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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Thames & Kosmos teaches science through gumballs at Toy Fair

Thames & Kosmos' "Gumball Machine Maker" display at Toy Fair

The folks at Thames & Kosmos liken it to a “Rube Goldberg machine meets a marble run meets a roller coaster meets a pinball machine.”

“I like to call it a physics kit disguised as a gumball machine,” added T&K president Ted McGuire at this week’s Toy Fair at New York’s Javits Center. And STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educator Jason Lindsey, on hand to demonstrate the company’s new Gumball Machine Maker, said it represents “the future of toys.”

“It challenges kids and makes them think,” said Lindsey, appropriated dressed in white lab coat. “If a gumball gets jammed, they have to see what’s wrong and fix it. I talk to thousands and thousands of kids, and sometimes I want them to mess up so they can find a solution: They need to know how to problem-solve in the real world. If things always work perfectly, it sets them up for failure.”

Gumball Machine Maker, then, is “a toy that teaches,” said Lindsey. “It sneaks fun into learning.”

There are 12 experiments that can be accomplished with the Gumball Machine Maker. After constructing it from the parts included in the 48-piece kit, a turn of the handle dispenses one gumball at a time out of the clear storage globe and onto a track made up of different segments. These can be moved around on the base of the machine to create any number of distinct configurations.

Along the way, the gumball performs various stunts and tricks via a pulley lift, pendulum, funnel, trampoline, pinball launcher, and domino slide as it inevitably rolls to the end of the track and into the collection cup.

Thames & Kosmos also showcased its new 172-piece My Robotic Pet—Tumbling Hedgehog STEM experiment kit. In assembling the toy, knowledge of its mechanical workings—gears, motors, sound sensors, LEDs (the robotic pet’s eyes light up)—is gained.

McGuire had fun demonstrating some of a completed Tumbling Hedgehog’s tricks. Clapping his hands loudly, he got it to back up and then tumble over backwards and then right itself.

“It was scared!” explained McGuire.



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