Toobers® in Science Education
by Eric Martz (February 2003; updated March 2004, March 2005)
University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA USA

Click on any picture to enlarge it, or any movie still to play the movie.

Eight toobers lying on the floor. Shoe is shown for size comparison.
"Toobers" are soft, flexible, inexpensive foam plastic rods about a meter long, and as big around as a good-sized carrot. They are easily bent and hold their shape, due to an aluminum wire running down the center. They were originally available as a component of toys named Toobers and Zots® by Hands-On Toys. I first learned about toobers from Tim Herman and Michael Patrick in their SEPA Workshops for high-school teachers where students used them in a nifty Protein Folding Challenge.

to Toobers
[Play Movie #1]

70 seconds, 3.4 megabytes.
Toobers are quite useful in helping to convey certain structural concepts in science lectures. My experience is with protein structure, particularly in immunology, but I'm sure they can be adapted to other concepts as well.

Toobers can also be used by teams of students for hands-on discovery. An inexpensive kit with instructions for a protein folding challenge is available from 3DMolecularDesigns.Com.

Toobers for scientific education
are available from

who also offer more ideas for toobers.


Caveat: the movie clips here intentionally oversimplify some concepts for the sake of brevity. Yes, I know that my "DNA" doesn't have major and minor grooves (adding them would be easy enough), that immunoglobulin domains have more than a few beta strands, and that there are no disulfide bonds holding VH to VL.

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