Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Building a massive Lego Model: An adaptive approach

Building one of the massive LEGO kits, like Jabba's Sail Barge, is a cross between classical model building and puzzle solving. It’s mechanically much easier to manage than traditional (toxic) glue based models, but the challenge of locating pieces is a bit like finding puzzle pieces. The directions are quite good, but they require attention to follow. Assembly is the equivalent of a very long and very intense occupational therapy session testing a wide range of skills. For a child who loves Star Wars, fantasy, and playing with small pieces and spaces it’s almost irresistible.

It is somewhat expensive at $75, but it’s much cheaper than OT. It’s a shame insurance doesn’t pay for it! A rash promise led to purchasing this kit; here are some tips we learned putting this together. In this case the modeler loves the work and the play, but has a dark talent for scattering small pieces of toys across the continent. Spatial orientation and sequencing are difficult, the kit exercises these talents well.

A few tips:

  1. Never allow unmanaged access to the kit or the pieces. It is trivial to lose pieces. In our case even a few minutes of uncontrolled access would be lethal to the kit. We keep the assembled pieces in a plastic bin and the parts in other smaller bins — all stored in an inaccessible area between build sessions.

  2. There are hundreds of parts. The biggest construction challenge is finding parts. Clear baggies are your friends – gallon and quart/liter sized. Divide parts up first by color (odd colors go together) then by size (big/small) and store them in baggies. Some colors may get partitioned into 3 sizes. Do this dividing beforehand, you don’t want your modeler doing this.

  3. Consider putting similar parts together. This does help with search, though sometimes separating them is a nuisance. It’s kind of fun though.

  4. Search for parts in the baggies, preferably without opening the baggies. This cuts down on lost parts. When a baggie has to be opened, secure the baggie and try to allow only the selected part to escape.

  5. Feed one part at a time. It’s tempting to put together a pile of parts for a given project step, but this introduces too many distracting and confusing variables. Parts vanish.

  6. Speak sparingly. Use gestures and pointing to help with part location and assembly.

  7. Imagine you’re assisting at surgery (I used to do this when I was a real doctor). Anticipate your surgeon's next step. Deliver the key piece with invisible grace just as it’s needed.

  8. Work in many short sessions. Depending on your modeler’s mood and strength they may do more or less part searching. We do 2–6 pages at a time.

  9. Sometimes my modeler wanted to find pieces himself, sometimes he wanted more help. Attentiveness, flexibility, patience and concentration are valuable. This model teaches more than one skill!
The average 47 yo will probably need to build this sucker over many multi-hour shifts, ending each as their eyes give out. A special needs child who’s highly motivated can build it, with help, over perhaps 10 2–3 hour sessions.

PS. We completed the sand crawler perfectly. My modeler was very proud.

No comments: