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Parents' Stories

“For Andrew Babala, K’NEX is Not Just a Toy”

Andrew began playing with Kid K’NEX when he was 3 years old. We were excited that Andrew had found something that he could build and follow the directions all by himself.  Andrew couldn’t yet read, but because the K’NEX directions are all pictures, he was easily able to follow the directions and was able to feel great accomplishment by building things on his own.  At 4 yrs old, he started building with his older brother’s LightUp multi-model K’NEX set, building windmills, helicopters and swing sets that moved.  Once he started building models that could move, he was so motivated to build more and more models.  At 5 yrs, he moved on to roller coasters, building the Junior Screamin’ Serpent with little help.  Our house regularly looked like a complete amusement park.  Initially he only built things following the exact directions, but before long he began getting more creative and would come home from local fairs and build rides based on what he saw.

I was on the K’NEX website printing out alternative directions to the sets we had and I came upon the K’NEXpert contest information.  I thought for sure that this was right up Andrew’s alley!  When I first learned of the contest, there was less than a week left before the entries were due for submission.  Andrew was excited to hear about the contest and immediately went to work, spending most of that weekend coming up with his idea.  At 5 yrs old in 2009 he entered a creation that was inspired by a large moon bounce house that he had played in that summer at a friend’s party.  He built a Birdcage Trampoline and used a motor to lift a K’NEX man up and down to ‘jump’ in it.  Andrew was very excited to learn that he qualified as a semi-finalist for the contest.  He was so excited to receive a K’NEX t-shirt, hat and keychain and especially loved the opportunity to visit the K’NEX headquarters and factory. 

Our day at K’NEX was absolutely spectacular!  Andrew was very excited to be greeted by signs welcoming him personally by name.  Andrew got to meet the design team and learn about some of the models currently underway that would be available that next year.  A few of the models he got a sneak peek at were the Disney exclusive Dumbo ride and the Space Mountain roller coaster.  We didn’t appreciate the importance these models would be for us until later that year.

We had the opportunity to take a family trip to Disney World and Andrew was quite apprehensive about traveling via train and/or plane.  We remembered that the Disney K’NEX sets would be available at Disney World and Andrew began saving up his money.  K’NEX was certainly his motivator to encourage Andrew to take the trip.  Once we arrived, the first and foremost thought on his mind was to locate and purchase the K’NEX building sets.

During the winter of 2010, Andrew spent the better part of a weekend designing and building his own Skeeball Machine made out of K’NEX.  When told no, we couldn’t go to Chuck-E-Cheese today, he decided to build his own skeeball machine to play.  We knew right away that this would be a great entry for the next year’s K’NEXpert contest.  Andrew went on to qualify as a Finalist for the 2011 K’NEXpert panel.  Andrew was so excited to begin receiving new K’NEX models before they were in stores with a survey asking for his opinion about the set and whether he found any problems with the directions, etc.  He is so proud of his ‘job’. 

In 2011 at age 7, Andrew decided to again enter the K’NEXpert contest for the 2012 panel.  After a trip to a local amusement park, Dutch Wonderland, he decided that he wanted to build a K’NEX Sky Ride.  He started out with a small prototype model to work on how the gears and chain could work to be the cable.  This project again motivated Andrew to do many things that he wouldn’t have done otherwise, he rode a number of Sky Rides at a few different amusement parks over that summer to better understand how the real sky rides worked.  I couldn’t believe that my little guy who otherwise was afraid to ride anything where his feet weren’t touching the ground, was now heading up the side of a mountain at Knoebel’s Amusement park on an old refurbished ski lift!  Upon much research, Andrew set his mind to building his large Sky Ride model to enter the contest.  It was tough going at times because the weight of the cars on the chain was quite a challenge because the towers kept falling over.  Andrew had to learn about taking a break, and not giving up.  He also learned that the final product sometimes is a bit different from how he expected it to be.

I can’t describe the excitement in our family when we heard that Andrew had been selected as a Grand Prize winner and would be awarded a $20,000 US savings bond for college. 

I can’t say enough about how wonderful our experience with K’NEX has been.  We are truly appreciative for all you do to help motivate our children to reach out and do more than they ever knew they could.  K’NEX is so much more than a toy.  For our family it has been a great motivator and opportunity for experiences that will be great memories for a lifetime. 

Andrew
Andrew
Andrew
Andrew
Andrew
Andrew

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