Play, create, innovate…

When asked what he finds exciting about his research in biological and agricultural engineering, Dr Dan Flippo, of Kansas State University in the US, said that working with robotic technology is like, “having access to a huge set of LEGO that you can use to make new things all the time”. While not many of us are associate professors in Dan’s field of research, and even fewer can imagine the intricacies of the robotic technology that he works with, it’s highly likely that all of us know, and most probably have equally fond memories of, LEGO.

LEGO, the iconic toy born from Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s carpentry business in the 1930s, is well-known for feeding children’s imaginations and encouraging hands-on learning, so it’s no wonder it has inspired many of our modern-day innovators and researchers – a trend that the company is clearly keen to encourage.

A quick look at LEGO’s website shows a whole host of useful ideas and resources for both teachers and parents. From top tips for creating a STEM learning space at home – including assigning a space for children to keep their equipment organised and clean (!) – to 45-minute lesson plans, all with key objectives, the website is certainly thorough. With activities designed for early learning, primary and secondary aged children, some tasks are, naturally, more complex than others, and some require more up to date products than others. We like the ‘Make Something Wearable’ activity, because it requires LEGO pieces we think we have at home already and we quite fancy the challenge of making ourselves some stylish LEGO spectacles!

But that’s not where our creativity ends. We’ve set ourselves the lockdown challenge of recreating the Futurum research articles using only basic LEGO pieces. Yes, our expert researchers, their years of prestigious study and their innovative projects will be reimagined through those small pieces of bold-coloured plastic. We’re delighted with our version of Dr Dan and his agricultural robot and we’re sure he will be too!

But enough about us, we want to challenge you. Could you or your students use LEGO to recreate a research project featured on the Futurum website? If so, send us your photos and we’ll be delighted to share them on the Futurum social media pages.

If that specific challenge is not for you, could the LEGO home learning resources provide an optional challenge or competition for your students or STEM club members? Or, looking ahead to the new academic year and new faculty budgets, are these – or similar products – something that you could add to your resources wish list?

Do as the LEGO name implores and ‘leg godt’ – play well!

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