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Extreme Creating with K’nex

Ferris Wheel at Night

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 3.36.06 PM

World's Largest K'nex Ferris Wheel - created by Austin Granger
World’s Largest K’nex Ferris Wheel – created by Austin Granger

I decided to make up a new phrase for today’s Phun Phriday post.  (At least I think I made it up.)  To me, “Extreme Creating” is when people take something that is usually used as a toy to pass the time, and devote days, weeks, and even months to making something remarkable with those toys.  The K’nex constructions made by Austin Granger fall into this category.

The ferris wheel pictured above took 12,000 K’nex to build.  You can see more stats when you watch the video on this post from Visual News.  Granger’s most recent project, which took over 100,000 pieces, is also featured on the post.  It’s a Goldberg-ish type machine that resides in The Works Museum in Minnesota.

You can visit Austin Granger’s blog for more pictures and information.  He also has a YouTube channel, Austron, with more videos of his creations. And, here is a great article about the creator, himself.

My 2nd grade GT students are about to embark on their own K’nex journeys using the Bridges kits for our Structures unit.  I think I’ll wait until we finish before I show them how Granger uses K’nex.  It would not surprise me, however, if some of them could take it to this level some day.

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from "Bridge Constructor Playground Free"
from “Bridge Constructor Playground Free”

My second grade gifted and talented students are currently studying bridges.  We have been using the PBS Building Big site, which has some great interactive labs and suggested classroom activities.  We have also been using the K’Nex Bridges kits, and will be exploring the “Bridge that Gap” challenge (Here are some other K’Nex Challenges).  There is also a Structures Curriculum packet that is a free download from K’Nex.  Here you can find a great compilation of famous bridges. One of my favorite new resources, though, is a pair of iPad apps that allow the students to learn about different materials and types of bridges by making their own and testing them.  They are very similar.  One is called, “Bridge Constructor Playground.”  This one gives a tutorial that slowly introduces the different types of materials and methods.  Users can build virtual bridges and test them with cars and trucks.  What I like about this app is that you can have many different answers for each phase.  What I don’t like about the free version is that it has an advertisement between each level.  (The kids quickly learned to hit the “x” every time, though. ) The other app is merely called, “Bridge Constructor.”  In this one, you are given different scenarios and budgets for your designs, and must stay within those constraints to meet the challenge.  There is a free version of this app, as well, and it did not appear to have as many ads as the “Playground” version did.

We are going to add some depth and complexity to our lesson by talking about multiple perspectives and the ethics of building bridges.  The 2nd graders truly seem to be enjoying this portion of our “Structures” unit, and we may have a hard time moving on!