All posts by @ATXinventor

I am a somewhere-else-born Austinite, of Czech, Polish, Spanish, Native American and Jewish ancestry, hacking and making for already a lifetime or two. Trained as a teacher, I was too long a warden in assorted warehouses for kids, aka. schools, where the one-size-fits-all "education" is the main dish. I learned there that we need to improve what we offer geeks and geeketes in the bud. Among those we need to support better are precisely the ones who actually have the giftings to go way beyond, if given a chance. Geek is where initiative, creativity, engineering come from, all of STEM, yet school "fails" them too often, because it insists in molding everyone to one "best" model, that is not even good enough. It is the future-Makers the ones who will make the Future! They need help. So I set myself to help give them that chance - especially those who need it most - one reason why I insist in "cheap". Failure is a necessary part of learning - your tools need to be cheap enough that you can experiment without fear of what will happen if you break them, and you should be able to afford them yourself. I believe in Quality Education. And uniqueness in every individual. Through Kickstarter I reach out a hand to enthusiasts everywhere, especially those that didn't get the memo that bumblebees can't fly. Being very involved in One Laptop Per Child, Open Learning Exchange and such international projects, I eventually decided to focus in bridging the usability gap: relevant solutions need to take into account that the learning slope needs to be gentle for those starting from zero, which is many, and especially for their already overworked teachers. Most currently available solutions assume that you already have the tools and the knowledge, or else stop short of giving you real-life skills and experience. STEMginery and the STEM Construction Tools are designed precisely to fill that gap. Stuff that can get you going, from a bare ground almost, but with no ceiling whatsoever. Yes, at every stage you have built something - but more importantly, you know that you can go beyond. As a geek, you get a chance to become. I support community and collaboration, freedom to learn, to share knowledge, to keep each other accountable. To be an optimist and seem gullible, and sometimes bite more than I can chew, for the sake of people who care for each other and share this dream of Quality. In education, in life, in the way we relate to each other and collaborate with each other. Together with y'all! Prof. Mtro. Yamandú Zavish Ploskonka y Rivas, DSLL (just call me Yama)

A Color Sequence for Representing Number Order

Match each number a specific color, consistently – not a bad idea when making colorful learning materials for early numeracy.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1=brown, 2=red, 3=orange, 4=yellow, 5=green, 6=blue, 7=purple, 8=gray, 9=white. 10 I represent with the color for 0=black, and 12 with red, and 16 with blue.

I propose that educators use the Electronic Color Code standard and adapt it as needed. It reflects Nature as in the rainbow/visible electromagnetic spectrum, and is also the internationally accepted convention and standard to represent numbers using colors.

That is all you need to know regarding this matter :-) especially now that you can buy Real Life color-coded numeracy materials hefractionsre

If you want a deeper look at the problem of saying numbers using colors and other attempted solutions, keep reading

Schooling and Real World can be friends

In Math as with everything else STEM and education, I am of the opinion that “schooling”, defined here as the intentional process to help a student achieve learning and knowledge, should be as much as possible connected with the Real World. Those of us who do not subscribe to the “because I said so” school of teaching already agree that learning is not necessarily connected with schooling. Thus, for schooling to be have some chance to become valid, relevant, useful to learning, it has to be part of the real world, beyond its pretty red building. “School stuff” if by itself,  bad, but when connected to “Life stuff”, can be good.

A quick look at “good try”

Most illustrators of children books will make some attempt to use color. Understatement. When dealing with numeracy, this is overwhelming and quite random. Random is not actually too bad, IMHO. If it’s going to be done wrong, it better be random that follow a weak or made-up standard.

ArcolorCuisenairee there standards? well, not quite, but a valiant attempt especially fashionable from the late 60s until the 80s were the Cuisenaire rods and derivatives. The fact that they were protected with copyrights and patents (since then lapsed or lost exclusive right, at least in Canada) might have influenced their lack of adoption by others.

There is an attempt of logic at the Cuisenaire color choices, well portrayed here, but still far far short of the simple logic of the rainbow sequence. I do like some advanced relationship work that can be done, like with 12. Yet, it remains closed into itself in a school-y way, not much Real World.

