Building smarter brains, block by block

Construkts is a North Carolina startup that builds on the intersection of digital puzzles (like Tetris) and physical construction toys (like Legos). It’s a platform for creating brain-training games that combine real-world spatial reasoning with digital learning materials.

Construkts graduated from the Highway1 hardware accelerator program this summer, and exhibited this week at the Gigaom Structure Connect conference. The company grew out of the Center for Design Innovation, a multi-campus research center based in Winston-Salem, and is headed by CDI director Pamela Jennings, who specializes in education technology.

The prototype version of Construkts is a set of large plastic blocks in the shapes of a traditional cube puzzle or Soma cube. The blocks are paired with a puzzle app that displays a 3D model of a shape that can be built with the blocks. As a student connects the magnetized blocks together to solve the puzzle, sensors inside the blocks report their configuration wirelessly to the app. The software generates a second 3D model that puts the student’s creation side-by-side with the template, helping them see how each piece contributes to the solution.

Digital - Physical Learning Blocks: Construkts
Physical Learning Blocks: Construkts

“We are positioning Construkts to be the smart hands-on learning program to connect to subjects that are taught with e-textbooks,” a format which many publishers are adopting, Jennings said in her presentation at Highway1’s demo day. “We see this as an opportunity to connect their virtual products to our physical platform.”. Real-time data about how users are interacting with the system can also be used to monitor and assess student’s learning goals.

As a platform, Construkts is designed to be expanded and adapted to different needs. Different-shaped blocks could offer myriad possibilities for education and cognitive development, from therapeutic applications to advanced game play to sophisticated 3D modeling -- all based on a hands-on, tangible experience with physical objects.

The goal is to launch the first Construkts product in late 2015. Learn more in the video below.

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