5 Things Lego Blocks Can Teach You About Structural Engineering

Designing Around Nature

Several competitions and visual experiments have used Lego projects to model the pitfalls of structural engineering during natural events such as earthquakes. Competitors learn how seismic loading, or the extra stress a building endures during an earthquake, affects their small-scale structures.

What both Lego builders and structural engineers collectively admit is that creating a sturdy model -- or even a real building, for that matter -- requires understanding a range of seismic waves and the problems they pose. Since some areas in the Northwest experience both low and high frequency quakes, engineers are challenged to design building structures that can withstand both.

To create sturdier buildings that can withstand quakes, students craft structures with heavier tops or insert support trusses between floors or layers of buildings, much like what a structural engineer team would do. Then, they challenge their structures by placing them in earthquake simulators to see which design works best. The idea is to let natural innovation take hold, as some projects put forth new ideas that are worth testing on a larger scale.

What keeps components of your Lego bridge together? Find out which structural engineering concept you can play around with in your living room on the next page.