The Montessori colors are as follows: 1 = red, 2 = green, 3 = pink, 4 = yellow, 5 = light blue, 6 = light purple, 7 = white, 8 = brown, 9 = dark blue, 10 = golden
The Montessori colors are as follows: 1 = red, 2 = green, 3 = pink, 4 = yellow, 5 = light blue, 6 = light purple, 7 = white, 8 = brown, 9 = dark blue, 10 = golden

Then there is the Montessori Beads. The chosen color sequence appears to be random and its minor impact in Public Schools has made for even less of a “standard”, except of course among true devotees of said tradition.

quoting an honest view from

If you are teaching in a Montessori classroom, I do recommend that you follow this color scheme because your materials to be consistent with the entire Montessori curriculum. If you are making the beads at home, the color choices are completely up to you – just make sure you are always consistent yourself.
The basis for Good Choices in schooling content

While admitting that in evidence-based schooling there is no single one-size-fits-all solution, certain principles can help us make less-bad choices. For one thing, do reference Nature in your teaching – if a good organic, biologic-dynamic solution exists, that might be better than a totally artificial alternative. Yet, an established standard or convention that is commonly understood to many people is an important thing to have. Say, a person learning a totally made-up language or script might be cute, that endeavor probably will not help much with employment and other life needs, not as much as learning a language used by many will.

When Nature deals with colors as a sequence, there’s the rainbow. As a representation of the visible fragment of the electromagnetic spectrum it is quite connected with notions of quantity – thus its use for numeracy is sort of obvious and a Good Thing. Visible Red corresponds to a smaller frequency than visible Blue.

trick question: in Nature, is blue a “cold” color? See the answer later.

colorECodeAs to established conventions, the only example that I know of a color sequence reflecting the decimal number order is the Electronic Color Code. I like it that 0 is black – i.e., the absence of color=absence of quantity. Oh, BTW, the conventional order is the geek one for digits: 0 to 9. Thus here on right, where we go 1 to 10, black stands for the later.

Of course there is also the Hex RGB code, but even you, dear polymath reader, will agree that trying to use that as a basis for pre-school numeracy is a bit too much.

Limitations disclosure

Sincere educators admit that teaching, and especially schooling, demands simplification of concepts, a (hopefully) careful choices that do not alter facts. IMHO that is necessary, which trumps “perfect” any day. Thus there is no goal – during the basics of numeracy – for the whole of multiple-band Electronic Code values. Right now I just focus on the “unit” digit for a count of parts, as on the denominator in fractions.

One request: if you are aware of some color sequence used in school materials that makes any sense, please contact me? I am not afraid to be a pioneer with a new idea, but it does worry me some that this matter has not had much attention paid to it – and we are talking Sagan numbers here (“billions and billions”) of school items that are maybe not “wrong”, but certainly not “right”, wasting the opportunity to be Real Life relevant and useful because they use some random color scheme, when they could do better… Maybe there has been another initiative out there that deserves being THE color sequence for numeracy purposes?

Color my learning!

My first product was the Fraction Circles.

whole 1/1 -> brown, 2/2 red, 3/3 red, etc. Available for purchase here

12 Fraction Circles set – available for purchase in ATXinventor’s Etsy shop

I will soon be making numeracy rods

As to blue, it is of course the color of the hottest stars. See the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Red happens to be the colder star color…

(the comments system in my WordPress appears to be borked right now. Please use the “contact me” link on top of the page instead)

The C60 Bucky-ball

The Kickstarter!

 c60_soccerThe C60 Bucky-ball

The C60 buckminsterfullerene model, a.k.a. geodesic truncated icosahedron happens to be also the design of the traditional soccer ball.

You can already purchase the connectors for $3.50, shipping included anywhere in the world.
Or cut your own, using the free design. You can even sell those! it’s CC-by-sa!

Just use plain coffee stirrers to build the 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons.
Design for build and for the connectors is CC-by-sa Yama Ploskonka 2014


to build a model of the C60 buckminsterfullerene, you will need:

  • 60 120-degree connectors. Buy them here
  • 100 coffee stirrers. If you want your Bucky ball to be 2-color, get 60 of one color (black in the example) and 40 of another (white in the example). The project might be rather large unless you cut the stirrers. All stirrers must be the same length. When using more than one color, you may want to check that they have the same “give”. Otherwise, if some are more rigid they will distort your pseudo-sphere


