Most children spend countless hours mastering the art of fort-building. And while moats made from pillows, turrets from shoe boxes, and walls from sheets are impressive feats of engineering for five-year-olds, they don’t usually make for the strongest structures.
Brian Lilly, a product designer and professor in the Technology Entrepreneur Center at the University of Illinois, wants to take fort-building to the next level. And so he has designed Buildies—basically, giant Legos made from recycled cardboard.
"You know that moment when your kid builds a fort and then they put a blanket on top and the whole thing crumbles? I wanted to avoid that moment," Lilly tells Co.Design. Lilly applied his engineering skills and experience in product design to create a sturdy, effective system that would help kids learn about architecture and building in a fun, hands-on way. The interlocking bricks are stabilized with cardboard "mortar" pieces, and the roofing pieces top off a variety of constructions, from kids’ forts to pirate ships to inventive office cubicles.
"My daughter and her friends helped test out the prototypes and gave that incredibly honest kid-feedback," Lilly says.
But Lilly says Buildies is not just for kids. "I've sent out a few kits and it turns out college-kids and grown ups like playing with blocks, too," Lilly confirms. "Our video team built a fort around the desk in their office, and the Made in NY Media Center had a happy-hour event where all the co-working members built forts in the common area." While there are some fort building kits on the market, such as MegaBlocks, Lilly says they're "smaller than Buildies and made of plastic, and you can't quite make a life-size fort with them."
We hope Lilly's design will allow for forts that won't collapse under attack by ad-hoc spatula trebuchets and plastic lightsabers.
Lilly is raising funds for the project on Kickstarter, and Buildies are already available for purchase.