What Are Strawbees?

Strawbees is a construction set for hands-on exploration with versatile pieces for making building and idea creation accessible for all ages and learning needs.

What Are Strawbees?

Strawbees is a construction set, which means it’s made to build things. To say it’s made to build a specific type of thing is the same as saying that a certain crayon is only made to draw flowers. The way we think about Strawbees is as a material for people to express, test and share their ideas, developing the necessary skills to think creatively.

Strawbees is a construction set for hands-on exploration with versatile pieces for making building and idea creation accessible for all ages and learning needs.

The 4 color-coded connectors have respectively 1, 2, 3, and 5 legs. You can build structures, mechanical contraptions, and robots all starting with these connectors and straws.

The 4 connectors.

The 5 straw sizes.

First Operations

You can fit straws on their legs, slide a straw through the hole or click a leg on a hole. The color-coded straws are carefully measured and resistant enough to endure daily use.

Beams are connectors inserted inside straws with the idea to retain that structure.

Align holes of the beams and click together as layers. Build from 2D to 3D.

While there are 4 connectors with a set number of legs to start with there is no limit to the joint combinations you make.

When created with the color-coded pieces, different sizes or number of legs with the building operations in mind eventually students will visually disassemble how a project is made by looking at an image.

All pieces are color-coded for following step-by-step instructions or looking at a single image as a reference.

Scaffolding For All Ages

Along with the connectors and straws, early childhood students ages 4-8 can start with using snap-on clips making the building process with Strawbees accessible for everyone. These tools are useful for scaffolding the hands-on building experience and enable young makers to still make their ideas from the building set, no matter where their fine motor skills lie.

Eyes, feet, and clips ready to add any project, anywhere!

Click eyes and feet on shapes to create a character.

For young students ages 4-8 use clips combining shapes and beams.

Make shape modules like building blocks and join for making bigger projects.

Eyes can be attached to a servo motor to become the wheels of a car or a dizzy robot.

Material Exploration

Strawbees can also be made out of other materials than plastic, using a die-cut machine with some special knives. Different types of plastic, paper, and other polymers can be cut to make Strawbees, and both the Strawbees that come in the box and the ones you create yourself work together seamlessly.

Strawbees connectors are also excellent to work with cardboard to create static and dynamic structures with the same connectors you use with straws.

Die-cut connectors made from several types of materials from the Sustainability Station.

Strawbees work well with cardboard and paper, and other upcycled materials.

Creative Learning and Inventing

Throughout Strawbees Classroom are student resources with instruction media to guide through a project. While these instructions are provided as a way to get started, there is not only one way of building. While a tower can be made one way, there are many other applications to making a tower structure become different applications. A connector can become not just a corner or a joint, but a wheel or claws of a creature.

Connect beams with moving joints together to create a mechanical linkage.

Attach beams on a prism shape and it suddenly becomes a marvelous machine like this waterwheel for grinding grain.

What places Strawbees apart is the ability to build the same thing in different scales, navigating through 3 orders of magnitude: You can build small things that measure a few centimetres and fit in your pocket, small objects that can be easily manipulated, a larger object that you can wear and gigantic structures that can fit a group of students inside.

The Sierpinski Pyramid becomes not only a way to learn about self-similarity with geometry and also becomes space children reside inside. The pyramids also become wearable hats.

Creative Learning

A classroom with Strawbees transforms into a dynamic and collaborative playground with opportunities for students to interact, experiment, and create overlapping projects. Designs can evolve from a stationary catapult into one that walks, or from a mechanical arm into a tetrahedron-inspired creature. In this imaginative space of making and playing, children refine their creative thinking while building projects they care about. As they build, their process is reflected as the Creative Learning Spiral.

[1] Kindergarten learning approach for student projects to iterate through the Creative Learning Spiral coined by Mitch Resnick of Lifelong Kindergarten.

Invention Literacy

Invention literacy is the ability to read and write human made stuff, from toasters to apps. People think inventors perform magic, but invention is no more magical than reading and writing a sentence. There is a grammar to inventing from mechanical tools, to design thinking, coding, and beyond.
Jay Silver, Founder of Joylabz and Makey Makey
00:32

Inventors don’t perform magic. Understanding the world around us means being able to deconstruct it as building blocks of inventing. The process of building with Strawbees revolves around Invention Literacy, a term coined by Jay Silver. [2]

Creating a robotic crane in a group pair programming context amongst a mass of many project prototypes spread across desks.

The coding cards are snippets of code to get started physical computing with inputs and outputs with the micro:bit.

Building Creative Thinkers and Invention Literates

With just a handful of Strawbees connectors and a few straws or cardboard, there is plenty that can be built, from simple shapes to compound mechanisms. With access to large amounts of Strawbees, which means a box smaller than a TV, there are infinite possibilities.

Learning by doing isn’t good enough. Learning by trying is the future.
Erik Thorstensson, founder of Strawbees

Whether it’s an idea for an automatic food dispenser for your pet or to understand why it’s impossible to make a regular polygon out of regular hexagons, Strawbees offers a tangible, kinesthetic experience of getting to know complex and sometimes abstract ideas.

[3] An idea takes shape in the form of a pyramid and branches in the many different solutions. Imagine students all individually creating different solutions to the same challenge or an idea unique to them!

We want Strawbees to be a way people can read and make sense of the world by making and remaking the world. A tool to develop ourselves as creative thinkers and invention literates.

[4] Drawing of a Robot racer released at the start of a big race.