Sneak Peek: Nerf Combat Creatures!

Nerf Combat Creatures Attacknid

Nerf Combat Creatures Attacknid

What does it take to get your idea for an awesome toy into the hands of an actual toy company that can produce and distribute it? For Jaimie Mantzel, it took a lot of work, a lot of travel, and not a little bit of luck.

From Jaimie’s Facebook page:

“It’s funny having lived right near Hasbro’s headquarters for 6 years. Every time I went past their building I thought, ‘If only I could get someone in there to look at my inventions…’ I haven’t lived there in over a decade, but now they’re selling my stuff.”

The physical distance between Hasbro’s headquarters and where Jaimie used to live was about 100 meters. However, the practical distance was huge. He had to drive to NYC to meet Dr Graeme Taylor from the Wow! Stuff toy company. Then he traveled to England a few times, and to China about 20 times. He sent gigabytes of CAD files, argued for what he wanted, and eventually his walking “spider tank” robot toy was in stores like Target, Toys R Us and Amazon sold under the label Combat Creatures Attacknids.

Then Jaimie’s new dart blaster design for the Attacknids caught the attention of someone at Hasbro, the maker of Nerf toys. He was in the right place at the right time, and this week Hasbro unveiled the Nerf branded Combat Creatures at the American International Toy Fair in New York.

Wow! Stuff and Hasbro announced the Nerf partnership this Tuesday during the toy fair. The updated Nerf design is expected to be available this fall.

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Drive Around Your Tablet with Ozobot


Ozobot robotic game pieces can travel on screens or paper. Photo: Kathy Ceceri

I’ve got robots on the brain right now, so it was only natural that I attended Toy Fair New York this year with an eye toward finding new robotic toys. One that grabbed my attention was a tiny robot wanderer called Ozobot.

Lots of screen-based toys for kids aim at breaking that glassy-eyed stare (parents, you know the one I mean) and, if possible, encouraging them to interact with others. Ozobot achieves these aims with the help of a line-following robot that can read lines and colors as it literally drive around on your tablet or smart phone.

Looking like a spacesuit helmet, albeit one the size and shape of a chocolate bonbon, Ozobot works with iOS and Android devices and comes with gaming apps that can be used alone or with other players. It include a drawing game that lets you explore the range of Ozobot’s intelligence; a drag-and-drop tile game where you try to build a path for Ozobot to follow; and a game of chance where the route Ozobot chooses through a maze determines the winner.

What’s really cool is that Ozobot easily travels from screen to physical game board or paper and back again. Robotics and digital gaming fans can no doubt imagine many more ways to play with Ozobot — and future plans call for a program to allow third parties to develop their own apps for the Ozobot platform within a year.

Watch for more posts this week from Toy Fair New York.

Coming Soon: In-Store 3D Printers for Customized Toys

PieceMaker printer

PieceMaker CEO Arden Rosenblatt shows off his 3D Printer “Factory in a Store” at Toy Fair New York. Photo: Kathy Ceceri

This is the year 3D printing came to Toy Fair in New York City. Yes, MakerBot had their first-ever Toy Fair booth on the third floor, in amongst the robot companies and tech toys, where they hoped to interest toy makers in their technology.

But down in the overflow room in the basement, little Pittsburgh-based PieceMaker Technologies was showing off prototypes of their in-store 3D printing kiosk. The concept: customers pick a model, choose a color, place their order, and walk out 20 minutes later with a finished piece.

With 3D printing still a developing technology, how will PieceMaker get toy-store owners comfortable enough to run the often-finicky machines reliably? The answer, according to co-founder and CEO Arden Rosenblatt, is that customers will be choosing from a pre-tested set of designs. All the kinks have been worked out of the models available, so shop owners and customers don’t have to worry about air-printing or bird’s nest mishaps.

No, you won’t be able to bring your own STL files to print. But you will be able to suggest new designs, and the company will add new models regularly as they become available.

The PieceMaker customer kiosk. Photo: Kathy Ceceri

The PieceMaker customer kiosk. Photo: Kathy Ceceri

The 3D printer and customer computer station will belong to PieceMaker, something like a soda distributor placing its vending machines in a location (not the comparison Rosenblatt prefers, but fairly accurate). PieceMaker staffers will work with store employees to get them trained on the equipment. Once a store is up and running with their PieceMaker “Factory in a Store” set-up, the company will continue to maintain and service their equipment.

Rosenblatt, a Carnegie Mellon graduate, says the company will be installing their kiosks this spring in several stores in the Pittsburgh area.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates from Toy Fair New York 2014!

Tangeez: An Illuminated Building System

This past year at Maker Faire New York, Emily Webster and Mustafa Bagdatli showcased a new idea for childrens’ building blocks– Tangeez. They’re made in a similar way as Lego, with pegs and holes to fit them together, but the similarity ends there.


Interior RGB LEDs light up depending on how the blocks are constructed. One color will illuminate if a single prong is inserted into a hole, but more colors will appear if multiple prongs are connected. The result is an interactive playset that snaps together with magnets and goes beyond normal building systems.


Tangeez are made from recycled milk jugs, so you can be sure you’re investing in a product that’s eco-friendly. Tangeez are no stranger to World Maker Faire NY, and as Mustafa puts it, “We came along way since Maker Faire 2011 but Maker Faire was the venue that inspired us.”

They are currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign and we can’t wait to see their novel creation go into production.

Countering the Pink Aisle With Engineering Toys for Girls

Goldieblox is a wonderful company that started last year with a Kickstarter campaign to bring their first toy to market (they drew huge crowds to their booth at Maker Faire Bay Area). They specialize in creating engineering toys for girls, and they’ve put out this wonderful new promo video that gets to the heart of the matter: we need to up-end the pink toy aisles in our toystores, and get more STEM-related kits and toys on the shelves that will appeal to the girls who will be our leaders tomorrow. Their motto, “more than just a princess,” is perfect.

