BYU PhD Student Turns Inventor With Magnetic Marble Track

Oct 11, 2020, 10:17 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 11:01 pm

WEST HAVEN, Utah — Sometimes, life just doesn’t offer the right track, but with the help of a 3D printer, one Utah man is building his own.

“I grew up always wanting to be an inventor,” said Bryan Stringham as he sat in front of a laptop while his 3D printer buzzed away. “I was going to get a degree in inventing, and then I realized that didn’t really exist.”

If you want to take a class in persistence, look no further than Bryan Stringham.

“It just kind of came to me one night,” he said.

With the “inventing” degree out of reach, he studied mechanical engineering.

Stringham is currently working on his PhD at BYU.

“Design for the developing world is kind of my background,” he said. “Building sensors that tell us the social impact of products in developing countries, namely water pumps.”

Then, nearly everything came to a halt.

Quarantine had him ready to lose his marbles.

“It was about 11:30 at night one night when I had the idea,” Stringham said.

In another room, an elaborate piece of construction was underway.  Stringham had connected together various pieces he designed, and stuck them to little pieces of metal he attached to the wall with bits of putty.

He invented a modular marble track he calls “MagTrax.”

Bryan Stringham sits in front of his 3D printer. Stringham assembles a marble track on the wall. Bryan Stringham demonstrates the modeling program he used to design the pieces for his invention. Marbles roll down one of Stringham's marble tracks. A marble drops out of a funnel. Stringham had a video made to promote his invention on Kickstarter.

While the idea of marble tracks or “towers” isn’t new, Stringham is working on getting patents for his, which use magnets to stick to walls.

“For a product that’s supposed to remove clutter, it creates a lot of clutter in the designing process,” Stringham said with a laugh as he sorted through a pile of pieces on the floor.

But an idea isn’t enough —an inventor also has to be a businessman, which is where the doubt rolls in.

“I’ve thought that a lot, and sometimes I still think that.”

He had to see if anyone actually wanted it.

“I did research on how much people are willing to pay for something like this,” Stringham said. “It’s a lot of protoyping — a lot of iteration of tweaking this part of it, finding that part — so it’s comparable to other magnetic toys.”

But building mounds of tiny pieces with his own 3D printer just wouldn’t cut it. He turned to the public for help, asking for backers on Kickstarter.

“Very nervous,” Stringham said. “I didn’t really do any marketing. I don’t really have a lot of experience with that. I have a marketing team now that we’ve built out, but at the time that we launched, that was totally just a shot in the dark.”

He met his goal, and then some.

Stringham said he plans to build a small factory with bigger printers to handle the load, right here in Utah.

He may not have gotten the “inventing” degree — but with a big idea and a whole lot of persistence, his plans just clicked into place.

“I kind of have entrepreneurship in my blood, and hopefully, it won’t be the last venture. But yeah, it’s one of the first,” he said.
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BYU PhD Student Turns Inventor With Magnetic Marble Track