Magnets not just for your fridge

By Alex Avakian

‘ ‘ ‘ Pitt alumnus Chris Reda, 26, emerged from his Monongahela basement sometime in April of… ‘ ‘ ‘ Pitt alumnus Chris Reda, 26, emerged from his Monongahela basement sometime in April of last year, exclaiming, ‘Eureka!’ ‘ ‘ ‘ He had just put together 216 high-powered magnets to create the NeoCube, a new puzzle that has become an Internet sensation. The NeoCube is the 21st century’s self-proclaimed answer to the classic Rubik’s Cube. But instead of having one uniform solution, the NeoCube is a creative toy that allows you to bend, break, mold, connect and create a countless array of artistic geometrical shapes. The cube, which can easily fit in the palm of your hand, is sold as 216 individual sphere-shaped magnets. The spheres are about the size of a drop of water that falls from your sink and are made of neodymium iron boron, the strongest permanent magnetic material known. Alone, a single ball of the shiny, silver metal is not much fun, but when a lot of them come together, there’s no end of geometrically sound and aesthetically pleasing shapes. Imagine Play-Doh made out of tiny little beads. 216 is the magic number that creates a 6-by-6-by-6-centimeter cube. The number is also extremely divisible, which is why you can create so many different shapes, and it will always come out in an even pattern. ‘Do you remember years and years ago, back in geometry class when they would talk about the principles of everything? You have a point,’ said Reda in an interview with The Pitt News, holding a single bead between his thumb and index finger. ‘A series of points is a line. A line arranged so the points meet is a shape.’ Reda continued, connecting the beads as he explained. ‘So you can go from one-dimensional to two-dimensional, and then you can work those together to get three dimensions.’ Reda is not a scientist or an engineer of any sort. In fact, he majored in economics at Pitt. ‘I’m just some loser from a basement,’ he joked. Sporting a pair of tattered jeans and arriving in his father’s beat up Subaru Forester, Reda is a humble guy with a great sense of humor. He’s currently investing almost everything he has into his company, Strong Force Inc.. Never waning in enthusiasm for his product, Reda spoke of the creation of the NeoCube. ‘I was working at a car dealership a couple years ago, and I’d lose my pen constantly, and I always borrowed one from the manager. And he had this big thing of pens sitting on his desk. And I’d always go in there and ask for one, and he’d always give me one, but he would say to me, ‘A pen is to a salesman as a hammer is to a carpenter. You cannot work without it.’ I thought later on that, I bet a lot of people lose their pens,’ he said. From there Reda began working on prototypes for what he thought would become his first invention, the gauss-it pen (a gauss is a unit of measurement for magnetism). The premise was to have one high-powered magnet inside the breast pocket of a shirt, and another high-powered magnet on the pen, keeping it firmly secured to the wearer. ‘And that’s what led me to coming up with the NeoCube. For some of the pens, I was using those little magnets, I was putting those inside the pens to magnetize them. I ordered about 250 or so, and I started playing with them and I realized this is what I need to do. I need to come up with something to do with these as opposed to another pen holder.’ That was April of 2007. Just about a year later, Reda launched his Web site,, selling the invention as the NeoCube Alpha for $39.95. Reda also markets the 3-by-3-by-3 Neo Cube Mini for $13.95. Also available is the ‘Cube-Tastic Value Pack,’ which contains both the Neo Cube Alpha and the Neo Cube Mini for $44.95. He is currently holding a sale, however, knocking $10 off the prices of the Alpha and Cube-Tastic Value Pack. The first month, Reda sold an underwhelming grand total of two NeoCubes, but after he released a series of YouTube videos showing off the possibilities of the cube, ‘I sold over a thousand in two days,’ said Reda. Simply put, the NeoCube is a fun little toy. The trick to creating interesting shapes is dividing the spheres into triangles of nine. From here, triangles can easily connect in two or three dimensions to create geometrically sound shapes. You can create a ball, a cone and, of course, a cube. But there are also a seemingly endless number of other stimulating and unique forms. Mastering the cube definitely takes some practice. It is very easy to accidently get the magnets too close to one another and have them connect, ruining the precise figure you were going for. The power of the magnets is quite astonishing. It is also quite satisfying to simply break the pieces apart, mangle them back together and do it all over again. And Reda hopes that’s exactly what you’ll do.