The Woodward News

February 7, 2013

Museum displaying "Great K'nexposition"

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Woodward now has an amusement park.

But you have to be under 4 inches to ride these rides.

That's because it is an amusement park created entirely out of K'nex building toys.

The park's creator and engineer is 29-year-old Greg Nuse of Woodward.  His "Great K'nexposition" will be on display at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum through March 2.

The K'nexposition features 28 different motorized models, including 4 roller coasters, 2 ferris wheels, 'water' slides, a carousel, roundabouts, and other amusement park rides, which all appropriately spin, turn and/or loop the loop.

The exhibit will officially open this Saturday with an artist's reception for Nuse from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum.



A PASSION SINCE CHILDHOOD

The exhibit combines 2 of Nuse's favorite things that he has loved since he was a child: roller coasters and building things with his hands.

Nuse said he fell in love with roller coasters on his first trip to Six Flags with his family when he was 5-years-old.

Since then, he has visited more than 55 different amusement parks and has ridden over 300 roller coasters.

"I can't tell you which roller coaster is my favorite because I've ridden too many," he said.

But it wasn't just the thrill of the ride that Nuse enjoyed about roller coasters.  He also marveled at the mechanics of the machines.

"I've always been fascinated with mechanical things.  When I was really little it was trains and then roller coasters," he said.

As part of that love of mechanics, he said, "I've also always liked building things and working with my hands."

In particular he enjoyed trying to build his own amusement parks.

"As a kid I used to turn anything and everything I had into a ride, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Legos, you name it," he said.

And then when he was 11-years-old, he got a special present for Christmas.  His first kit of K'nex building toys.

What made the gift extra special is that the kit came with an instruction booklet which included designs for using the toys to make model roller coasters.

"After that I was hooked.  And every Christmas I would get more K'nex and more K'nex and would build more and more rides," Nuse said.

He even got a K'nex kit this past Christmas from some of his band students who found out about his upcoming show at the museum.  Nuse works as the assistant band director at Woodward middle and high schools.

He said he appreciated the kids' gift and has incorporated the pieces from their kit into the models in his exhibit.



USES HIS OWN DESIGNS

Nuse said he particularly enjoys K'nex because the toys "seemed more able to adapt to this purpose (building rides); they're easy to motorize and very versatile."

In addition, he said K'nex are fun because he can build bigger rides with it.

"I love the scale of it, how big the models turn out.  To build something this big with Legos would take millions of pieces," Nuse said.

Even with K'nex, he says his model amusement park uses "easily 75,000" different pieces from more than 40 kits.

And while he first learned how to build K'nex roller coasters using the designs from instruction booklets, Nuse said, "I don't use the books anymore, they're my own designs."

His favorite design that will be on display at the exhibit is known as "The Zipper," which he said he likes because "it's unique."

"I've never seen anyone else make one," he said.  "And it's the most complex design I've ever succeeded in making."

It is also the only model in the exhibit that uses 2 motors to operate, "just because it's such a heavy model," he said.

However, if you ask which model took him the longest to build, Nuse will tell you it is his "Venom" roller coaster.

"I spent probably at least 30 hours building it from scratch," he said.  "With the roller coasters a lot of it is trial and error.  You build an element and see if the train will go through it.  If it does you move on to the next element.  But if it doesn't you have to go back and rework it."



EXCITED FOR EXHIBIT

Overall, Nuse said it has taken him the last 2 months to get all 28 models ready for the museum show.

"I had to get them out of storage, build the bigger models, then test them and fix anything that needed fixing to make sure they would all operate properly," he said.

Nuse said he is excited about being able to exhibit his K'nex creations at the museum.

"This is the first time I've had them all assembled at the same time in about 10 years," he said.  "I had them in my dad's basement as a kid, but when I left the house for college, I had no where to put it all so it all got packed away."

Nuse described being able to display all his models at once as "a long time goal."

"Ever since I was a kid I thought it would be cool to have them all on display," he said.

In addition to making others feel like a kid again as they tour his model amusement park, Nuse said he hopes other youngsters will be inspired by the exhibit.

"I hope it makes kids more interested in doing things that are more creative and something physical rather than playing video games or staring at their iPhones all day,"  he said.  "I think kids have lost track of using their imagination and I hope this inspires some kids to see what they can do when they spend the time and effort on your imagination."