New Website Now Online!!!
We've been hard at work to bring a new layout, which we hope is simpler to navigate, faster to load, and easier for us to add new kits to the lineup.
If you have any suggestions, complaints, notes of acceptible levels of service, ransom notes, envelopes full of cash, (we prefer small, unmarked bills... just sayin') or any other request for some form of communication, you can do so by dropping us a line.
A contact form is available from the "About us" tab above, along with addresses, phone numbers, GPS co-ordinates, pictograms, and various other ways to reach us.
Live in New York City? (I bet some of you do!) The Metropolitan Museum of Art now sells the Leonardo da Vinci Ornithopter, Helicopter and Catapult. Don't move there just to get one, but if you are in the neighbourhood...
Back in the West, The Museum of Flight outside of Seattle, Washington now has the Ornithopter in stock.
Our new Leonardo da Vinci Helicopter is in stock. This rounds out our line of really cool Leonardo da Vinci kits.
If you like all things da Vinci, go to our BLOG on the educational site: www.pathfindersdesign.net We have images of Leonardo exhibits Derek has been to around the world.
Live in London, England? Now you can buy the Trebuchet and Catapult at the Royal Armouries Shop.
New Robotic Arm hydraulic kit is now available!
Dont forget to take a look at the KITS tab above to see what else we have.
The New Leonardo da Vinci Ornithopter is here!.
This is our second working Leonardo model and is inspired by the drawings done by da Vinci in the late 1400s. And it comes with a cool pilot that actually does the work for you (if you turn the crankshaft).
We hope to have it up on our web site for sale soon!
www.pathfindersdesign.net is now online!
We finally have our educational support site up and running. It has sketches of hydraulic machine ideas, videos of all sorts of machines working, bridges, and pictures of our kits and information about them. Plus a short blog about some of the things we are doing these days.
Pathfinders has joined 1% for the Planet.
We will be donating 1% of our sales to protecting the place where we live. We use natural untreated wood in our kits and want to help continue to make our products sustainable and recyclable.
Free shipping for orders over $60!
Call us crazy, but we want you and your kids to enjoy a variety of cool educational building kits at a great price. We will remove the shipping costs when we process your order and send you an emaill letting you know it has been done.
Looking to sell kits? send us an email and we'll connect you with a distributer in your area.
Looking for kits? Our kits are sold in local toy and science shops and museums around the world, or for canada and the US order on our secure online store right here.
Trebuchet - $28.00
Considered by many to be the most powerful and destructive of all the siege engines, the trebuchet took many forms throughout the Medieval world, hurling huge rocks, giant fireballs and even diseased animals at (and into) castles.
This model, based on the Warwolf, is a tabletop working replica of a trebuchet made in the 13th Century. Standing 26 inches (67 cm) tall by 18 inches (48 cm wide) this model will shoot balls of plasticine (included) over 20 feet! Please be careful of what (or whom) you take aim on, this thing can really let loose.
Catapult - $19.00
The catapult has a long and interesting history. It has been around in many forms, evolving since about 400 BC. This model is based on the medieval styles that were used during the middle ages.
Standing 15 cm tall and 12 cm wide, this siege engine can shoot a plasticine ball over 15 feet! Adjustable pads on the crossbar allow you to change the trajectory angle. The rope, strung through the middle gives great power to the swing arm!
Siege Tower - $30.00
The Siege Tower was use by invading armies to breach the walls of the castle they were attacking. They varied in size and construction,(some up to 135 feet tall!) but the one we have here is typical of the styles used from about 900 BC to the medieval times as attackers tried to get over the walls of a castle.This incredibly sturdy tabletop model will give hours (years!) of reliable sieging around the house and back yard. Like all of our kits, this one is pegged for great strength and authenticity and will give you that cool siege feeling with the firing catapult on the top.
Leonardo da vinci Catapult - $21.00
This catapult is one of da Vinci's redesigns from the medieval catapults of 400 or so years earlier).
While the Medieval catapult we made uses the force of twisted rope, this uses the tension stored in bent wood to hurl objects, usually over 15 feet. With no modifications you can experiment flinging with grapes, and those fun mini marshmallows too! A great way to introduce graphing for kids!
