Question Block from Super Mario

My son has a keen sense of design already, and he often comes up with ideas of models I should help him to create. My usual answer is that he needs to make a blueprint for it so I can be sure that I understand what he means. It also helps him to think about the problem from a realistic point of view. If he can’t describe it well, that also means that I can’t understand what he means.

This time he came with an idea for a question block from Super Mario which has a lid that can pop open. He made a step-by-step blueprint for it which describes the design from all different orientations, and also shows how the latching mechanism works. He opted for a design which uses a spring to move the parts, and I challenged it due to the unreliability of it. Platforms with springs can easily get jammed as it is very difficult to assert even force on a wide area with springs. I love to use magnets in my designs, so we had a good discussion about how magnets could achieve the same effect on a much smaller area. He was sceptical if it was possible to do it the way I described it, but we agreed that I’ll give it a go.

This was the original design with a spring. The spring was supposed to be held down with a locking bar which you pull out to release it.
This is how the final design ended up being. It uses a total of six magnets which achieve the same effect: two on the lid + two repelling and two attracting on the inside of the frame.
The final design ended up being better than I had expected. The removable handle gives you the possibility of locking the block.

In addition to the lid which pops up, the handle at the bottom is also removable. To pop the lid open, you need to twist on the handle. I added magnets there as well to make the indexing easier when you are attaching it. Without the handle, it is impossible to open the block without tools.

I of course had to make one for the little sister too, and she chose to have a heart design instead of the usual question block.

Here you can see the placement of the magnets. The inner cylinder with the attracting and repelling magnets rotate when you twist the handle at the bottom. When you switch from attracting to repelling, the lid pops open.
At the bottom of the inner cylinder, there are limiters so the indexing of the magnets is correct. This way the inner cylinder can only twist between repelling and attracting locations, and not any further.
The design took me around 5 hours to model.
Parts of the block.

Starting from the top left: (1) inner cylinder which rotates inside the (2) frame. (3) lid with magnets.

The middle row: (1) Question marks to be attached to the sides of the frame. (2) handle to twist the cylinder.

On the bottom: (1) Connecting piece between the cylinder and the handle. This also makes sure that the cylinder doesn’t fall out. (2) eight 6mm x 3mm magnets. Six magnets are needed for the lid mechanism and two for indexing the bottom handle.

Both me and my son are happy about the design. I’ve been told multiple times that I still need to make the mushroom though…

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