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Wacky World of Rubber: Nintendo technology brings cardboard, rubber bands to life

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If you're looking for a creative gift for the young engineer in your life, and you'd prefer that it incorporate rubber somehow, maybe it's time to start looking at cardboard.

The Nintendo Labo Toy-Cons combine tech-heavy toys with a build-it-yourself concept, using cardboard and other household goods to build fishing rods, steering wheels and even a giant robot.

With the "magic" of technology and reflective tape, the toys come to life with the portable Switch tablet.

While the kits are mostly cardboard, string and tape, rubber bands are featured prominently in a few of the designs. In the design for the Fishing Rod toy, rubber bands are used to simulate the kick of reeling in a fish from the deep blue. Youtuber Erinnyon shows how to build the complete toy in their guide, but if you want to cut to the rubber band action, skip forward to 8:26. A reel powered by rubber bands is inserted into the "ocean" to give the line a realistic pull while fishing using gyros in the controller.

Rubber bands also are used in the Labo Vehicle kit, to power a responsive gas pedal while players use a cardboard steering while to drive around a course on a screen. There aren't any rubber bands involved, but the Robot uses strings and counterweights with reflective tape to make a giant city-sized robot move and smash on the TV.

The kits are a great start, but creators (and STEM classes in elementary schools) have been using them as a starting point and building even more inventive projects, such as RC cars, an arcade machine, teapots and a musical cat.

Sometimes it makes sense to bring high-tech and low-tech toys together to let imagination build something new, and maybe kindle an interest in engineering.

Kyle Brown is a reporter for Rubber & Plastics News who watched a lot of Mr. Wizard and Bill Nye while growing up. Follow him on Twitter at @kbrownRPN.