  1. connect one black stirrer to one connector – repeat 59 times
  2. form a pentagon, by connecting 5 stirrer-connector pairs end to end. Repeat 11 times
  3. Connect one white stirrer to the end of each free connector in one of the pentagons – that will be 5 stirrers. Repeat with one other pentagon. One of these pentagons will be the base, the other the top.
  4. Connect one white stirrer to the end of one connector in another pentagon. Repeat 2 times, in adjoining connectors. That will be 3 stirrers. Repeat with all other pentagons, to a total of 30 stirrers
  5. Connect one of the free connectors to the end of a stirrer attached to the Base pentagon (one of those with 5 stirrers). Repeat with 4 more pentagons.
  6. Do the same with the Top pentagon. That will be 5 pentagons
  7. In each section, Base and Top, connect the pentagons to the corresponding neighbor, using the closest stirrer to each
  8. Attach Base and Top sections

Let me catch some Zs and I will add pictures for a step-by-step later



STEMginery Kickstarter update day 5

Visit the STEMginery Kickstarter page

Today was a good day . I took it easy regarding the Kickstarter because the house really needed some attention. Yet pledges kept coming, and some supporters are raising theirs. Of course a Kickstarter is a serious business proposition, but the feeling of community is strong – it’s not just a plain mercantile exchange.

It is well known that Kickstarters tend to slow down some after the first few days – no exception here, but having surpassed the goal by a nice round number of 256% already, slow is no reason to stress. Kicktraq still predicts us getting over $6,000. It would be nice, better advances possible in lowering costs, everybody benefits.

Extras: Wheels

I’ve been experimenting with axles and wheels and movement. This was something that was planned for the Solo, Advanced, and Ultimate sets. It works so well that I have decided to add 4 wheels to the Bridge (so instead of 50 pieces you get 54), and some to the others sets also. Which reminds me that I need to put some detail on what exactly is in each set. Let’s have that happen during this week.

What comes next:

We are very close to $2,000 in pledges.

At that moment we unlock quite a few goodies: the STEMginery 5 Platonic Solids ($4), built using coffee stirrers instead of soda straws, the Amazing Set Wingman ($152), the Geodesic Dome ($48), and the Handmade STEMinions ($31 each) – which are a limited set that I should get back to work on right away. You can add any of these to your current pledge.

I am particularly happy about the Solids. Very inexpensive, actually it’s the laser time that is the highest cost. So far coffee stirrers from several places have worked fine, besides the 5,000 that I had purchased for $17  recently. They work so well that I am liberating the design right now. That’s the prize you get for reading this far!

The file is SVG – get it here – it canCc-by-sa_small be imported to most any software used for laser cutters, as far as I know. Might need tweaking (our Universal laser uses Corel, and it’s finicky about exactly using the right Red and thickness). You can tell me about your experiences and needs in the Comments section in the STEMginery Kickstarter page. Released as CC by-sa Yama Ploskonka 2014

OK, next will be to upload the instructions… They are sort of ready, if you watch the video you see the STEMinions building the Platonic Solids, which themselves are portrayed several times.

International Shipping

We have quite a few backers from overseas. Most represented so far are France and Australia. I want your pledge to do the most good. Since shipping is VERY expensive. I am researching ways to lower it. It probably will be easiest to improve things with Europe, but I haven’t given up on the others.



Doesn’t this product already exist? a couple times over?

well, yes, no, maybe. A few links:

There are quite a few more.

There are 3D printed connectors in Instructables, free to copy.

Search “straw construction” and “straw building” on Amazon.

A deeper search will reveal even more.

Main differences:

  1.   STEMginery has a solid STEM learning mission – so does Cochrane’s. All others seem to be “toys”. STEMginery is more than anything a learning tool.
    It does matter. Even though it can be used even as a competitive game, STEMginery’s focus is not play but to build life and pre-professional skills, based on individual giftings. Yes, it can be a toy, just like I guess a book can be a toy? STEMginery is real, serious stuff. Kids can understand that, and it is important that they do – that principle is how good montessori and homeschooling environments remain safe and effective.
  2. STEMginery is the cheapest.
    And also CC (yes, nc for now, sorry, but hope we can fix that later). Except a few Instructables and Thingiverse, that is uncommon. Strawbees had said they would CC their stuff, it hasn’t happened yet.
    So, people can cut their own STEMginery, if they have the tools, or buy them from me, at bigger bang-for-the buck that any other.

