Blog - LEGO and astronomy
26 Jan 2024
- Martin Black



Systems Engineers Martin Black explains why LEGO is a useful tool to help engineers, designers and public engagement.




​I started making the models for fun, off the back of the mini models the team had designed for the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Doors Open Days. About the same time the mechanical engineer on NIX was leaving, and I thought the model would be a nice leaving gift (which he appreciated). 

Even though we hadn't built it to use for work purposes it turned out we ended up using the NIX model a fair bit when discussing orientations and tilts of the instrument in use. It was a lot easier to get your head around a physical model that you could hold and move about compared to a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) on a computer screen. 

Most of the other small models I designed to entertain myself on long train journeys back from meetings, and because I think having a LEGO based CV is pretty on brand for me!

The MOONS​ model was always meant more as a display piece. We use it at meetings and Open Days, particularly when the system is closed up, to explain all the parts you can't see.

We could do this with posters, or CAD on a screen, but people love LEGO and seem to really get a kick out of it being built in bricks. A lot of the people we work with, being nerds and engineers, were (or still are) LEGO fans as well, so it is an accessible and friendly way to explain our work and the various instruments we have built at UK ATC.

Some of Martin's LEGO instument models:​

Find out more about MOONS.

Find out more about NIX.

Find out more about HiPERCAM.

Find out more about GHOST.

Find out more about ReD.