Infinite Possibilities | Webster Kirkwood Times


Former Kirkwood Large School chemistry teacher Robert Becker will comply with his 36-calendar year teaching job with a bid as an inventor. Becker’s HyperTiles are vibrant shapes termed hyperbolic paraboloids that can be related and combined for in close proximity to-infinite design possibilities. | photograph by Ursula Ruhl


Modern retirees frequently start off their put up-do the job yrs by investing far more time with loved ones, using up new hobbies or experiencing the outdoors. 

When retired Kirkwood Superior University chemistry teacher Robert Becker has checked all individuals packing containers, he’s also been creating, testing and tweaking his new invention — a building established toy termed HyperTiles. 

Becker retired soon after the 2019-20 school 12 months just after 36 years of instructing, the previous 30 invested at Kirkwood Higher School. Known for his authentic, exterior-the-box labs and demonstrations, Becker is now implementing his creativity in a new way. 

“I get in touch with it chapter two,” he explained. “Chapter a person was instructing for 36 several years, and chapter two is HyperTiles.”

Though he’s been creating tangible versions for the past few yrs, the concept has been in the operates for decades. Becker located inspiration in 1982 in a 3-D style and design class in higher education taught by distinguished sculptor Erwin Hauer. The particular thought for the HyperTiles  form, known as a hyperbolic paraboloid, to start with came to Becker all around the time he moved to Kirkwood in 1990. He’s experienced the idea “on the backburner” at any time because.

In the beginning, the best prototype he could place alongside one another consisted of duct tape and toothpicks. Fortunately, as a substantial faculty trainer, Becker was surrounded by men and women to bounce suggestions off — his students. A single pupil who was essential to the advancement of the HyperTiles was David Gill, now a rising senior at Kirkwood Superior University. 

Becker uncovered that Gill had an curiosity in 3-D printing, which would develop into the cornerstone that brought HyperTiles to fact. Immediately after a great deal experimenting with and adapting to 3-D designing and printing, like collaboration with Gill, Becker had ample plastic prototypes and 3-D printed connectors to set the hyperbolic paraboloid items jointly. To much more competently make the HyperTiles, Becker is now switching from 3-D printing to a system named injection molding. 


Becker demonstrates how HyperTiles suit together. The vibrant versions, originally designed with duct tape and toothpicks, are 3-D printed. A new process referred to as injection molding will be used for the ultimate solution. | picture by Ursula Ruhl

In addition to tapping into his creativeness, Becker has experienced to produce techniques in starting off a toy manufacturing business, together with producing, obtaining a design and style patent and advertising the product or service. He commenced a Kickstarter campaign in mid-May with a purpose of increasing $5,000 to fund the task and shift ahead. The on line fundraising marketing campaign, which integrated two limited videos exhibiting youngsters applying the toy and Becker explaining the HyperTiles, was established to final for a thirty day period. The campaign arrived at its $5,000 target in seven hours. 

By the conclusion of the thirty day period-lengthy marketing campaign, HyperTiles experienced drawn in additional than $15,000 from 230 of the project’s supporters. By way of Kickstarter, these backers pre-requested sets of HyperTiles, each just one containing 48 tiles in 8 various hues and 80 compact connectors. 

A major marketing issue of HyperTiles is that, despite the fact that the particular person parts are all the exact exact size and form of the hyperbolic paraboloid, people can discover and place together all kinds of diverse styles and styles. Even Becker acknowledges there are numerous possibilities he hasn’t yet discovered. 

“I’m really intrigued in viewing what kids arrive up with once the HyperTiles are out mainly because I think there are ideas I haven’t even come near to touching on,” he explained.

However Becker refers to the HyperTiles as a toy, he claimed they can be of fascination to grown ups, artists, mathematicians and physicists  “to perform with, examine and examine.” 

Gill also values the exploratory factor of the HyperTiles. 

“My preferred part about them is the simple fact that there’s no true goal,” he mentioned. “It’s not like a puzzle where there is a definite starting or end. It’s not like any other toy out there mainly because you can do what ever you want with them. You can make points that are not sure by what we commonly consider of.”

Becker recognizes that some may see this endeavor as an entrepreneurial hard work, but his target is not for HyperTiles to be profitable — he’d just like it to be “a economically break-even hobby.”

“I do not strategy on creating a penny on this,” he claimed. “If it turns a revenue, every penny is heading to a collection of charities that my wife and I are presently supporting, and now we can aid them even a lot more.”

Individuals who have requested a established can anticipate it to arrive in September or October. Everyone interested in finding out extra about HyperTiles or obtaining a set can call Becker by using email at  [email protected].  

Hayden Davidson is an intern with the Webster-Kirkwood Occasions. He is a increasing senior at Kirkwood Superior Faculty, and is an editor-in-chief at the pupil newspaper, The Kirkwood Connect with.

Ellen C. McGowan

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