Capsela was a construction toy brand consisting primarily of gears and motors in spherical plastic capsules that could be connected to form various static or dynamic toys suitable for land or water. The capsules usually have six hollow octagonal connectors pointing out, where an octagonal sleeve piece bridges between two capsules. The hollow connection pegs on a capsule can have electrical or rotary adapters inside, reaching into the next capsule. There are electric motor capsules, gear capsules, switch capsules, pontoon capsules, and others; there are also battery holders, wheels, propellers, impellers, lights, wires, and other miscellaneous supporting pieces.
Capsela products were originally manufactured by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. The series was then licensed out to Play Jour and has since been produced by VTech, Kidology, and a number of other subsidiaries. The range seems to have been recently[when?] re-released in Japan by Bandai, adding new colours to the basic range of transparent spheres.
Capsela products were originally sold in at least four ranges:
- A series of increasingly complex generic construction sets, similar in style to Meccano or Lego Technic. (Sets 135, 150, 200, 250, 400, 450, 500, 700 and 1000, ranging from 30 to 108 parts.)
- Capsela Computer, the flagship range, based around a multi-function computer capsule capable of controlling motors and lights. (Sets CRC2000 and ICR5000, the latter featuring an infrared remote control.)
- Capsela Voice Command systems (3000 and 6000) had a small computer capable of responding to a number of voice commands. The 6000 system had a rudimentary wireless infrared remote control.
- A sister product branded as SpaceLink, which had no motorized parts (with the exception of spring powered wheel units) and instead focussed on science fiction-themed accessories (cockpits, small action figures, rockets, etc.). This range appears to have been designed to be more appealing to children than the more educational original products. (Sets 330, 345, 360, 610, 650, 670, 690, 805, 820, 835, 850, 860 and 895, ranging from 8 to 53 parts.)
- Capsela Powertram, a series designed to 'bridge' Capsela and Spacelink, containing motor-driven construction components and Spacelink accessories. The Powertram unit was a motor driven platform which housed its own batteries and allowed land vehicles to be constructed without the need for a separate switch box, battery compartments, wires and motors. (Sets 275 and 375, with 26 and 42 parts respectively.)
- Robot (set 204) — this set comes with a worm gear capsule with a larger gear ratio.
In January 1987, Access Software announced The Robotic Workshop, a kit designed for home computers that used a range of Capsela parts. The kit included over 50 Capsela parts, including two motors, gears, wheels, and sensors. The kit also included an electronic control unit that plugged into the user port of a Commodore 64, an instruction manual with 50 tutorial projects, and special programming software on a floppy disk. It was later released for Apple, Atari, and IBM computers.
Use in schools
Capsela is used in school science technology classes, and to promote technical careers in engineering, robotics and mechatronics to lower high school students, sometimes specifically targeting girls.
Capsela has now been rebranded as IQ Key and is yet again available to the public. http://www.iqkey.jp/. The new parts differ slightly in appearance, taking the form of semi-regular geometric solids rather than spheres, but are compatible with the old Capsela system.
- http://www.EducationalInsights.com Educational Insights
- Science Tech syllabus Careers pre-engineering topics Gresham Barlow School District, Oregon
- Career and Technical Education, Utah State Office of Education
- Edmison, Glenn A. (Dec 1983). Robotics and Industrial Arts. American Vocational Association Convention (December 1983). Anaheim, CA. p. 16.
- Labor Dept. Gives $1.75 Million for Mechatronics Grant will fund new 2-year degree program and high school curriculum to promote careers in Mechatronics, Utah Valley University gave Capsela kits to 20 high schools
- Northwest Girls Collaborative Project, Lewiston School District Idaho, Oregon, and Washington
- Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day