on October 11th, 2022

Being an adult comes with bills, stress, and realities you often don’t realize in your youth. You don’t really want to eat candy all day and watch television till your eyes go square – you’re simply too busy. Are LEGO robots a solution?

But childhood dreams aren’t squashed once you get older, one of the unlikeliest of perks of adulthood, for many, seems to be building LEGO.

The LEGO market is booming, and its adults driving a lot of the sales.

In their press release unveiled at the end of September 2021, the group made some staggering figures known.

Key points revealed consumer sales had a growth of 36%,

  • The group says its revenue grew 46 per cent.
  • Its operating profit grew a staggering 104 per cent and its net profit grew 140 per cent to DKK 6.3 billion.

While this growth is due to factors like the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s also a recent study that showed how LEGO improves the well-being of adults.

While it would be easy to assume that the well-being is from the nostalgia of building bricks or collecting, it is knowledge-sharing that is a key driver to allow adults to feel really good when handling LEGO bricks.

According to the paper Why Knowledge Sharing Increases Well-being - The Case of Adult Fans of LEGO the bricks help adults achieve the following:

  • Positive emotion: a subjective feeling of well-being itself
  • Engagement: a subjective feeling denoting the extent to which people are absorbed in something
  • Relationships with others
  • Meaning: the extent how which lives are meaningful for themselves
  • Accomplishment is the extent how which people accomplish something in their lives

In the confines of the study, it was also found that adults enjoyed applying their non-Lego knowledge to new creations and all were cognizant that it was developing their creativity.

Adults are also likely to gravitate toward advanced set-building and enjoy sharing the experience. That collaboration is important for well-being.

Another paper “It’s All About the Brick”: Mobilizing Adult Fans of LEGO shares the positive sentiments of LEGO-building.

The paper also implies that there is some lifelong learning attached to LEGO since many adults that still play or build with the bricks are often educators or artists that use the bricks to express creativity or to teach others STEM-related subjects.

LEGO Generations

This year the latest LEGO Play Well 2022 study polled 55,000 parents and kids in 30 countries where LEGO is available and found that the bricks, “change lives and bring people closer together, in today’s world, families are finding it hard to prioritise.”

Of the parents polled, the majority believe that play helps children develop lifelong skills like creativity, communication, problem-solving skills, and confidence.

“Play also makes the whole family happier, builds stronger family bonds and improves their well-being according to 95% of parents,” the press release from LEGO says.

Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab noted that. “A little bit of play can go a long way. When children bring a playful spirit to activities throughout the day - making a fort out of blankets and pillows in the bedroom, making a musical instrument out of pots and spoons in the kitchen, making up a fantasy story with a parent or sibling while riding the bus - they learn to think creatively and work collaboratively, essential skills for everyone in today's world.”

This shows that LEGO remains a cross-generational activity. And it is estimated that the various skill levels are the reason adults also can’t help but be charmed by the brick.

Bricks and Engineers

The paper Engineering Design Thinking in LEGO Robot Projects: An Experimental Study within education LEGO Robot kits have incorporated activities to support students in learning content knowledge or developing specific thinking skills.

For young minds, it was found that through robotic training using LEGO students achieved a medium-high level of knowledge in programming and electrical engineering.

This impressive result means that children just before High School were engaged in STEM and could also understand simple engineering principles.

For adults, it goes even further – as adults tend to also add more creativity and experience when engaging with a brick building.

Why do adults like LEGO so much?

Even though plastic bricks have been around for six decades the adult fan community has only been around since the mid-1990s, according to “It’s All About the Brick”: Mobilizing Adult Fans of LEGO.

Two significant factors gave rise to this community, the first being the introduction of the Engineer-minded product, LEGO Mindstorms allowed opportunities to build and program LEGO robots and the first release of Star Wars-themed toys. Adults had deeper connections to these and ended up enjoying the products more than children. The second major influence on adult fans was the community created by the internet, where people could share their activities and builds.

This resulted in platforms where people now build unique sets, and bring them to life, they also have better access to bricks or specialty products, and adult LEGO creations can be more intricate as a result.

Now that it is clear why adults like LEGO, let us look at some creative ways LEGO bricks have been engineered...

Balloon powered car

One of the simplest LEGO builds to show air propulsion is the balloon-powered car.

For the build, at its simplest form, you’d only need a chassis and four wheels with something to hold an inflated balloon. The balloon is attached to the wheels with more bricks and the opening is then released as the ‘car’ speeds forward.

With LEGO bricks you can also create a narrower opening, and that in turn means less air is released over a longer period, and the car can be in motion for longer periods.

Loop Coaster

Beyond the Brick: YouTube

Marketed as an 18+ kit, one 2022 set release from LEGO is a real head spinner. The first official looping rollercoaster from LEGO.

The Loop Coaster is meant to be an immersive build where to set builders to need to complete an innovative elevator tower for raising the car up to the top of the ride and two loops. Builders can also power up the ride with motorized components which will raise the elevator up automatically.

Once at the top the coaster car flies down the track and manages to stay on its course thanks to gravity.

Commenting on the set, LEGO Designer Pierre Normandin says: “When we were designing this set, we wanted to recreate the feeling experienced when it just begins to tip over the highest point.”

A healthcare robot during Covid-19

Matlab and LEGO Mindstorms were used by researchers to develop a robot in 2020 to assist in healthcare. While the robot itself might not seem impressive, the way it could assist humans showed how incredible LEGO robots can be.

The Lego robot Mindstorms kit with MATLAB software was used in the project. Lego Mindstorms consists of different construction blocks, sensors, and a controlling brick.

Light Sensors were used to help the Robots to move on the desired location where the object is placed, Ultrasonic Sensors are integrated with the designed robot to assure not collide with any surface or objects, Sound Sensor also used to identify if the hazardous material or object detected by the robots or not, Touch Sensor were also incorporated with robots to hold the object after feeling touch sensation.

Three servo motors are also used to control the robot's gripper and arm angle. A shaft Encoder was used to measure the speed of the servo motor to ensure that the designed robot manipulates its task accurately, finally, a Bluetooth dongle was also used, this wireless system helps the robot to easily move anywhere and send back its location and status to monitoring the system. Within a hospital setting the robot was aimed at making deliveries, dispensing medication and visiting patients to improve the way hospitals function.

The robot could receive demands and then perform certain functions on a small scale.

Sudoku-solving robot

Hans Andersson: Youtube

Ever faced a Sudoku puzzle you couldn’t finish? Well using LEGO Mindstorms NXT you can build your own robot to fill in the blanks with ease.

Designed by Hans Andersson, a Swedish LEGO enthusiast, the robot joins Hans’s creations like a Rubik’s cube-solving robot in robot applications at home anyone can build.

Hans even released instructions to build the robot at home, along with many of his other creations.

Brick sorting robot

PhiloYT: YouTube

Make clean-up easy after using your LEGO by using LEGO! Brick fans have managed to build and release instructions for a brick sorting robot that will pick up bricks, identify the colour and then sort it into their correct pile.

Ready to have some serious adult fun with robots? Try 52872WA Advanced Diploma of Robotics and Mechatronics Engineering!

References:

Engineering Design Thinking in LEGO Robot Projects: An Experimental Study. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/362941284_Engineering_Design_Thinking_in_LEGO_Robot_Projects_An_Experimental_Study

Why Knowledge Sharing Increases Well-being - The Case of Adult Fans of LEGO. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/360852440_Why_Knowledge_Sharing_Increases_Well-being_-_The_Case_of_Adult_Fans_of_LEGO

Jennings, Nancy. (2019). “It’s All About the Brick”: Mobilizing Adult Fans of LEGO. 10.1007/978-3-030-32664-7_10.

Heffernan, John & Sullivan, Florence. (2021). Teaching K-6 Elementary Engineering with Robotics*. International Journal of Engineering Education. 37. 1655-1673.

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