This kit stands 33 cm (16 inches) tall, 25 cm (10 inches) long, and 14 cm (5.5 inches) wide.
Leonardo da vinci Helicopter - $22.00
One of Leonardo's most iconic images, the Aerial Screw (also known as the Helicopter) illustrates the ingenuity of da Vinci, and indicates (along with many other drawings!) his obsession with flying. While this idea may never have got off the ground, for some basic technical reasons, it gave us an insight into the different ways in which Leonardo considered the challenge of human powered flying, and defines him as an inventor well ahead of his time.
While it is often referred to as a helicopter, the premise of the lift to make it rise is more like archimedes screw than the rotors of a helicopter. Our model uses one of the bevel gears he drew in his codices and creates a nice 2 to 1 increase in speed of the crankshaft, so the mast spins quickly, illustrating the manner in which this machine would have worked.
Leonardo da vinci Ornithopter - $28.00
Flying has always been a dream of humans, and Leonardo's fascination with birds and flight was evident in his studies of birds and different human powered flying machines. His ornithopter design has captured the imagination of people for generations, and we have combined his cool flying machine with one of his bevel gear designs to make a neat working model with flapping wings and a pilot with moving arms and legs.
While it remains a mystery if his ornithopter design was ever fully made or tested at the time, there are many ideas (hanging in museums around the world!) of what it might have looked like, and we have added our ideas as well.
da Vinci Bridge - $11.00
Coming soon is the Leonardo Emergency Bridge. Designed to be able to be able to made quickly and removed by armies this is a simple kit, yet elegant in design.
Mini Excavator - $17.00
Excavators are big machines that are used to dig holes and move earth, and this model uses the same principles as those used in real situations, except you use water instead of hydraulic fluid.
There are many types of excavators and this kit uses a first and third class lever to make the arm and shovel move. We think it provides and excellent example of how we use technology to dig things up. Great for kids to learn about hydraulics, levers and simple machines, and to finish small excavating projects around the house.
Simple to build in less than an hour, you need only a pair of scissors to make this fun and functional model. Great for kids 8 and up.
Mini Scissor Lift - $17.00
Scissor Lifts are cool machines that are used on building sites to lift a platform horizontally. They are commonly used to reach high places like ceilings with a steady place to work from.
This model uses the same principles as those in real situations, except you use water instead of hydraulic fluid - nice! Once made the Scissor Lift provides an excellent example of how we use technology to reach the top Great for kids to learn about hydraulics, levers and simple machines
Simple to build in less than an hour, you need only a pair of scissors to make this fun and functional model. Great for kids 8 and up.
Mini Platform Lift - $17.00
Platform lifters are cool simple machines that are used to lift platforms horizontally. This model uses the same principles as those in real situations, except you use water instead of hydraulic fluid – much cleaner!
This kit is similar to the Cherry Picker except the platform swings freely. Fully extended it stands over 22 cm high. This makes for some interesting fun as you can balance an object as you raise up the platform.Easy to assemble in less than an hour, this kit uses one hydraulic piston attached to the main arm. These kits are great for teachers and kids to get going on the study of levers and simple machines, and a great beginning to make their own machines!
Mini Cherry Picker - $17.00
Widely used by power and telephone companies (and anyone who wants to get a cat out of a tree) this is an excellent model showing levers and hydraulics.
Using a parallel linkage, the platform stays level all the way up and down. And it swivels side to side! Great fun for moving Lego people around, (sorry, not included) or taking a pet mouse for a ride (may be included, check the box carefully). The nice thing about the parallel linkage is that as the platform moves up and down, the people don't fall off (we think that is a nice touch!)Easy to assemble in less than an hour, this kit uses one hydraulic piston attached to the main arm.
Robotic Arm - $24.00
This robotic arm is an easy to make 3 dimensional model that grabs, lifts items horizontally, and can turn very close to 90 degrees! Designed to be used alone (with a nice syringe holder), or in a group - each person using one syringe.
