Who had the family’s largest LEGO set this Christmas – it was the 11-year-old and their 8 wheel 42008 Service Truck – 1276 pieces, power functions, pneumatic, gears and 44 cm forcefulness. There was no band merchandise, no glitter or similar gender framing. Quite a project – as is the story about the “Research Institute” mini-figure set.
Last summer, just before the 11 yo’s birthday, the LEGO Ideas Product number 10 “Research Institute” was made available. I got them one of these rare sets. That too – is a story of both a role model and great project.
As you can see, the set has 3 mini-figures in STEM activities: Astrology, chemistry and Dinosaur’logy (PaleoSomething..). It was originally created by a chemist in Holland, called Ellen aka AIatariel. They are an adult fan of LEGO and came up with the set as a a way to add more female minifigures. They submitted the idea to the LEGO Cuusoo/Ideas page, gained 10.000 signatures for the initial LEGO product review. That is 10 thousand people online writing that yes, they support this project… it’s not cheap Facebook likes.
After that LEGO designers reworked the set a bit, and the released it as a limited set. You might be lucky to find it in the LEGO Stores and in LEGOLAND (around the world), but not in your average toy shop. The first batch was sold out in 4 days – in world wide online sales. A second round was produced for Christmas (finally!), but that too sold out quickly.
The set is unique as it’s imagined from scratch. Many of the existing LEGO Ideas and Cuusoo sets have an existing frame to be based on: Minecraft, Back to the Future Movies, NASA Rover. There is great power in this line-up. The Minecraft set is inspired by the Minecraft game – a world some what again inspired by LEGO bricks. After the initial success of the Minecraft set, a range of LEGO Mine Craft sets are now commercially available in the standard range. So given the right circumstances, and a compelling brand tie in … new product lines can appear from crowd surfing. And I know a guy who created a large business of industrial robots from having worked and studied using LEGO Mindstorms.
But there is more to it than just the nice story of Ellen’s minifigure set with scientists and “ordinary workers”. The TECHNIC set above is even more powerful in training math skills, 3D visualization and problem solving. And yes, it so happens that you train problem solving by following a physical building script. … interesting….
*I was never that much into LEGO Technic, so I didn’t envy. And I did get to do a little consulting :).