Community Lego sorter?
May 25, 2020 12:30 PM   Subscribe

This morning I was telling a couple socially distanced friends about how I was trying to find new Lego projects/ideas for my kids to build, and we ended up commiserating around Lego storage/organization and the inertia of building when you can't find that one part.. Then I told them about my late night search for an affordable Lego sorter (why yes, likely inspired by the Adam Savage video a couple days ago) help me figure out how this could become a community resource!

They had never even heard of such a thing, so I told them about the various designs I had seen ranging from This AI powered one from a prev MF post to this kickstarter project to these Etsy offerings and several DIY options in between.

To which my friend had a brilliant idea - wouldn't it be cool if our library or children's museum could offer this? I love this idea so much! Our library and museum both do build parties so they could us them to sort things rather than just dumping tubs on the table, and it could be useful for so many families. Plus on first blush it just feels like a fun 'lost summer' project, you could build it in so many different ways, I could see involving our local makerspace or high school robotics class, etc.

I'm in the same boat as most working parents these days, that's to say, I don't have the skills to build this or the time to learn them. But maybe I have enough time to get the project off the ground and I'd be willing to put funds towards it (and maybe even sponsor entirely depending on what it cost). I don't even know how to get started here - so I turn to the Hive mind. Does your community have anything like this? If you were going to build this as a community resource, how would you approach it? Looking for both technical ideas as well as ideas on how I find good partners who'd be willing to build it or lead a project to build it.
posted by snowymorninblues to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am not a Lego enthusiast (is there a name? Brickies? Pegheads?)
but this seems like a good use for the Prize System* / a community contest to build the best Lego sorter?

*if one announces a $100 Prize to a large group for solving a specific problem, you will get far more than $100 of effort from people trying to win it. See the naval chronometer and reusable launch rockets.

The design requirements could even be a teachable lesson about sorting / indexing granularity in general. You can sort the 4-peg bricks from the 8-pegs by size, but then how do you sort by color? Which would be more important? Well, this is a library, and we have to do things like that all the time - does this book about Thomas Edison go in History, or Biography? Or Science & Technology? Classification, indexing, and sorting are important all over the place!
posted by bartleby at 1:48 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

  • Who will repair it when it breaks?
  • Who will be responsible if someone is injured using it?
  • Who will schedule access fairly?
  • Who will be paid to understand how it works and how to operate it?
  • Who has space and responsibility to store it safely, ensuring critical parts don't go missing?
If you want to introduce a thing to a public space like a library, these are the typical things that will need answers or funding before the thing can be accepted.
posted by scruss at 3:54 PM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Seconding scruss's point. You might have a look at Audio Recorders to Zucchini Seeds: Building a Library of Things by Mark Robison and Lindley Shedd, Editors. "The authors offer practical insights from their projects, from the development of their initial ideas to the everyday realities of maintaining and circulating these collections, including cataloging, space needs, safety concerns, staff training, circulation, marketing, and assessment."

I do think it would be cool to build such a thing and offer it as a one-off fundraiser for the library. (The hours I have spent helping my son sort...I would have jumped at the chance to make a per-pound donation for automated sorting.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Who will be responsible for sterilizing pieces when they return? I'm not even strictly speaking about covid, I mean when someone's little brother spills o.j. all over them?
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:25 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

There’s an automatable washing protocol, assuming the bricks have been taken apart and stickers saved out beforehand. (Which I suspect you would need to do anyway.)
posted by clew at 6:40 PM on May 25, 2020

You mentioned a local makerspace - they might be interested in hosting/maintaining it, and might have ideas about how to involve people in getting it built.
posted by trig at 1:25 PM on May 26, 2020

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