A great way to learn about Robotics, Levers and Simple Machines, Fluid dynamics, Engineering, and Invention, and Design and Technology - or just moving things around the house (small things, mind you - no dogs or cats, please.)Easy to make in about an hour or two, it sretches 49 cm (16 inches) out, swings 18 cm (7 inches) around, and stands 37 cm (13 inches) high. Best of all: no batteries required!
Hydraulics Mega 4-in-1 Pack - $35.00
This kit contains 4 hydraulics kits in one mini-Mega box of fun. It's almost like getting 2 free kits!
These kits provide hours of interesting building and thoughtful use - with building blocks, moving Lego people around the house, and for those who want to give their mouse the ride of his life! Kits included are: Mini Scissor Lift, Mini Platform Lifter, Mini Cherry Picker, and Mini Excavator
Most models stand between 18 and 24 cm high when fully extended and can hold things like a glass of milk, toys, false teeth and other fun items!
Hydraulics Ultra Class Pack - $120.00
We want our kids to ask questions, solve problems, and take the design process from conception to an end product. We designed this class pack of materials to help enhance those crucial skills!
The kit comes with a teacher information booklet with great lesson plans, ideas, and a 15 page student handbook with information about the history of hydraulics machines, and pages of tips and ideas about how to use the parts. Teachers need only scissors, glue, and cardboard to get their class inventing, designing and building in a great, affordable activity that will be the highlight of any science unit. Built with a class of 30 students working in pairs in mind, the class pack has enough materials to make at least 15 machines, with an average of 2 hydraulic piston pairs for each machine.
Strauss Trunnion Bridge - $21.00
Probably the coolest bridge we make, this is a replica of the Joseph Strauss design that was made all over North America in the 1920's and 1930's. Well known bridges of this type are the Johnston Street (Blue Bridge) in Victoria, B.C., Wishka River bridge in Washington, the Ashtaula Bridge in Ohio, the Cherry Street bridge in Toronto and the Third Street Bridge in San Francisco.
Sized to fit the wooden train sets, this bridge is an elegant reminder of the cool truss bridges that used to be built years ago and are still in use! Great to use for school bridge studies, and learn more about interesting linkages, this kit will bring a new level of sophistication to playing with wooden cars and trains. Graffiti is not included, but that gives you the chance to be creative!
Swing Bridge - $21.00
Based on the classic design at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK, this elegant design has been used for hundreds years around the world. In fact Leonardo da Vinci invented a swing bridge in the 1400's! Swing bridges are still used widely around the world.
Using a wooden bevel gear, the bridge swings open and closed, just like a real swing bridge.
Great for wooden trains and car sets, kids can learn about gears and have the neatest bridge on the block. Sir Topham Hatt and Thomas would be very impressed, as this bridge works to get trains there and back (in a hurry!), and has room for a Lego or other bridge keepers in the control center over the bridge.
Lift Bridge - $21.00
One of the most common types of bridges for freight trains, our Truss Design Lift Bridge is a working replica of the many lift bridges that have been made over the last 100 years.
Lift bridges became the workhorses of the freight railroads for many years as rail lines expanded over the rivers and ports of the world. The design was particularly useful in areas where there was no room for a bridge to swing, such as a busy industrial port. This bridge uses a small handle and crankshaft to lift the center span to the top of the truss structure, allowing trolls and other vehicles to safely pass between the two ends. The kit can be mostly made without glue and taken apart for storage. Snug slot construction and accurate cutting makes this possible!
Enter, The Dragon - $24.00
Our final uber-automata kit, the flying dragon brings to life the dragons of our imaginations.
With the turn of the crankshaft the body moves forward and back, while the wings flap, the legs move up and down, and the neck, tail and head move in a graceful motion. Paint it to resemble your favourite dragon, and fly away!
Not as easy to construct as the running horse and flying pig, but well worth the effort, this is an impressive kit that is fun to make and cool to use. Decorate with markers, feathers, bottle caps or sequins and make a statement!
Pet Pteranodon - $17.00
Winging its way in from prehistoric days is our new pteranodon automata.
A fun automata with a wide wingspan of 30 cm this pteranodon brings to life the graceful majesty of a bygone time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and space travel was just a mere thought in minds of the T Rex.
