Architect Mark Allan Burginger of Bend, Ore., recently launched production of a geometric construction toy based on an idea he developed while in college and has fine-tuned over the years. Qubits, "The Construction Toy of the Future," allows kids to build a variety of 3-D structures while introducing them to the basics of geometry and architecture. The educational toy is available at www.qubits.com and at www.costco.com.
Burginger's successful launch of Qubits is a lemons-into-lemonade story. His decision to put his concept into production came as a side-effect of the troubled economy. In September 2007, he lost his position with an architectural firm in San Diego, where he mostly designed residences, due to the slowing construction market.
A year and a half ago, Burginger moved his family to Bend, believing that the town's growth would offer greater opportunities. But Bend's construction market also slowed, jobs dried up, and Burginger found himself with lots of downtime, which he devoted to his toy concept. He invested in developing molds for a plastic version and found a manufacturer in China. Three months later, Qubits was ready for production.
Qubits stands for "quantum bits"—a scientific unit of measurement. The plastic toy set comes in a bucket container and includes 36 Qubits pieces, 36 connector pieces, and 18 bridge pieces, all based on triangles and hexagons. Burginger has displayed Qubits at local street festivals, setting up several of the toys for passing children to play with. "That's the best part, watching them play with the pieces and seeing how the parts go together, and watching that light go on as they figure out how they can build different things," he says. "They start talking about engineering, architecture, geometry; and then you can engage them and try to teach them something while they're there."
Luckily, the architecture business has picked up a bit for Burginger. He is currently working on designs for two retail center projects.
Visit the Qubits Web site for a fun video demonstration of the toy set, a gallery of Qubits creations, a series of product reviews, and a video exploring nature's own examples of qubits.