Photographer, artist and big kid Debbie Attwell builds the Geomag Mechanics Challenge Goal!
Geomag, launched in 1998, is a series of construction system toys that mix engineering and mathematics into playtime. At its simplest, Geomag provides kits of magnetic rods and steel spheres that “stimulate creativity, inventiveness and ingenuity”. Essentially you can build cool stuff, like a massive 1980s executive toy.
Geomag Mechanics is a newer expansion to the range, adding mechanical elements, “triggering chain reactions from the magnetic attraction and repulsion”. These kits are much more elaborate and have instructions on how to build a specific structure such as a cannon or a circuit with a loop de loop. The pictures on the box are exciting, and you can’t wait to put all the pieces together to play with the finished toy.
The kit we made was the Mechanics Challenge Goal!, making a magnetic cannon that fires metal balls at three types of goals. The final toy can be played as a game, seeing who can get the most goals. It’s recommended for ages seven and upwards.
The building of the 96 piece kit is a large part of the fun. We put on some music and set to work, and it took well over an hour to construct, following the visual instructions in the booklet. In retrospect, the video, accessed via QR code or a YouTube search, may have been easier to follow, but they put the pieces together in a slightly different order, so it’s probably best to pick either booklet or video and stick with it.
The construction itself is satisfying, as the pieces click into place and you get the reward of seeing the structure slowly come together. The magnetic cannon is the main and most exciting part of this kit, and there were shouts of “Ooh wow, look!” as we fired it for the first time (and the second time, and the third time…). As one marble-size ball touches the back of the magnet, it uses repulsion to shoot another ball forward from the front at speed, and it’s as exciting on the 30th time as it is the first. The cannon has to be reset after each ball, but its clever design means this is very easy and quick.
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There are three types of goal variations you can shoot at: one is an area you fire the balls into (think football net) and we found this worked best for us. Of the others, one consists of some small pieces that you knock down, but we couldn’t get them to stand up on the carpet where we were playing.
The other is a larger rotating piece (like helicopter blades) that you hit to make spin, but we found it didn’t spin very smoothly – however this could just be due to us not being very good at it! The basic goal worked perfectly though, and I imagine improvising your own targets using other toys would also provide lots of entertainment.
Overall, Mechanics Challenge Goal! is a lot of fun to play with, especially after building it yourself. The box is big enough that it can be put away without dismantling anything, so it’s easy to get out and play with next time, something you appreciate after all your hard work constructing it! There’s something addictive about firing the cannon, and we can see it becoming something we reach for again and again.