Meccano – More Than Just A Toy

While I was growing up my dad, collected Meccano. LEGO was a dirty word in our house (granted, between my brother and I, we still managed to collect giant buckets of the stuff). My father continuously brayed on about the gloriousness of his small metal pieces with holes that allowed you to build creations utilising screws and nuts.

Meccano Exhibitions
He dragged us to a host of Meccano exhibitions that primarily featured retired showing off incredible creations they had built and motorized. Yup, way before LEGO introduced their robotics range or small robots started appearing, Meccano aficionados were building rollercoasters, remote controlled trucks and, my favourite, Spirographs or as they’re better known in Meccano circles: Meccano Graphs.

I’d run to whichever collector had one on display, to collect the multitude of paper drawings it was spitting out:

 

Meccano never really rose to the notoriety of LEGO. While originally a kid’s toy, it became more of a collector’s item. Many a box of the stuff goes on auction at Sotheby’s for hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. My dad would trawl newspapers and pawn shops for the stuff. He’d get excited when he came upon what looked to me like a decrepit box of rusted pieces. I’d watch him spend hours meticulously restoring the items to their original condition before he built some or other contraption… which would ultimately be taken apart a few weeks later.

Not A Boy (Or a Girl’s) Toy
Now that I’m a bit older there are a few things I can appreciate about the toy set. For starters the blue, red and yellow boxing and branding was pretty non gender. With all the fuss around pink LEGO of late and a lack of marketing effectively to young girls, Meccano never really seemed to market to anyone at all. Don’t get me wrong, many an old piece of marketing for the toy (dating back to pre-World War II) had a young boy on the boxing playing with his train or truck he had built. For the most part though? There was nothing else that really defined the toy as a “boy’s” one.

Meccano has been incorporating robotics and engineering into its setup, since its inception. The whole point was to build something that worked: to add small motors and put it all together to make a moveable machine. The benefits of Meccano for children including improving cognitive abilities, introducing basic engineering principles and now, it seems, incorporating robotics.

Meccanoid
In an effort to be a bit less “old retired men’s” toys, Meccano launched their Meccanoid toy at rAge last year. The robot is specifically for kids over the age of 10. Again, there seems to be a rather neutral gender target in the way in which the Meccanoid is presented. He embodies all the traditional Meccano beauty with an innovative twist. For starters, most of his parts are plastic. Less a nod to LEGO and more a nod to cheap Chinese Plastic Injection Moulding. This brings the cost down somewhat for parents (rejoice!). He also is able to be programmed and learn your motions. Seriously, this toy is pretty damn rad:

The educational value of a toy like this cannot be measured. We live in a world where, soon, programming and coding will become an added language at schools and a skill that will be needed in order to progress out of university into gainful employment (at least, that is my prediction). Something like Meccanoid can only benefit your little ones and give them the edge.

Although, that edge doesn’t come cheap. You’ll need to fork out a cool 2k to grab one up off Takealot. Of course, I’ve warned you early in the year so you can start saving for Christmas. You’re welcome.

I’m going to stop writing now so I can start building my LEGO Ironman I received at the recent Girl Geek Dinner in Johannesburg…. Don’t tell my dad.

Sam Wright

Sam is the editor and founder of Tech Girl, a female tech blog that combines gadgets, giggles and a little bit of glamour. She spends most of her time willing her superhero powers to kick in and attempting to convince horses to jump over brightly coloured poles. Sam dreams of... Read more

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