K’nex – Can a Child’s Toy Be Art?

So, maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but before this Christmas, I had never heard of a toy called K’nex.  My oldest daughter got a K’nex kit as a gift and in usual fashion in the days that follow Christmas, we opened the K’nex kit and started snapping.  For those of you that have been living under the rock with me, K’nex pieces come in a few standard forms and are conveniently color coded.  There are rods, brackets and different types of connectors as well as chains and motors.  The pieces snap together to create a solid connection.  

Now I come from the Lego generation.  I remember putting together Lego kits  and spending hours building castles and space stations.  But K’nex isn’t a Lego set.  Instead, it is more engineering-oriented and focused on creating movement.  Thus the play on words in the product name “K’nex = Kinetics + Connects”.

As my daughter and I snapped the pieces into place for the roller coaster that we were building, I started thinking that this toy could be used to make some pretty cool structures.  My creative juices began to flow and the child in me started to emerge.  I decided to do a search on the internet to see if others had had that creative instinct kick in with the K’nex toy.  Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed by my findings.  In fact, what I found was pure pieces of marvel, that fall somewhere in between engineering and art.  Since I’m still a bit hesitant to call these works of art, for the sake of the this post, I’ll call them works of marvel.

Will I found quite a few amazing K’nex sculptures, two stood out from the rest.  The first I’ll share with you is an amazing feat of engineering.

It took Kyle, aka shadowman39 at Instructables.com, over a year to build this fully operational skee-ball machine using 28, 396 K’nex pieces.  When I say fully operational, I mean it. It keeps accurate score and even accepts quarters.  Beyond that, Kyle created a guide to build your own K’nex skee-ball machine.  You can find the guide here.  So, why not get cracking on building your own.  Have a look at the skee-ball machine in action…


The second work of marvel is nothing short of amazing. This is a ball machine made by Austin Granger. This machine consumes his room and he has named it “Clockwork”. Consisting of over 40,000 K’nex pieces, it took Granger over eight months to build. Granger, a computer science major, shows of some major “artistic chops” with this creation. Have a look at it in action…

My daughter and I are yet to finish our roller coaster kit, but inspired by the works of these creative individuals, I see more K’nex projects in our future.

Resources: Instructables.com, tcdailyplanet.net

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