Easy to assemble in an hour or so, this is a great gift for those dinosaur lovers who have everything. With a little window to look inside the box, youngesters can see the movement of the linkage. Paint it to resemble your favorite pteranodon, or add feathers and a hat to astound your friends and confuse your enemies.
Running Horse - $17.00
A part of North American tradition, running horses have been featured in western movies, fairy tales, constellations, and fancy drinks with umbrellas. We pay homage to the running horse with a cool automaton that beckons you to turn the handle and run like the wind!
You can colour it with magic markers, or even paint it up to resemble a zebra or unicorn. Easy to assemble in an hour or two, this kit uses a single linkage to make the movement. There is even a horse head shaped window to see how the crankshaft works.
As are all of our automata, this is easy to make and fun to play with. A great gift for horse owners and those who want to be a horse owner at a fraction of the cost (this kit has been pre-fed and could run for years!).
We are currently trying to decide what photos to display. Please bear with us as we trundle through this difficult process, and try back later.
Educational Worksheets Ready to Go: Download these worksheets (pdf) and use them as you wish! There is a synopsis of what each contains and whether it is math, social studies, or science, and the approximate grade levels.
Catapult - Math - Graphing - This worksheet has a set of activities that students can use to test their catapult, record their results and do some graphing. Great for grades 2 through to grade 6 (students don't get the sample graphs in the higher grades).
Trebuchet - Math - Graphing - A set of activities to use to test your trebuchet. Good for students and home learners in the 8 to 14 age range.
Tips and Tricks for Kit Construction: Building a kit? The Pathfinders' Tips and Tricks page has plenty of hints to help you out...
Using Wire Cutters Instead of Scissors - This pdf shows you how to use wire cutters to cut your dowels instead of using scissors. It's faster and more effecient.
Free Plans: Interested in more? Visit the Pathfinders' Free Plans page and get ideas to build other structures while learning about science!
Robotic Arm This pdf file has all the information you need to build a cool robotic arm, you can use your own materials, or what is in the discovery kit!
Other Science Links: These are links to great sites that give you more information about the principles behind Pathfinders' Science Kits!
Grey Company Trebuchet Page: Well, if you haven't already found everything you wanted to know about the trebuchet, then this is THE site. It has it all, including more links than a ten fathom anchor chain! Some of the links to mathematical sites and simulators don't work, I'll try to get to them and load the links here when I can.
Medieval Centre Experimental Museum - An all encompassing site that highlights the activities around all things medieval, including neat pictures of Trebuchets, Catapults and other Medieval Siege engines. They build full size models, and have a recreated town. Well worth the visit if you are in Denmark, but if you can't make it try clicking on this!
Non Gunpowder Artillery - This site has some excellent background material about early weaponry, with clear drawings and information. It has some educational links as well.
Nova - Medieval Siege - A great site from PBS in the United States, with some fun and interesting activities about the Trebuchet and life in the middle ages in a castle. You can even try your hand at shooting a trebuchet and destroying a castle!
Levers - How a Bathroom Scale Works - Another How Stuff Works site, it shows the inner mechanisms of a bathroom scale. Great if you are studying levers, in fact it would be a lot of fun to make one of these on your own! Go ahead, take apart the bathroom scale for parts!
Levers - Raise an Obelisk - This PBS site has a shockwave activity where you can raise an Egyptian obelisk using a lever. It has the formula for the mechanical advantage of the lever. Very good for students who want some practical experience with a lever and need to practice using a formula. Good for ages 9 and up.
Bridges - Building Big - This is the best bridge site I have found on the net! There are activities to test the strength of different materials, and how they apply in real situations. The Forces Lab is an excellent illustration of the factors that engineers need to take into account when they design a bridge. The Bridge Challenge is one of the best interactive bridge problem solving activities you can get! If you miss this site then your students have not seen it all!
Automatons - Cam Shafts - A great link through How Stuff Works that show 3-D animations of how camshafts work in a variety of situations. If you can't picture how a follower works this is the site for you!
Inventors – Exploring Leonardo - This rich site looks at the life of Leonardo da Vinci, and has an interesting activity in the inventor's workshop section. A well done educational site about this radical thinker and artist. Worth a visit!
