New Soma Cube Designs

Using the elegance of a simple puzzle to explore creativity

When I was a kid the best souvenir we brought home from Canada was a green plastic Soma Cube. It’s 40+ years later still present in my mothers living room. Later I got myself a more heavy wooden set, that builds better.

The puzzling itself can also be seen as a powerful exploration into creative thinking, as I will also try to showcase here.

I always wondered why the wooden snake, to wiggle into a cube, became the bigger hit than the Soma variation of 7 separate pieces. For me, the Soma cube is like 3d Tangram.

The seven pieces, often sold in beautiful wooden variations, can be built into a cube.. or a 1001 different shapes.

Use one simple puzzle to help explore creativity in 8 different ways:

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The pieces can be used to make simple recognizable figures, like this T-Rex.

One way to puzzle is to build the shapes offered in this blog post.

Or you can decide to create your own. A starting strategy for this is to just make something with two or four legs first and then see what is possible with the leftover pieces.

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And once you get one Dino, then you know, more are possible..

Which one can you make?

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Thus creating an awesome invitation to children to boost their imagination.

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Or perhaps try more abstract complex figures..

Then I just experimented with shapes first and if I liked outcomes, I named them..

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Or I put myself to my own challenges, like this one. Could I make a build standing on one leg?

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And yes, it’s possible.

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Or could I build something with as many windows as possible? And still, have it be a symmetric building?

1,2 or 3 * stars mean difficulty level. And Gordian refers to the Gordian Knot, a classical difficult shape.

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This is that Gordian Knot. As a child, I found this one an awesome challenge and aptly named by the inventor, whoever that was. It sparked my fantasy of what more was possible.

Note: All other shapes are designed by me, although very likely others may have discovered them too.

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Every new approach to building may lead to many new options. Like this one, born in the concept that one could build hollow buildings, creating more space on the outside.

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It never hurts to play around with one concept. In this case, adding and or replacing chimneys.

Yes, it can!

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Until you run into the impossible or give up trying because you think it is.

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Or just try as big as possible with very different shapes sometimes ending up with strong clean shapes..on the outside. Thus finding new variations with the hollow approach.

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Or try as complex as possible. Having four spokes sticking out at the second level is more complex than on the ground floor. And having solved that, coming up with elegant symmetric shapes is then the next puzzle. (somehow symmetry being a foundation for the better kind of shapes)

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Also when you see a possibility, like in this case, how to make it work? I found a scorpion stinger possible, then tried to find a way to do the front justice.

What do you think? How would you design one?

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In this case, adding color makes it easier to see, why this shape is aptly named. But that leaves the question of how much must something resemble its real-world counterpart for others to see what you see?

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Illusions can also be of a different kind. This seems like 3 different shapes. It’s one building.

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An added idea was, can I strengthen the illusion of three, like by making one cube seemingly float?

Lessons on Creativity

So creativity means both finding new concepts and approaches and then varying on them until you find enough new things.

I presume this goes for many inventors. We see this in both Nikola Tesla and Leonardo da Vinci. Very diverse works and also lots of related variations in their inventions and art.

So how to get creative? Mix the following approaches:

1. Use your imagination.

2. Play with possibilities. Ask yourself, what more is possible? What angle of approach haven’t I tried yet? What variations within a given concept or solutions are possible?

3. Set yourself challenges. Or take on those of others.

4. Find out how things essentially work.

5. Observe and evaluate outcomes and then mix all previous steps for added discoveries.

6. Embrace mistakes as doors to new possibilities, or lessons learned, either about basic principles of your subject or ground rules of exploration. Or even as art, when the mess is beautiful enough.

Principle number 6: Failed Gordian Knot becomes new shape.

7. Or change the order of work to get different results. Like with Soma, first build anything then name it, or start with a plan, or even an idea (castle, animal) and see where you get.

8. And then apply these basic understandings in any new field you’d love to dance in; as I did in sports, dance, theatre, music, education, game design, business training, and more.

Okay, tilted cubes my program doesn’t do..yet.

Note: All pictures have been made with Magicavoxel which can be downloaded for free. Simple and elegant in design, also for me, who has no experience in coding and such. Shout out to the builders of this program.

Follow up here, if you want to become more creative, or get unstuck then follow up here.

When does chaos become art? And when just a (seemingly) random placement an esthetic variation?
Image after ancient Chinese Pottery of horses.

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Practical ideas and approaches to work with groups

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Floris Koot

Floris Koot

Play Engineer. Social Inventor. Gentle Revolutionary. I always seek new possibilities and increase of love, wisdom and play in the world.

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