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Student-made Toys that Make You Go Ha-Ha

22 Aug 2008

Sony Creative Awards 2008

The Kind Clown by Lin Ying (right) and Wong Zhen Nai has his hands (and legs) full.

Don’t laugh when Helen and Joanne tell you that they “had to eat a lot of eggs” to produce their prize-winning toy. And spare a thought for a Kind Clown who must balance balls on his hands while his legs strive to free a dragonfly from the jaws of a Venus Flytrap.

Then, if your sides aren’t splitting from watching a couple of Belly Dancers shaking their booty, you can try making a pizza - which is when you may discover that with the incredible Pizzatron, adding toppings is not quite as easy as it sounds.

But really, laugh you should. Toys that “make you laugh” was the theme of this year’s Sony Creative Science Awards, and that’s exactly what these toys and many of the other 3,275 entries from 108 primary schools did. The annual competition celebrates the ingenuity of children and the awards ceremony in July recognised outstanding entries in several categories.

Sony Creative Awards 2008

It’s a balancing act with Go Away Sharks!, designed by Tan Zhi Rui (left) and Chew Yijing.

Playing “with” animals

Animal-inspired toys were popular, such as Fickle Fifi, a toy dog on wheels designed by Pri 4 student Janelle Lee Hui Qin of Raffles Girls Primary School and inspired by her pet spaniel. By following magnets in a handheld bone, Fifi, like its live counterpart, stays close to its master. Janelle took home two prizes with Fickle Fifi: the 3rd prize in the ScizKid Primary 3-6 category and the Veteran’s Choice Award, which is chosen by past winners of the competition.

Sharing the 3rd prize was Tan Zhi Rui and Chew Yijing’s game Go Away Sharks! Inspired by swinging pirate boats at a funfair, these Pri 5 students from Xingnan Primary School designed a game that involves rescuing dolls from a sinking ship and hungry sharks by placing the dolls on a lifeboat.

The catch: the dolls are of different weights and the boat is balanced on a swinging fulcrum, so the player must place the dolls in a certain order. “Otherwise they will fall, the sharks will eat them and that’s the end of them!” warns Yijing, adding that the game illustrates how pivots and levers work in load-bearing.

Sony Creative Awards 2008

Fong Kei Sen’s Belly Dancers shook their way to the top WhizKid prize.

Balancing tricks

Fong Kei Sen of Punggol Primary School was literally toying around when he made The Belly Dancers, a pair of prancing dolls that won the top prize in the WhizKid category. Exotic Middle Eastern performers were far from his mind, “but when I saw how it worked, it looked like a belly dancer dancing, so I decided to name it after that,” he quips. Assembled from his mother’s old clothes, old fishing lines and spring coils, the dolls bounce and sway in response to a plastic handle, illustrating the principle of elasticity.

Seated but no less lively is The Kind Clown by Lin Ying and Wong Zhen Nai of Ghim Moh Primary School. While battling a Venus Flytrap with his legs, the clown balances a ball on a plate on each hand. Only one ball moves, as the other sits tight thanks to a hidden magnet. “When people look it at, they wonder why one ball is moving and one is not,” says Pri 6 student Lin Ying, who along with her classmate Zhen Nai are members of the school’s science club. It was some random tinkering that enabled them to build this toy, which earned a WhizKid Merit Prize. “We were staying back after school, came up with some ideas, and put the toy together from recycled materials,” adds Zhen Nai.

Sony Creative Awards 2008

Dropping the toppings - that’s what Cynthia Lee’s Pizzatron is alla bout.

Fun with food

For Cynthia Lee Weng of Bukit View Primary School, fun toppings on a pizza brought the top accolade in the ScizKid Primary 3-6 category. In her game, colourful toppings are dropped down a long tube onto a pizza plate that dashes about using a motorised magnet.

One difficulty she faced when building the toy was joining the wires between the magnets and the motor. Some old wires were not long enough, “so I had to take new wires and attach them together,” says the Pri 3 pupil, who used this technique to power her pizza plate. Another challenge was to keep the toppings from being blown away by any sudden breeze. At her teacher’s suggestion, she substituted felt for paper, and thus the Pizzatron was born.

Sony Creative Awards 2008

Making Joanne Toh (left) and Helen Choo laugh is the job of this robot.

Last but not least, Pri 6 students Helen Choo Hwee Ann and Joanne Toh Jia Yi of Yishun Primary School set the ultimate challenge of tickling their own ribs with the eponymous toy Make J & H Laugh. A mishmash of rubber balls, nylon strings, eggshells, springs, pencil sharpeners and milk cartons, the robot’s responses illustrate scientific principles to do with light energy and stored potential, such as ears that light up when tickled and limbs operated by coiled springs.

Besides eating plenty of eggs (to get the eggshells for the robot’s outrageous hairdo), Helen and Joanne had to drink bottles of Yakult to make the robot’s hands and borrow their mothers’ egg beaters to make a pair of springy ears. “Science is very fun because there are different ways to learn beyond class work,” says Joanne. “We hope to read more books and do more experiments and science projects in the future!”