Siege Engine - Wikipedia - This is a GREAT place to start getting information on most any topic. It is a community-driven online encyclopedia, that can be updated and edited by anyone. *WARNING* Due to the fact that it can be modified by anyone, this site CAN contain errors, and should only be used as a starting point for any study.
Pathfinders Design and Technology
925 Clapham Drive
Pathfinders Design and Technology designs and manufactures wooden science kits for educational and recreational use. We are located in Metchosin, just outside of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Our chief educator, Derek Wulff, teaches classes in the Victoria area. We spend time with kids in schools, making and using the kits to see how well they deliver curriculum for teachers, and to make sure they are engaging and appropriate for both fun play and educational aspects. So far so good!
We like to work with other local companies. Our manufacturer in Taiwan is a local family-run factory, and most of our stores are neighbourhood toy stores, supporting local and small business people (not actually short, but you know what we mean). We do sell to some larger companies, but they have set standards for excellence and generally are not traded on any stock exchange.
We provide leadership in teaching hands on educational design and technology classes as well as science kits. Contact us for more information.
We create custom kits for special uses, so if you have a design you need made, contact us!
Distributors interested in carrying our lines of kits are welcome to contact us for more information.
Pathfinders is dedicated to creating compelling, innovative, wooden science kits that challenge children of all ages to explore the link between science, design, and technology in the world around us. We aim to help the student integrate knowledge gained from constructing the kits by providing links to educational resources to enhance their understanding of math and science as well as historical principles.
Pathfinders aims to provide such fun and interesting kits that they will be an attractive and desirable toy for anyone from a small child to an executive planning a friendly take over.
We are an environmentally friendly company and use recyclable materials, natural, untreated wood, and local resources and production as much as possible. All of our kits are tested to make sure they are 100% safe, so if the dog (or a child) eats the glue then s/he will not be exposed to any unsafe levels of chemicals of any kind. Same with the other parts like that (like the clay projectiles). We respect our customers health like we want to be respected!
Derek does teach Lever Madness classes with the class pack, in Victoria B.C. They are designed to be day long hands-on workshops where students design and build hydraulics machines. Have a look at some of the machines the students have made on our Educational web site: http://www.pathfindersdesign.net
This workshop is perfect for studies around levers and simple machines, engineering design process, fluid studies and inventions units. Taking cues from the world around us, students in this class will make modern day simple machines that use levers and hydraulics to work. Dump trucks, Robotic arms, back hoes, scissor lifts, and cherry pickers are a few of the things that students can make, test drive and take home. Students will do the design, measuring, cutting, gluing, drilling and testing.
Courses come with an outline linking the outcomes of the B.C. science IRP's with what the students have done in the class, and are best suited to students in grades 6 to 2nd year University engineering courses.
In the workshop, the students act as a team and work cooperatively in small groups, building a structure or mechanism of their own design. Most classes will see between ten and thirteen mechanisms made! All classes are 6 hours (all day usually, but they can be given over two days).
Workshops in a class include:
Prices start at $250 for each workshop. Call Derek Wulff to discuss scheduling at 250-478-2677, or email here.
Who is Derek Wulff Anyway?
Derek is a BC certified teacher who has been teaching grades K to 10 for the past 13 years. He has taught a wide variety of subjects, but most recently science in middle school. He is a lifelong artist and athlete, father and coach, gardener, author and environmentalist, and loves the rich learning experiences of hands-on science.
He enjoys teaching and shares his enthusiasm with children of all ages who want to learn new things and make sense of their world around them (to the extent that any of us can!). The courses he teaches are fun and challenging, with an individual approach, the way learning should be! Derek designs all of the kits produced here at Pathfinders, and recently joined One Percent for the Planet, donating 1% of sales to protect, and enhance the natural environment. This year Pathfinders donated to West Coast Environmental Law, The David Suzuki Foundation and The Land Conservancy.
We have recently joined 1% for the Planet, and will be donating 1% of our profits to protecting and buying important habitat, through Habitat trusts that aim to buy and protect critical habitat areas for plants and animals. Check out their web site to learn more, and join, if you are someone running a business!