Series 2/3: For the Love of Lego – This series reflects on the role Lego can play in understanding and tackling engineering problems.
When I bought my wife an engagement ring she was so happy she allowed me to take her to the Lego Land Discovery Centre at the Trafford Centre. Entering Lego Land we felt like giants, this was not so much caused by the armies of Lego men but by the large groups of toddlers. We quickly learnt that the sets were designed for this age group and we were far away from the refined world of Lego Architect or Mindstorms Series. Yet among this we surprisingly had a great time learning about the manufacturing of Lego bricks, identifying the different buildings and their location and testing structures on an earthquake testing rig!
The earthquake testing rig took me back to when my dad would help me build the biggest tower possible out of Duplo. For some reason the tower had to incorporate a working lift which made the challenge that much more difficult. It took a long time to perfect the tower and enabled me to gain an understanding of different structural forms and their strength. The earthquake testing table added to the challenge, after building a tower you could increase the intensity of the shaking until the building fell down. It was interesting to see different structural forms react and eventually collapse. My research led me to not recommend Lego or Duplo structures in an earthquake prone zone.
Lego is not only a tool for creativity but a great way to understand and explore engineering design. Lego Mindstorms is capable of presenting complex manufacturing technology in an elegant and accessible manner. It breaks down the engineering design stages to provide an insight into engineering solutions. In doing so Lego provides a platform through which young people can engage with engineering and gain an insight into the different engineering principles.