Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Legos--Is There Anything They Can't Do?

A few posts back one of my readers left a comment about how I always loved Legos as a kid. Of course, I was a little sneaky about it. Both of my brothers maintained Lego hoards. I didn't, though; I found that usually my brothers didn't want to play with Legos alone; they always had more fun when they were making things with someone else. And I would usually be that someone else. As a result, I got to play with both my brothers' Lego hoards, which meant I got to play with all the Legos.

(And I noticed that somehow, all the good pieces eventually wound up in my sneaky older brother's hoard; my younger brother had a lot of pieces, but they weren't as nice.)

Anyway, I was always fascinated by the mechanical pieces: the gears, the racks, the axles and shafts, the universal joints, the differential joints(!), the lights, the engines....

I had a Critical Thinking class in high school, in which the teacher would give "project" type assignments--not papers to turn it, but rather things like "Figure out how to juggle. Keep a journal. In one month, you will juggle eggs before the class," and "Figure out how to sew. Make a shirt. Wear it to school in one month," and "Design and construct a board game, including instructions. In one month, your classmates will have to figure out how to play it, using nothing more than your written instructions, and they will grade how fun and engaging your board game is," and--my personal favorite--"Build a model car, using this mousetrap as an engine. You will be judged on how far you can get the mousetrap to roll the car." Not being much of a hardware guy at that age (I do software, remember), the only materials I really understood were, of course, Legos. I managed to construct a working tricycle-layout vehicle, about nine inches long, that powered its wheels with a string wrapped around the axle, that was tied to the trap arm of the mousetrap. When the mousetrap closed, it pulled the string, turned the axle, and moved the car. My vehicle came in second place in the class, with a distance nearly of 20 feet on a smooth, clean floor. (The winner got his to go about twice as far. But then, his thing was an engineering work of art; lightweight, with large, heavy wheels that acted as flywheels, and graphite lubricants....)

Anyway, I saw a post recently over on Instapundit, that linked to this video:

This is just nuts. I love it. Here's what's happening: the user presses buttons of various colors; the machine selects Legos of the selected colors, and builds a little car out of them. The whole thing is built of Legos. It is a work of art. And like good art of any form, it doesn't need to answer the question, "What is it good for?" It is beautiful; and as with the music of Mozart, its beauty provides all the reason it needs to justify its existence.

As Tonya says, "It's too bad you don't have time for another hobby." Especially while she's on crutches....

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