The Capsela Motorized Construction Set – Then and Now
Capsela is a toy construction set that provided a generation of kids (and future engineers) a motorized and pool friendly building set. From the mid-1980s through the early nineties, to even today you can find Capsela toys available. Capsela consists of gears and motors in spherical plastic capsules that can be connected to form various toys suitable for land or water. The capsules typically have six hollow octagonal connectors and sleeve pieces bridge two capsules. The 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 miscellaneous supporting pieces.
The original company exporting Calsela to the world was the Mitsubishi Pencil Company, Ltd. (now famous for their Uniball pens). They licensed the product for export to a number of companies over the years. Tracking down all the licensees is a bit byzantine, here are the known ones:
Play-Jour Hong Kong, distributed by Sanyei Amerca Corp. Secaucus, NJ
In the 2000s, Vtech appears to have worked to brand some kits with Scholastic (of school book fame) and distributed via Toys”R”Us.
Today, Capsela seems highly hackable with microcontrollers. The motors are 1.5 and 3 volt with a current of about 130 ma at 3 volts.
What are your experiences and memories with Capsela? Post in the comments below!
Make a robot friend with Adafruit’s CRICKIT – A Creative Robotics & Interactive Construction Kit. It’s an add-on to our popular Circuit Playground Express, FEATHER and other platforms to make and program robots with CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. Start controlling motors, servos, solenoids. You also get signal pins, capacitive touch sensors, a NeoPixel driver and amplified speaker output. It complements & extends your boards so you can still use all the goodies on the microcontroller, now you have a robotics playground as well.
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I had a few Capsela kit, years ago. The one I remember most had transparent blue capsules, and was a walking robot. Definitely a favorite toy, and perhaps one of the influences towards me being a maker today.
I had the water set back in the 90s. I picked up a mostly intact #1000 set I found on eBay last year with the intention of adding an arduino esp32 to control it and throw in some sensors. Does anyone still have the capsule computer?