Building to Scale
After-school and Community Lego Building

The Lego faithful have created several programs to foster learning and fun for children and teens. First Lego League, with teams on every continent, challenges kids to design Lego robots with added functions, including cameras, wiring, motors, wheels and computer processors to solve specific problems. Anyone can form a team to compete. Universities and school districts also have competitions, where kids, teens and adults dabble in basic building or create high-tech robots to perform tasks. These projects help reinforce firsthand learning [source: Vamplew].

Concepts of scale are important for both Lego building and structural engineering. After all, you want to build something that's big enough for your toy minifigure and his friends, right?

Well, the same concept applies to engineers creating spaces large enough to accommodate a desirable number of people. Even considering the end result, there's a more important reason to think about scale: it requires planning and modeling your structure before tackling the real thing -- a must for structural engineers and architects.

Say you want to build a rendition of the Eiffel Tower with Lego bricks. Before gathering the number of pieces you'll need, it's a good idea to determine the scale of your project and how big it will be. This allows you to create the gist of the structure with the bricks on a smaller scale. Building to scale also puts building materials into perspective, requiring you to admit their limitations. The bigger the structure, the more ease you'll have incorporating curves and arches into it, even while using rectangular bricks. If you're especially up for the challenge, you can use math to downsize previous Lego projects by dividing sections into more manageable sizes.

The sky's the limit -- even with Lego products. But is your structure functional? Find out more on the next page.