The future of building blocks may be about to change if a group of high school students is correct. Three high school seniors from Park City High School in Utah, along with an alum, have designed and built IKOS, a new shape of building blocks with the potential to dramatically change the way things are built.
I recently spoke with Mina Berglund, one of the high school seniors who designed and developed IKOS, about the project and how it came to be. The IKOS Team is currently running a Kickstarter campaign seeking to raise $21,000 to fund the production and distribution of IKOS blocks. With 14 days to go, the IKOS campaign is on the brink of being fully funded. You can check out the IKOS Kickstarter page to get more information about their campaign.
See, Kickstarter – Get an Edge on Cutting Edge Tech for more information about Kickstarter.
What Is IKOS?
IKOS is a set of spherical building blocks. Unlike Legos, the rectangular building blocks that connect top to bottom, IKOS blocks are curved and can be connected to multiple sides. The team describes IKOS as: “modular spherical construction toys.” IKOS pieces are formed in the shape of an icosahedron and interlock at multiple angles.
While the team describes IKOS as toys, they also recognize the potential of IKOS blocks beyond the toy market. IKOS blocks could also be used as construction materials for actual buildings. The team envisions IKOS blocks being used to build domes for emergency shelters after natural disasters or other times when massive public housing is needed quickly.
Here’s a 3D view of IKOS you can use to see the blocks from all angles. Put your cursor on the image and move it to get a full view:
Berglund compares IKOS to a spherical Lego building toy. “Our big thing is that it’s spherical, it’s different, it’s kind of a new spin on a building toy. You can build a sphere on a sphere on a sphere. And the big thing is that there is no instruction manual. It’s your creativity, you get to create whatever you want. It’s your imagination that’s guiding you.”
The blocks are made from HDPE plastic which comes from recycled from milk containers. The most common colors of that type of plastic are back and red, which perplexes Berglund since milk cartons don’t generally come in those colors. While IKOS blocks will initially be made in black and red, she sees new colors as a possible area for extensions. “IKOS will always be made from recycled materials,” she explained.
The original prototypes were printed on a 3D printer but the team is hoping to purchase an injection mold and more plastic with the funds it raises from its Kickstarter campaign.
This video explains how IKOS blocks work:
How IKOS Got Started
Berglund and her IKOS teammates, Paige DaBell and Gates Lamb, were part of PCCAPS, the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies. She had been studying engineering at her high school and was invited to attend PCCAPS where she was looking forward to participating in engineering internships.
Mike Wong, a Park City High School graduate and current engineer, became a mentor for PCCAPS and formed a team with Berglund, DaBell and Lamb to develop and design IKOS. “When I first started PCCAPS I thought it was going to be just a semester project. I did not expect to have my name on a patent and to be marketing this brand new project on Kickstarter. I have learned so much from this project, it was my best decision ever,” said Berglund.
She and her team added to the original IKOS design so the blocks could be attached to each other both parallel and perpendicular. “That was a big thing to make it a building toy. Before that you couldn’t make anything out of the shape. Now 20 pieces make a sphere,” she said.
This slide show illustrates how IKOS blocks can be used:
Future Plans for IKOS
IKOS also has long-term plans to make connector pieces and increasing the size of IKOS blocks. “We’re thinking of physically growing the size of the pieces. If you make a bigger one you could hang it and use it for storage or a toolbox, and if you made it even bigger you could use it for humanitarian needs such as a water tank or tornado shelters,” Berglund explained.
Berglund isn’t certain whether IKOS blocks will be used more as a creative toy or for practical purposes. “When we show people pictures of IKOS, the thing that sticks out to them is the lamp. I would think of it more as a toy, gearing it towards kids, that it doesn’t limit their creativity. But a lot of people have been really inspired by things like lamps and leaving it on your desk as an organizer.”
Berglund currently isn’t participating in PCCAPS but is continuing the IKOS project with the team in her free time. She will be attending Pomona College in the fall where she’ll be exploring engineering as a possible degree.
Do you have any ideas of ways to use IKOS building blocks? Do you think IKOS will be used more as a toy or as a construction material? What would you make with IKOS? Tell us in the Comments section below!