Machine Design

13,400 Legos replicate LASR facility

William Adams works in the Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he supports research in human-robot interaction, sensing, and autonomy. Adams manages the Center’s robot lab, and he keeps the Center’s Mobile, Dexterous, Social (MDS) robots - Octavia, Isaac, and Lucas - operating and configured to meet research needs.

Earlier this year, NRL opened its brand-new Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research. The one-of-a-kind facility sparked an idea in William’s mind that led to a Lego model of the facility.

Adams says building it took approximately 120 hr over the course of three months, working a few evenings a week. He made seven trips to three local Lego stores to purchase the bricks needed for the project. Adams estimates that around 13,400 pieces make up the model.

Due to limitations on time and brick (the community’s collective term for Lego pieces), Adams wasn’t able to do a complete interior of the LASR facility, although he did represent most of the spaces. I nc luded in the model are the Reconfigurable Prototyping High Bay, Littoral High Bay, Desert High Bay, Tropical High Bay, Power and Energy Lab, two Human-System Interaction Labs, the Machine Shop, Electrical Shop, and changing room, all of which have full interiors.

Adams says he was inspired to create the model when Lego released a line of small-scale architectural kits. He had some aging Lego models in his office that needed replacing, so he figured he could also build a model of the LASR building. He thought about larger models he’d seen in displays and decided to build a large-scale version for the opening of the LASR facility. Building to a larger scale allowed for detailed interiors, while keeping it slightly under Lego-figure scale kept it transportable.

When asked if he had built other models of this size and complexity, he said not really. He and his siblings would would build castles on the dining room table and lay siege, according to a well thought out set of rules inspired by various board games. Adams and his brother built a model of the National Cathedral that rose with different color strata as they exhausted theirbrick supply of each. Several years ago, he built a set of detailed models with the theme of a medieval shipyard, each showing a particular trade or technology. Those models were much smaller and could have fit within the LASR model’s large high bay.

The model is on display in the front area of the LASR facility. It will stay there until either the LASR Director needs the space, or Adams needs the brick for a new model.


© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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