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June 2011 | Vol. X - No. 6
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Zometool Warns: It’s Education or Obsolescence

This construction system is more than just a toy.


“If the human race does not place absolute, uncompromising love for the children about all else, we are committing suicide.” Paul Hildebrandt, Zometool
TDmonthly Magazine interviewed Paul Hildebrandt from Zometool back in 2003 . Since then, the company has gained a cult following of engineering, geometry and math lovers…and kids. But in a recent interview, Hildebrandt stressed that in today’s high-tech world, Zometool and other toys are only as valuable as they are educational. “We don't do ‘toys,’ per se, any more than Apple designs telephones,” he told TDmonthly.

Q: What is Zometool doing now?

A: We are finalizing vZome, our 3D virtual construction environment, and ZomeSpace — which is a cross between iTunes and Wikipedia for ZomeGeeks. This summer we are introducing improved Zometool components with a great feel, higher tolerances and more robust design. We're moving production in-house to improve quality control and contain costs. Zometool is still made in the USA — by German injection molding machines, Japanese robots and a Vietnamese assembly/QC team.

Q: How have your company and your goals changed over the past 8 years?

A: We've become more focused our mission: introducing the world to the new (and ancient) language for understanding the structure of space. Our identity is more profound, so our branding is becoming clearer: "experience the unexplainable."

Q: Have you developed any other products to build on your success?

A: Aside from creating a virtual "ZomeWorld" … we have also prototyped numerous new Zometool components to be introduced over the next decades. Beyond traditional blue, yellow and red lines, Scott Vorthmann introduced designs for black, purple and orange lines (which are analogous to blues, yellows and reds in the 181-zone system.)

We've also developed "Bobs" (named after ball-mold-mastermind Bob Nickerson) to join to same-shaped struts of same or different lengths to form octaves or higher Golden Mean powers in Zome geometry. Chris Palmer designed curved struts that can be used (for example) to build beautiful interwoven regular or quasi-periodic lattices. And of course we've played around with hyper-short versions of blue (B00) and yellow (Y00) struts (R00s are already available in our "Hyperdo" kit).

Q: When we spoke with you in 2003, you said, "Maybe we’re so creative as toy designers we’re eroding the natural creativity of our kids." Do you think that the trend towards virtual play— kids using the iPad, for instance— is ultimately damaging their natural creativity?

A: Any product that is designed primarily to entertain/babysit children and allows parents to abrogate responsibility for their education (in the fullest sense of the word — see Spanish "educación") is devastating the future, at a time when the planet can least afford it ("as if killing time doesn't injure eternity" — Thoreau).

If the human race does not place absolute, uncompromising love for the children above all else, we are committing suicide.


If you’d like to learn more about the principles of Zometool geometry, you can check out their website at http://www.zometool.com.

See below for some of the products Zometool has shared with TDmonthly in the past.




MSRP: $49.00
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Science & Nature
Kits



Become acquainted with the structure of space by building hundreds of models from simple to profound. Zometool bridges nature, math, science, art and architecture; this kit can be a great introduction to the Zometool universe.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20664      (added 9/22/2008)
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MSRP: $99.00
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Science & Nature
Construction



Hyperspace, the final frontier. Think of this as a mental spaceship that will help you project your consciousness straight into the fourth dimension.  The first Hyperdo ever built took over two years to construct. Measuring 14" (35cm) in diameter, this 120-cell model will take a lot less time, but you still won't want to take it apart.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20665      (added 9/22/2008)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction
American-Made



Little white honeycomb balls and colorful sticks combine to make flowers, houses, giant spheres and more. The Pioneer Kit includes 121 parts and a colorful instruction booklet.
— At Big Fun Toys in Hoboken, N.J., these toys sell well, according to manager Wendy Kramer.
— Based on the mathematical principles of nature, Zome can create a plenitude of geometric shapes, molecular structures, quasicrystals, and more
— The manufacturer claims that Zome kits are in use in more than 6000 schools and educational institutions.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3793      (added 6/15/2005)
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MSRP: $19.00
Age Range: 6 and up
SKU or Item #: 7 09743 20052 3
Launch Date: September 2008
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Kits
Science & Nature



Build the molecule that's responsible for building you. Learn more about the structure that makes life possible. DNA contains all the information needed to create and sustain life. Find out what makes DNA like a computer program that runs your body, learn how DNA clones itself and be astonished by the elegance and simplicity of the key to life.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20568      (added 9/19/2008)
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AD


MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Kits
Science & Nature



Build 28 important molecules using atoms as your building blocks.  Life is composed chiefly of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen, use the enclosed molecule cards as your guide to build water, carbon dioxide and a lot more.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20550      (added 9/19/2008)
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MSRP: $39.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Kits
Science & Nature



The Adventurer kit now comes in a tough, part-sorting case. You can even customize it for special parts like Colored Balls, Greens, Half Blues, or Super-Short Reds. 236 Parts: 50 white nodes, 30 each of 3 lengths blue struts, 20 each of 3 lengths yellow struts, and 12 each of 3 lengths red struts. Concise color instruction booklet, with models, bubble recipe, and more.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20549      (added 9/19/2008)
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AD


MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Kits
Science & Nature



This structure is the form of a virus, but it's been flattened by the extreme gravity of another world. Don't worry, it's harmless to humans. FYI: The shape's official geometrical name is "Squashed Fractal Icosahedron". 123 parts: 33 white nodes, 30 blue struts, 30 yellow struts, 30 red struts each in 3 different sizes.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20548      (added 9/19/2008)
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MSRP: $64.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Kits
Science & Nature



A great way to introduce young minds to Zome, already used successfully in thousands of schools worldwide! Includes 388 Zome components, Zome Learning Adventures Volume 1, an interactive DVD (or Video cassette) full of ?funstructional? activities, and the Bubble Adventures activity book (3 volumes in one).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 20547      (added 9/19/2008)
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Justina HuddlestonWriter's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author

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