I am a huge Rigamajig fan and have been since I first learned about them several years ago. I knew our littlest learners would find them to be mesmerizing, but I was surprised to find that our biggest kids loved them just the same.
Why you might wonder. The students liked that they could build actual things that they could sit and ride on. They appreciated the fact that they could make life-size prototypes which could be refined and eventually created out of other materials. They felt that it was easy to put the pieces together with no tools were required. Overwhelmingly, they just said that they were fun!
When I surveyed the kids about their favorite learning tool among the multiple ones they have used in our makerspace, Rigamajig was a resounding favorite. Nearly 90% of the students chose it as their favorite tool.
I have been asked hundreds of times by visitors to our IDEA Lab what the most important ‘tool’ in a makerspace was. Without any hesitation I chose Rigamajig.
When I heard last year that they were working on simple machines add-on kit, I was overjoyed! I When we received them, I couldn’t wait for the kids to explore them.
The first thing you notice is that they are SOLID, bright yellow and extremely well made. In addition to the plastic components, there are also a few wooden pieces that compliment the original Rigamajig kit. I was extremely pleased to see that there were both axels and pulleys as well. Getting a handful of new wing nuts and bolts helped replenish our supply. Amazingly in three years, we’ve only had a few of these break.
I began like I always do by dumping them on the floor and letting the kids explore. It became very obvious that they did not have much experience working with gears or pulleys.
Next, I built a wall or platform on a 45-degree angle. I did this so that the students could experiment with the gears a bit more easily. The holes on the Rigamajig wooden boards match up perfectly with the gears, pulleys, and wheels. Pretty soon, students were experimenting with turning the different sized gears and observing the speed and directions in which they turned.
Pretty soon, kids were exploring how the new axel connectors would allow the wheels to turn freely. Prior to this, the kids grew frustrated that the ‘wheels’ would fall off as the bolts came loose or would freeze when the bolts tightened too much. These new axels were by far their favorite.
I was struggling to find more structured explorations for the students when the kits first arrived. Thankfully, Rigamajig has come out with project plans and some fantastic videos that give excellent teacher background for those of us who have little gear experience. There are actually a series of four sequential lessons that make the Simple Machines Add-On Kit very useful and easy to explore. This is the fourth and final lesson:
As a classroom educator, I always struggled with making these concepts meaningful. With these project plans, the Simple Machines Add-on Kit becomes an invaluable tool to teach hands-on lessons for our students.
The Simple Machines Add-On Kit is not cheap. It is $1,550 including shipping. As I said earlier, the pieces extremely well crafted and made in the USA.
I think that the Rigamajig Simple Machine Add-On Kit is an excellent addition to makerspaces that have the basic builder kit. Complex concepts can be explored in hands-on ways. These lessons will help foster invention literacy and encourage greater exploration by students.