When teachers asked for a specific type of educational construction kit, two companies leapt to the challenge, producing a CD packed with features.
Mike Levy reports
K'nex always has a large following at the Education Show, and uses it to launch new products in its educational construction kits range.
Perhaps the biggest leap for the company is the launch of a new CD-Rom, Focus on Design and Create, for key stages 1 and 2. The fruit of a collaboration between K'Nex and Focus Educational Software, the CD is designed as a teaching aid and student research tool for project work. It aims to stimulate student interest in technology through the use of 3D animations, photos, text, videos and activities. K'Nex's Andy Shercliff says: "The CD-Rom is a new departure for the company. The idea for it came from our user group feedback - it is something that teachers were asking for."
The CD-Rom will allow users to go through the building processes and relate the models to real-life constructions. It will also give them a step-by-step guide to constructing their designs. There are three elements in the CD: teacher mode, which outlines ideas for classroom projects; the construction area, which gives users a step-by-step guide to building from a design, using 3D animation to help bring the ideas to life; and the drawing module. The latter allows users to link their drawings to DT equipment so that, for instance, they can cut out a roundabout platform from card. "These innovations have come from talking to DT teachers keen to link up to what K'Nex can offer", Andy says.
The CD-Rom contains teaching materials developed specifically for use with QCA schemes of work. The units covered are: moving pictures, playgrounds, homes, vehicles, winding up, moving monsters and photograph frames. A wordsearch module reinforces all the key technical vocabulary. A collection of worksheets also supports the teaching of each project area.
An integrated 2D drawing module helps students to design and decorate their designs. The 3D Construction Module also shows step-by-step how to assemble each and every model in the Design and Create kit.
The company's policy is to regularly roll out new products and this year is no exception. At the show, K'Nex is announcing products such as the Amusement Park Experience set. It contains swing rides, Ferris wheels, a pirate ship and cam-operated carousels. Junior builders can also get their hands on the K'Nex Roller Coaster Physics Set, which allows them to build 11 designs. These encourage KS2 and KS3 students to investigate aspects of velocity, kinetic and potential energy - and have a thrilling time doing it.
K'Nex will also be announcing a Motorised Simple Machines set and a UK network for training consultants. The K'Nex Users Group (not-for-profit) has also produced three CD-Roms for younger children: 101 K'Nex Challenges, 101 Maths Activities and 101 Kid K'Nex Instruction Cards.
* K'Nex Stand D12 www.knexeducation.com