Wayne Losey on Making Toys with 3D Printers

A couple years ago, Wayne left a career in the toy industry when he got “tired of the game”, and co-founded Dynamo Development Labs to find new approaches to creating toys. Around that time, affordable 3d printing grabbed his attention. It got him wondering what it could mean for manufacturing, particularly with a modular toy that’s a platform for play.

Wayne and his co-founder Tucker Johnson developed Modibot, a modular action figure that can be printed, and is currently available from places like Shapeways (Modibot Shapeways store).

I first met Wayne at an event at AS220 back when he was in the early stages of designing this. I volunteered to print some parts for him on my Thingomatic. I had to print the pieces pretty big because my printer resolution wasn’t very high, and because I was printing in brittle PLA. I’m still running test prints for Wayne as he explores the possibilities for printing Modibot and accessories on desktop 3D printers.

At the 2013 Hardware Innovation Workshop, Wayne gave a talk (shown in the video at the top of this post) on how 3D printing has changed his approach to the toy industry and how it makes it more natural for him to think in terms of creating platforms for playing.

Right now, Dynamo Development Labs is spinning up a hybrid manufacturing model: injection molding for the core chassis parts, and on-demand 3D printing for accessories. They are running a Kickstarter that’s over 50% of its way to its goal. Check it out at: ModiBot Mo: DIY Action Figures with 3d Printed accessories.


Light-up E-Textile Kits and More from Fay Shaw

Seattle-based crafter and engineer Fay Shaw, founder of bitwise E-textiles, is bringing both her charming light-up plush kits and her experience as a woman engineer and maker to the Maker Faire Bay Area.

Fay Shaw

Fay Shaw

Fay will be showcasing her e-textiles work at Ωmaterials, a hands-on booth where Faire-goers can play with a variety of soft circuit and wearable technology projects and even make their own in periodic workshops. (By the way, organizer Ally Seeley is still looking for more exhibitors and workshop leaders to join the Ωmaterials team, so contact her if you are interested.) Fay’s kits, including a firefly, luna moth, jelly fish, and (in-progress) pair of hearts, are currently available online and will also be sold on site at the Faire at the Metrix Open Hardware Alliance booth. Each kit includes felt, thread, and stuffing as well as and LED, photoresistor, resistor and battery pack. The photoresistor makes the circuit light sensitive, so the felt creatures glow when you cup them in your hands or take them into a dark space.

Light-up Plush Toys from bitwise E-textiles

Light-up Plush Toys from bitwise E-textiles; photo by Michaela Rose

Fay is also on a panel at the Faire called “Makerspaces for Everyone: Six Women’s Stories,” featuring women makers from Seattle and San Francisco makerspaces. The panel idea originated with Tamara Clammer and Andrea Foertsch when they attended the “How to Make a Makerspace” conference at Artisan’s Asylum in February 2013 and many people expressed concerns about how few women are involved in makerspaces. (Georgia Guthrie, director of The Hacktory, recently posted an article on MAKE discussing similar issues.) Tamara and Andrea decided to join forces with Fay, Beth Kolko, Alex Glowaski and Sho Sho Smith, a diverse, passionate, experienced panel of women whose lives have been changed by being involved in makerspaces. They describe the purpose of the panel discussion as being “to share our stories of direct makerspace experience as members, instructors, founders and supporters, and to discuss why it’s important for more women to be interested and involved in the maker movement at this level.”

So keep your eye out for the Maker Faire program schedule to see when the panel is scheduled, and look for Fay’s plush toys around the booths!

Luna Moth from bitwise E-textiles

Luna Moth from bitwise E-textiles

Kid’s Toy Excavator




We haven’t heard from our pal Craig Smith, aka the Firefly Workshop, in awhile. Craig and his family moved to a bigger house. He’s glad to have the extra space, but has no dedicated shop space. Yet. He has plans to build an “ultimate outbuilding workshop” this summer. In the meantime, he hasn’t stopped making. Here is a cool kid’s excavator toy he built. He explains:

My son is now 2 1/2, and so my projects tend to revolve around him. I built an excavator toy out of scrap aluminum beams salvaged from inside old hot tub covers. 2” wide C-shaped beams put together as one to make the primary and secondary booms. Additional aluminum was cut for the end and joining plates (in black) assembled with stainless steel hardware. All pivot points have bronze sleeve bushings in them for long life. The bucket was made from thicker spa cover 4” wide beams salvaged. Cut, bent, and pop-riveted together with precise cutting and measuring, the bucket angles with linkages much like an actual excavator. Unlike similar manufactured toys, mine has a crossover lever-linkage. As you pull the lever towards you, the bucket and arm come towards you. Bought units do the opposite. The unit will be bolted to a 4X4 beam surrounding my son’s sandbox, the particle board base is a “test” platform. The only thing I bought was the wideboy bicycle seat. I wanted a proper throne for this project. While letting my son play with it to see what needed tweaking, he would cry “Digger, digger, digger!,” if it went back to the shop to be worked on!

Alice Taylor: Inventing the Future of Toys


Alice Taylor

Alice Taylor is CEO of Makielab, a London-based startup that 3D prints customised action dolls called Makies. Customers design their doll on the Makie website, choosing facial features, hairstyles, eye and skin colour, and selecting outfits and accessories. The dolls – fully-poseable, and about 10 inches tall are then printed in London and shipped out. For the Makie and Alice, that’s the beginning of a long adventure.

I spoke to Alice about the adventure that she and Makielab have been on, playing with toys, working with geeks, and bringing 3D printing to the masses. (more…)