a ring: ‘This is butane.’
His ideas for other uses of the toy are also creative.
‘The uses of the product are varied: as a night-light for children, as a Christmas or as a table decoration, are just some of the possibilities,’ he said. He recommends Costa Rica’s first manufactured toy for children 3 and older, but said teenagers would also find it captivating.
Word of the Day
Origin: French molécule, from New Latin molecula, diminutive of Latin moles mass
First Known Use: 1794
1: the smallest particle of a substance that retains all the properties of the substance and is composed of one or more atoms
2: a tiny bit: particle
Captivate: v. to influence and dominate by some special charm, art, or trait and with an irresistible appeal
Fledgling: n. one that is new
Lattice: n. a regular geometrical arrangement of points or objects over an area or in space
Patent: v. to secure by letters patent exclusive right to make, use, or sell
Polarity: n. the particular state either positive or negative with reference to the two poles or to electrification
Wholesaler: n. a merchant middleman who sells chiefly to retailers, other merchants, or industrial, institutional, and commercial users mainly for resale or business use
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