Through simple cardboard construction, children are given the means to “make” in today’s digital immersive culture. The Kit-Netic cardboard soapbox racer is a low cost, low investment educational tool for children between the ages 8 and 12. This life-sized construction set takes influences from STEMD (Science, Technology, English, Mathematics, and Design) education systems and allows children to build functional downhill racers. Children gain real life teamwork experiences and get to enjoy the thrill and satisfaction of racing their own tactile creation down a hill.
As children build the cardboard soapbox racer, they establish an understanding of how things work. Through a series of iterative tests, children begin to see how aerodynamics or weighting placements can be adjusted for improved performance. Upon familiarising themselves with the fundamentals of racer mechanisms, they can begin to experiment for themselves. The assembly, customisation and play stages of the product increase the individual’s self-confidence and enthusiasm.
Cardboard’s forgiving properties allows children to personalise the racer easily and quickly, like giving the racer a paint job or glue-on accessories. Once the cardboard shells wear out, they can be recycled. The durable components can be reused repeatedly with new low cost cardboard shells. With sustainability in mind, the cardboard and timber bases are cut from near-zero-waste patterns. This teaches children about waste management, while reducing manufacturing expenses and storage requirements.
The low-tech nature of the racer is inviting for children with limited background in “making” things. However, digital interactive assembly instructions can be accessed via an interactive iPad application when needed. Through the app, children learn to visualise and understand how each mechanical feature of the racer works. The app also provides a personalisation tool where the children can create mock-ups of colour schemes or add decals to the cardboard shell.
Nga Pae Mahutonga - The School of Design, Massey University, New Zealand