  3. Strawbees is the most versatile in terms of angles, true. But you have to set those angles, which requires some dexterity. STEMginery is solid, with preset angles which make it much easier to get something done (meaning more inclusive in terms of age and skill). Just snap together. Parts are small enough that you can build huge complex objects without the connectors getting in the way (like the 10 ft Eiffel Tower – takes over 2,000 connectors!)

  4. One area where all other products have an advantage is in having their name pronounced STEMginery, alas, suffers from confusing people as to how to pronounce it 😉


What your $1 is for

STEMginerylogoI need your help – one dollar.

More than anything, please, please please, tell your friends and help us get one dollar from each one of them.

I want to reduce costs in making STEMginery. I need your help to make the first day of the Kickstarter extraordinary, hopefully on or about June 4.

STEMginery is a set of learning tconstructing01ools to build structures – anything from basic shapes that a very young child can build and learn from, up to very complex assemblies like a DNA model or major engineering trusses.DSCF0973

Follows lots of information. If busy, just get ready to give one dollar to STEMginery’s Kickstarter – all you need is to be able to pay $1 through Amazon. And, of course, tell eveDSCF0973ryone! That helps a lot, ebridgeven if you cannot use Amazon.DSCF0973DSCF0973

What and Wherefore

Meant to be a learning resource that many a child, youth or adult will enjoy exploring, STEMginery even can be played as a competitive game with friends and family.

The fact that it is cheap – and I want it to be even cheaper – makes STEMginery available to pretty much anyone who can enjoy or learn by using it.

Proverbs 22:6
Proverbs 22:6

I do not expect STEMginery to be the educational solution to the STEM needs of the nation (blog post with video of President Obama) – I will be well satisfied if it helps those kids that need construction and building as part of their Path, those kids that otherwise would either be limited to very expensive alternatives, or to nothing. So far I focus in homeschoolers and independent learners (link to my Etsy shop), though I will be happy when established schools see how STEMginery can help in their efforts.

Why $1? Why June 4?

kickstarter-logo-lightOf course I will take more than one dollar, really.
In Kickstarter you can contribute any sum – one dollar is simply the minimum. Please don’t feel that you have to put in more than one dollar.

Yet, please do feel obligated, for friendship and old times sake, to help me with just that one dollar, if with nothing else. (remember, helping me get the word out is also very important, but your dollar is essential)

June 4 (or thereabouts – I am waiting for their approval) is because it is very important in Kickstarter to have a dynamic, strong start. Lots of people coming showing up on the very first day, even better in the very first hour which would be starting right at 10 am.

Beyond the Goal

Several friends windmilland family have assured me already that their contributions will reach the basic goal, set at $650, though that may take several days.

Then, why do I want even more?

It works this way: STEMginery is the very best thing I’ve ever done, the best idea that I have ever been Gifted. You know me maybe as a teacher, hopefully a good one, or a hacker, or as a cook. Well, this is better than the best class I could ever give on sous-vide with a home toaster oven…

This Kickstarter will put STEMginery in more hands, hands that can use it.

Sure, that 3D printer patent I have pending might be worth a billion dollars, though it is unlikely I will ever see a cent of that.

Instead, STEMginery is a Good Thing. Good in the sense of ἀρετή of 2 Peter 1:5 and Philippians 4:8, or of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – ἀρετή is in many places! as it should be.

STEMginegeodome03ry is truly something new and better in terms of a construction toy / learning tool. LEGO is great – but it is expensive, and limited to square shapes – can’t do chemistry models easily, though with some of you I tried (and had much fun! It would have been so much better that we had STEMginery!). Erector/Meccano is maybe even better than LEGO, but it is really expensive!

STEMginery is quality, can be used to build even real-life structures or pretty much anything, , and it is also cheap!

Even free!

My goal is not the money that I will make from it, though that would be nice… What I really want to achieve is STEMginery reaching the many that can really benefit from it, even if that doesn’t profit me directly

I care enormously for STEMginery to be very affordable, because I do know for a fact how important it is to have the best learning tools – I saw that both as a learner and as a teacher. Cost has a lot to do with what you can actually have… Your help will make STEMginery be very, very cheap – so much that packaging and shipping will be the main limit. This is why I am offering the designs to be used for free, so even more people can get STEMginery even if they did not pay me for it.

Next steps

You will domeArminaget an email shortly before the Launch, with a link to the project’s draft page. Meanwhile, if you want, do contact me – ATXinventor at that g mail service. I would like to hear from y’all!