TDmonthly Magazine!
August 2006 | Vol. V - No. 8


Uberstix Taps Kids’ Unlimited Potential

Flexible Building System Makes Toys That Work

The creations can be as industrial or as whimsical, as simple or as complex as kids want.
Five years ago, Dane Scarborough’s 11-year-old son asked him if he loved his job. At the time, Scarborough was the owner and managing director of a company that manufactured precision measuring tools for the construction trade. This simple question caused him to sell his company, briefly retire, and then start Überstix (ToyShow), a building system made up of eight parts that can be connected to create boats that float, planes that fly and buildings as tall as the ceiling.

“You can look at anything and see the potential for improvement,” Scarborough, now president and CEO of Überstix, told TDmonthly Magazine.

Scarborough looked at the building systems available to kids and thought he could design a better system — a system accessible to all kids and one in which the structures they built worked.

Scarborough achieved this and more. Kids can incorporate commonplace objects such as paperclips, straws and Popsicle sticks into the designs. A water bottle makes the boat float, egg cartons are castle walls, and a shower cap transforms a polygon into a Frisbee.

Scarborough believes that kids have tremendous potential, and he wanted to create a building system that would allow them to use their problem-solving skills and creativity.

" When an engineer or architect designs something, unless it is strictly utilitarian, they have an aesthetic in mind," he told TDmonthly. "The challenge is to achieve that aesthetic while maintaining the structural integrity of the project. Kids solve these same problems when they build.

And what they build is limited only by their imaginations. According to a math-whiz friend of Scarborough’s son, the total different ways to put four Überstix pieces together is 125,757,744,913,221,000, which is 7 billion times the 1.75 millions species discovered on earth.

But Scarborough doesn’t want kids to be intimidated by that statistic. The creations can be as industrial or as whimsical, as simple or as complex as kids want. The point is to discover something new every day — new ways to connect the parts, new parts created by modifying existing ones, new structures that grow out of the builder’s imagination.

Toys break. As Scarborough sees it, if an Überstix part breaks you have two choices: you can cry like a baby or you can take an emery board and nail clippers and create a new component. And you don’t have to wait until a part breaks to do this. The Überstix parts are meant to be modified. In fact, the basic Überstix I-stick can be modified into at least five different components.

Überstix are also designed to be compatible with other manufacturer’s toys — Lego, K’Nex and Zoobs.

“We want to be an integration hub,” said Scarborough, whose ideal is for kids to optimize their creativity by using all the building systems together. In fact, he wanted to market Überstix with one of the other building systems, but that company refused to promote their product in conjunction with another manufacturer’s product.

To Scarborough that attitude is self-defeating: “It’s not us versus them. It’s about opening up potential.”

What follows is more information on a few Überstix products.

Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction

The UberStix in this set are variously colored and composed of varied materials. The Stix have been designed specifically for constructing “fantastic representations of buildings and bridges or your own designs,” inventor Dane Scarborough told TDmonthly Magazine. “They don’t look like toys. They look very industrial, modern or gothic — whatever the builder’s intention is. The product debuted at Toy Fair 2006 and will ship in July 2006. Sets range in price from $99.99 to $300.00.
  • Build representations of existing skyscrapers, bridges & other structures
  • Create prototypes of your own designs
  • Basic building techniques are provided which show you how to create load-bearing walls, curves, arches etc.
  • For Architects, Engineers, Students and anyone that loves to build!
  • Architectural Colors Include:
    Black, ship Metal Gray, Sandstone, Clear, Clear-Green, Clear-Blue, Steel, Aluminum, Brick Red & Concrete Gray. New colors released each year.
    ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7918      (added 5/22/2006)

    MSRP: $21.99
    Age Range: 8 and up
    SKU or Item #: 00306
    Launch Date: September 2006
    Gender: Boys And Girls
    Category: Construction

    Kids can build a functional catapult and learn the physics that make launching objects through the air possible. The catapult itself only requires 90 of the kit’s 181 pieces, leaving plenty of extra pieces to upgrade and explore new design options. As part of the company's Science Project Series, this kit includes a Lab Sheet to test and record a series of suggested experiments."Our construction system is much more diverse than other products, offering integration with other construction sets (Lego, K'nex, Zoobs, Zomes) as well as with recycled materials (Popsicle sticks, McDonald's straws, egg cartons, water bottles). This offers limitless possibilities for children (and adults) to build structures taller than themselves. [Our products] are not available in the mass-market stores," COO Julie Bell of Uberstix told TDmonthly. The Uberpult received the 2007 Parent to Parent Adding Wisdom Award in both Toys/Games and Educational Products categories. It also received The Toy Man Online 2007 Seal of Approval, Award of Excellence and eChoice Award. Launch date: September 2006.

    ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7917      (added 5/22/2006)

    MSRP: $44.99
    Age Range: 7 and up
    SKU or Item #: 00305
    Gender: Boys And Girls
    Category: Construction

    Future architects, engineers, and even rocket scientists will love using this versatile construction system that utilizes principles of physics and mathematics to build, float, and fly their wildest projects. The highly flexible, yet sturdy links, crossbeams and connecting panels interlock to form rigid structures that soar. This 450-piece set has plans for a tower, boat, bridge, ray-gun and UFO. Complete instructions are included.
    ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7445      (added 3/30/2006)

    MSRP: $149.95
    Gender: Boys And Girls
    Category: Construction

    With the Überbots construction and RC kits, kids spend most of their time designing and building offenses and defenses and then testing their assumptions on the field of battle. If they are knocked down three times, they return to their lab and redesign to come back stronger. The more kids play, the more sophisticated their designs become. Dane Scarborough, inventor of Überbots and Überstix, told TDmonthly, “Build a boat and it floats or sails; build a UFO and it really flies; build a skyscraper and your ceiling may get in the way. More than one retailer told me that placing the order felt good because Überstix are designed to work with recycled items, including water bottles, Popsicle sticks, McDonald's straws, paperclips, etc. … This feature allows kids of all economic backgrounds to build big.” The kit builds two Überbots with 250 Überstix, two controllers and two flags. Each Überbot will operate on a different RC frequency, with up to six Überbots capable of battling simultaneously. The kit can also be purchased with rechargeable batteries.
    ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7264      (added 3/20/2006)

    Elizabeth GreenspanWriter's Bio: Elizabeth Greenspan edits and writes for trade and technical publications. She has interviewed and collaborated with some of the top practitioners in their fields. She lives in Philadelphia and travels extensively for her work. Read more articles by this author


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