FischerTechnik is a German-made construction toy, that can be used to make working models of machines. Unlike some other construction toys, the pieces are not aimed at making a particular model – instead they provides the means for devising your own contraption/gadget/device/thing.

FischerTechnik consists of a wide variety of  parts that work together, including blocks, wheels, axels, panels, platforms, connectors, hinges, clips, base plates, gears, motors, worm drives, lights and wires. At a more advanced level you can get components such as sensors, actuators, and software for programming.

The sets typically come with a booklet of models and instructions to get you started. Some sets also have a booklet covering some of the principles that could be explored using the suggested models.

Unlike many other toys that only really fit a certain age group, FischerTechnik has the potential for more long term use:

A little more co-ordination and care is required than Lego, but even a 4 yr old can make satisfying static models – e.g. space ships, cars etc. Another way we use FischerTechnik is for an adults to make something that can be played with – this means we can generate an endlessly changing series of different gadgets/models to play with (cars, cranes, scales, buildings etc.).

It can be especially useful as a tool to understand some of the mechanical movements that can be difficult to visualise – such as how a rotating movement can be turned into the backwards and forwards movement (e.g. windscreen wipers on a car), how worm gears work, etc.

We have also successfully combined FischerTechnik with electronics, in the form of Arduino components (an open-source electronics prototyping platform).

There is a FischerTechnik website,which includes pdf’s of the instruction booklets for some sets (labeled ‘Einzelteilliste’ on the product pages). These give a good idea of the types of components available.  Searching YouTube and Flickr also provides examples of what people have done with it.

(For those, like ourselves, living in New Zealand, FischerTechnik is not something you can find in a shop. However with the internet you can always get some delivered to your door. Eminent Electronics in Hamilton are a distributor if you wish to deal more locally.)