Williams Students Aim to Break Record Lego Build Time
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 w
ay 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."
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