I just spent the afternoon
playing doing valuable research with Lego.
The pics above show my amazing creation but they don’t do justice to the
complexity of it. I really didn’t think I’d need the instructions but I
was so wrong.
This was actually part of a research study that will be done with 4-5 year old children. Essentially, the kids will be asked to follow instructions to build objects and the researchers are interested in the self-regulatory processes during constructive play … woosh … Me play with Lego. Me happy.
Apparently, the bus above is considered too complex, which doesn’t surprise me since it took me a few hours to put it together. Most of that time was spent rummaging around in the box for the right parts (that’s part of the study design). I didn’t help myself by deciding part way through that I wanted it to be a right-hand drive bus instead of the left-hand drive that the instructions described (you might be able to spot the difference between pics 2 and 3). That was fun.
Lego itself is pretty interesting and there are some really strict tolerances required in its manufacture. If you’ve ever played with Lego, consider the following: the pieces are held together only by friction, yet you can create and dismantle fairly large and robust objects; if you build a wall of Lego, the plane of that wall is pretty smooth (no protruding bricks). If you’re manufacturing millions of these little things, you can only achieve that with some damn precise engineering. Apparently the moulds are made within a tolerance of 2 micrometers. For comparison, the width of a human hair ranges from 17-180 micrometers. It’s even more impressive when you consider that bricks from 1958 are still compatible with bricks made today.
Check out the Lego Wikipedia article for more info.