Using specialized engineering tools—Legos!—Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa built a scale model of his home-away-from-home (the International Space Station) in 2011.

Photograph courtesy NASA

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  • On January 28, 1958, the Lego Group, with headquarters in Billund, Denmark, patented its design for interlocking plastic bricks. The design was so stable that those bricks can still be used with Lego sets created today.
     
    Millions of physicists and engineers got their start playing with Legos. Working with the bricks can teach young engineers concepts such as scale (how many bricks do I need for my project?); weight and pressure (how strong does my structure need to be in order for it not to collapse?); and tension (how is my project going to support itself?).
     
    Lego started out manufacturing wooden toys. The name Lego is taken from the Danish phrase “leg godt,” or “play well.” Today, the Lego Group, still based in Denmark, is worth more than a billion dollars.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    engineer Noun

    person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).

    headquarters Noun

    place where an organization or project is chiefly located.

    patent Noun

    legal right to make or sell an invention.

    physicist Noun

    person who studies the relationship between matter, energy, motion, and force.

    plastic Noun

    chemical material that can be easily shaped when heated to a high temperature.

    pressure Noun

    force pressed on an object by another object or condition, such as gravity.

    scale Noun

    distinctive relative size, extent, or degree.