We had the opportunity to interview Andrew, the creator of Q-BA-MAZE and find out how he came up with this modern-day marble run!
Marbles: We love Q-BA-MAZE here at Marbles and appreciate the mix of both art and science. How did you come up with the idea?
Andrew- Q-BA-MAZE inventor: I am trained as an architect, so the art/science mix sort of springs from that background. The basic idea hit suddenly one day when I was thinking about a marble run my grandfather made many years ago, and that I loved playing with as a boy. He had hand-carved chunks of 2×4 to turn marbles around from one ramp to the next. I thought, “What if there were a whole set of these 2×4 chunks that could be endlessly reconfigured into different marble pathways?” This spontaneous question sparked a long research and design process that eventually resulted in the system of modular interlocking cubes that is Q-BA-MAZE.
In the end, the cubes comprise many further ideas discovered along the way. For example, the “thinking marble” — the way the marbles stop in some cubes briefly and rock back-and-forth before “deciding” to go left or right — is one of the most intriguing aspects of Q-BA-MAZE and it was a discovery that just emerged through the course of the design process long after the initial sudden inspiration.
Marbles: What is your favorite thing you have created with Q-BA-MAZE pieces?
1) The Simple Seven base (which is the bottom seven cubes of the Helix + Scrambler tower) because from this simple stable base a five-year-old can assemble any configuration of cubes and then experience the satisfaction of watching the cascading marbles.
3) Fish 8 because it uses every cube of the Big Box while simultaneously looking like a fish and having a good pathway network. It is one of the more advanced construction plans to follow and it provides some inspiration to people who want to design entirely new sculptures of their own.
Marbles: We love the Q-BA-MAZE wall you built in our store in the Rosedale Mall! How long did it take you to construct the wall? How many pieces were used?
Andrew: Thanks! It was a lot of fun to build. It took three of us about 5 hours, but we didn’t keep very close track of how long our break was when you served the pizza! The wall is about 78 of the Starter Sets or 2800 cubes. It follows a pattern that just repeats all the way up the wall, so it is possible to make a much smaller or even a much larger version of the same wall.
Can I get extra credit for working US history into my answer? Great. The structural system of this Q-BA-MAZE wall, which is just one cube thick but gains rigidity by bending back and forth and generally following a curve, is inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s design for garden walls at the University of Virginia. In order to save on materials he designed the garden walls only one brick thick, but then made them stable by having them follow a snaking S-pattern — the bends in Jefferson’s garden wall provide the stability and make it possible to skip the second layer of bricks.
Marbles: What’s next? Any plans for a Q-BA-MAZE 3.0?
Andrew: Yes, there is a long list of Q-BA-MAZE extensions with several of them in active development right now! I have been sworn to secrecy, but I can say this: we’re doing things with physics, materials and interaction that have never been done in a marble run before. To say that I am excited is an understatement.
Marbles: What do you like best about working with Marbles?
Andrew: The sharp focus on a thoughtfully curated selection of products that your staff knows and loves and that customers can play with in the store out-of-the-box.