What I used for Every Science Project – Kenner’s Iconic Girder and Panel Building Sets

Kenner’s Girder and Panel building sets were a popular toy in the 1970s and early 1980s that allowed kids to build elaborate structures and vehicles using plastic girders, panels, wheels, and other parts. In their heyday, the Girder and Panel sets offered an engaging, open-ended building experience that inspired creativity and problem-solving skills.

The Girder and Panel concept was created in 1961 by two industrial designers, Paul Chams and Robert Marzola. I doubt they got rich off this idea but it’ was a great idea. They originally patented a system of slotted plastic girders and panels that could be assembled in countless configurations.  It was a pretty interesting idea that could create some.  It works just like actual building beams and girders rather than some fake-looking thing.

In the early 1970s, Kenner licensed the system and began producing Girder and Panel building sets under their own brand. The sets were marketed as toys for ages 6-15 that could be used to build buildings, vehicles, and more. Over the years, Kenner expanded the line to include sets with motors, gears, wheels, and other parts that added movement and interactivity.

Girder and Panel Set
My Brother (Left) and I playing with the set sometime in the early to mid 80s.

Girder and Panel sets were enormously popular during their heyday in the 1970s. Commercials advertising the sets were commonplace on children’s television networks. However, Girder and Panel began to decline in popularity in the early 1980s with the rise of video games and other electronic toys.

I think I had one of the last iterations.  I never knew another kid who had it.  This would have been in the mid-80s.  I used it for every science project and it also did well.  Not sure where the set ended up but when 30 years later I went looking for it at my mom’s house I was devastated.

Why Girder and Panel Sets Were Discontinued:

By the mid-1980s, sales of Girder and Panel sets were in steep decline.  Why you ask?  LEGOS for one dominated and number two Kenner had the Star Wars Brand.  Do you focus on Star Wars or the dry-named Girder and Panel sets.  Kenner had something bigger licenses to concentrate on.  Namely Star Wars.

Revivals and Compatibles:

While Kenner no longer makes Girder and Panel sets, the concept still lives on through compatibles and revivals.  Those are tough to find though.  I did it on eBay.   If you’d like to look for it on eBay.  Here you go. 

So while Kenner’s original line is gone, if you have a set, and maybe a. 3D printer to create some new pieces you’re good to go.  My kids use my eBay-purchased set all the time, but we keep it in-house for now.   No science fairs.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Prof. Ryesky says:

    I spent many a creative hour with these in the mid-1960’s. Dear Old Dad made me a 3-foot x 3-foot foundation board from ¼-inch Masonite®.

    I was never really into model railroading, but some friends of mine who were sometimes used the Kenner sets in their models because they are designed on the same scale as HO train sets.

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