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Utah inventor's toy promotes learning, imagination


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City man hopes his invention will be a big hit at the American International Toy Fair under way in New York City.

A couple of years ago, Chris Cochella started tinkering in his garage to develop something that was more challenging to his kids than the traditional stacking blocks. He came up with BionicBlox, a versatile way to create things that have angles, odd shapes and in 3D. It's more educational than a toy, really.

"In doing so, the kids learn 3D. They learn length, they learn measurements, proportions, counting and then the fundamentals of geometry," he said.

Cochella, his wife, children and another friend used BionicBlox to create a tower with no nails or glue in the KSL lobby on Sunday.

"The basics are these wood planks and these connectors, which I've dubbed bionic stars," Cochella said.

He hopes his invention will make a splash this week at a toy fair in New York. The event attracts toy makers from around the world.

Bionicblox is sold in a handful of stores now, as well as in science and discovery museums across the country, including the Leonardo in Salt Lake. It is also very popular with students in Salt Lake's Head Start schools.

About BionicBlox
  • Over 4 years of product development
  • Uses natural wood and "indestructible" colorful connectors

There are no instructions for BionicBlox. Imagination makes the toy come to life. Cochella said kids of all ages get a huge amount of satisfaction from creating and building something unique. He said that isn't always possible with more high-tech toys of today.

"When I see kids do that in classrooms, they make something as tall as they are, they start jumping up and down, 'Look what I built! It's as big as me,' " he said. "And you think, wow, the self esteem and what else is going on in that kid's head is just glorious."

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Keith McCord

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