Golan Levin & Shawn Sims: The Free Universal Construction Kit



The Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of two-way adapters for complete interoperability between 10 popular construction toys (Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles (Bristle Blocks), Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob), conceived and developed by the F.A.T. (Free Art and Technology) Lab in collaboration with Sy-Lab. By allowing different toy systems to work together, the Free Universal Construction Kit extends the value of these systems across the life of a child. Thus, with the Kit’s adapters, playsets like Krinkles (often enjoyed by toddlers) can still retain their use-value for older children using Lego, and for even older tweens using Zome.. By allowing any piece to join to any other, the Kit encourages totally new connections between otherwise closed systems—enabling radically hybrid constructive play, the creation of previously impossible designs, and ultimately, more creative opportunities for kids. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the Free Universal Construction Kit implements proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet—or unmeetable—by corporate interests, and the 3D models are freely available to download online.


Golan Levin is Associate Professor of Computation Arts at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also holds Courtesy Appointments in the School of Computer Science, the School of Design, and the Entertainment Technology Center. Since 2009, Levin has also served as Director of CMU's Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, a laboratory for atypical and anti-disciplinary research across the arts, science, technology and culture. A two-time TED speaker and recipient of undergraduate and graduate degrees from the MIT Media Laboratory, Levin was named one of "50 Designers Shaping the Future" by Fast Company magazine in October 2012. He has exhibited widely in Europe, America and Asia, including the Whitney Biennial, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Kitchen, and the Neuberger Museum, all in New York; the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria; The Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, Taiwan; the NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC) in Tokyo, Japan; and the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. Levin received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the MIT Media Laboratory, where he studied in the Aesthetics and Computation Group. Between degrees, he worked for four years as an interaction designer and research scientist at Interval Research Corporation, Palo Alto

Shawn Sims is the founder and director of Synaptic Lab that is developing new technology applications in the area of form. A graduate of the Pratt Institute School of Architecture and Carnegie Mellon University’s Computational Design Lab, he is currently working in robotics and advanced digital design & production methods. He won a 2012 Award of Distinction in the Prix Ars Electronica’s Hybrid Art category.