Some people can get excited about science simply by watching an episode of Discovery’s How It’s Made But it often takes only one personal discovery, some object in motion, a curious force of nature, or unthinkable technological improvement, and suddenly a wider world opens up.  UGEARS is the Ukrainian company that creates spectacularly engineered models, reflecting the history of science and technology in plywood gears and rods.  They also make steampunk and fantasy creations.  With the current war, the company reports its employees in the country are safe–so far.  UGEARS has just announced it is donating 1 million euros to Ziedot.lv, a fund of humanitarian aid to Ukrainian families, children, and the elderly, and will earmark 5 euros (which is currently about US$5.50) from each model purchased on its official global website to be spent on food, medications, and shelter for the people suffering from Russian aggression in Ukraine.  Last year I reviewed several STEM kits provided by UGEARS (check out my reviews here) and today I’m reviewing their magnificent mechanical winged dragon model, the UGEARS Windstorm Dragon (available here)–to give you an idea of the ease of construction and quality of UGEARS’ products, and provide a way to support artisans, engineers, and craftspeople in Ukraine.  Don’t miss our videos below of the dragon in action.

Today’s build is a dynamic, 3D model of a fantasy dragon, complete with articulated skeletal structure, and integrated moving wings, arms, neck, and head.  The laser cut design is amazingly precise, and like the earlier UGEARS kits we reviewed, of a sturdy plywood that outpaces brittle balsa wood model kits of the past.  Its design is something out of a Leonardo da Vinci drawing.  Remember Professor Falken’s model pterodactyl in WarGames?  It’s like a dinosaur model (this model’s wings flap but it doesn’t fly).

Within the first hour of the build, you’ll experience the body of the beast practically coming to life in your hands.  (If you have cats, they will think this is a real bird).  Order one of these and here’s what you get, a compact box filled with laser-cut plywood and compartments with wax, sand paper, nylon string, hanging string, rubber bands, and an instruction manual:

As with other UGEARS machine models, no glue is needed, and everything to build the dragon is contained in the box.  This fantasy dragon is for adults and kids alike, and it will bring a biological element to kids’ understanding of science and engineering.  But this one is really about the fun.  What Dungeons & Dragons gamer wouldn’t want a model of a dragon on his/her shelf?

The wings are full-color printed paper, attached in the final step.

The manual provides step-by-step pictures, including notes in multiple languages.

As with our previous UGEARS builds, this kit requires many parts to be rubbed with the wax stick.  Smooth functioning of the combined gears require paying attention with each step.  Symbols in the instructions emphasize areas of possible misstep.  Good waxing and sanding of each wheel and gear should result in what our model showed: working movements despite all the inevitable friction points.

Despite its elaborate design, this is considered one of UGEARS’ average complexity, medium level builds.

If you’re familiar with the music box robot we built here at borg, you’ll be familiar with the core machine behind this dragon.  It is essentially a key-driven music box-type motor (without the music), with a start and stop function key (above), powered by four sturdy rubber bands.  You can see the dragon’s anatomy come together here:

Always follow the directions the first time.  This is targeted as a six-hour build, but we spent a few hours on it over a long weekend.  Take your time!

The instructions provide testing of the device along the way.  Check out this first test video:

The mechanism worked on the first try.  Next you build the neck and head, wooden bone by wooden bone:

Followed by the dragon’s magnificent jointed tail:

There’s a lot of coordination of movement in this build.

Once complete, each test allows the gears to smooth out and work together.

With some waxing of gears the run time gets longer.  The clicking sound is intentional, emulating the roar of an otherworldly fire-breathing dragon:

The kit includes the stylish fantasy-designed stand, but it’s removable and your dragon can hang from a ceiling or doorway via string (included).

The model Windstorm Dragon–as we built it, worked exactly as specified.  And it was great fun to assemble.

Check out the other builds we reviewed at borg if you missed them: the 2-in-1 Arithmetic Kit (reviewed here), the Gearbox (reviewed here), the Random Generator (reviewed here), the Tachometer reviewed here), and the Variator (reviewed here).  In addition to the other STEM kits we reviewed, UGEARS offers four other STEM kits you may want to try: a Differential gear, a Counter, a Pendulum, and a Curvimeter tool, and outside the STEM series are other engineering marvel kits like the Pneumatic Engine and Dynamometer, plus many stunning, elaborate, advanced kits like the Windstorm Dragon.  Take a look at all the available UGEARS models at the UGEARS website for more information.  Remember to order via the UGEARS website to participate in the company’s Ukraine relief efforts program.

We send our best wishes to the employees of UGEARS and hope they stay safe and are able to share their creations with the world for years to come.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg