Williams Students Aim to Break Record Lego Build Time

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Everything is awesome! Legos are examples of mathematical concepts and problem solving — and a lot of fun.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — If you were paying tens of thousands of dollars to send your offspring to Williams College, you might not be so sanguine when you find out he or she is taking a course in Legos.
 
But Jacob Broude's folks felt otherwise.
 
"My mom and dad called my attention to this," Broude said this week. "They said, 'You love math. You're going to be a math major here. And you love Legos.' "
 
Thus Jacob was a natural for The Mathematics of Lego Bricks, a monthlong Winter Study class offered by Williams mathematics professor Steven Miller.
 
On Wednesday afternoon at 4, the class will culminate in the "Big Build," an attempt to assemble in world record time a 3,152-piece Star Wars-themed Superstar Destroyer at the '62 Center for Performing Arts. The event is open to the public.
 
Miller's students and other volunteers — including elementary school-aged children — will attempt to break last year's time of 10 minutes, 21 seconds.
 
Last year was the first time Miller offered the class, which fits in with Winter Study, a time when students and academicians think outside the box. Inside a box of Lego bricks, Miller finds the tools to talk about mathematical concepts, problem solving and teamwork.
 
"It wasn't inherently obvious how math concepts would apply," Broude said. "I didn't know what he was going to talk about. But we ended up doing a lot of interesting applications.
 
"We really delved into efficiency and Pascal's Triangle. … It was interesting the way he extended the course material from the topic of Legos."
 
The course included an interdisciplinary component with discussions of Lego's business model and how the product has changed over the years.
 
Older readers will recall the days when Legos came only in primary colors and generic shapes. By the time Broude and his classmates were among the toymaker's target audience, Lego's offerings had expanded to include character themes and model kits like the Star Destroyer the class will tackle on Wednesday.
 
"When I was a kid, I played with Legos pretty religiously," Broude said. "I had a box with thousands of Legos from random sets.
 
"It's cool for me to see how you can take math and apply it."

Tags: competition,   legos,   math,   Williams College,   

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Gaza Resolution Proponents Again Make Their Case to Williamstown Select Board

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
The following story contains a reference to suicide. 
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — About a dozen people Monday pleaded with the Select Board to take a stand on behalf of the town in favor of an immediate cease fire in Gaza.
 
Several of the same activists who first brought a resolution to the board two weeks ago were back, filling the meeting room to capacity and sharing impassioned appeals to break with the board's practice of not voting on matters not directly under the board's purview.
 
"We, as members of Berkshire County, are committing this genocide," said a Lee resident who made the trip north to address the board. "We are funding it, and we have the power to stop funding it."
 
Most of those who spoke during the public comment portion of the Select Board's biweekly meeting were Williamstown residents, and all 13 who spoke either from the lectern in the meeting room or via Zoom spoke in favor of adopting the cease fire resolution.
 
At the start of the meeting and again, immediately before public comment began, Chair Jeffrey Johnson explained that since the resolution was not on the meeting's agenda, the three board members in attendance (Johnson, Randal Fippinger and Andrew Hogeland) would not hold a discussion on the question, let alone take a vote. 
 
Johnson also indicated that there could be a change coming to the resolution's language that might broaden its appeal to residents.
 
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