A LEGO construction kit marked for kids ages ten and up is now being used to help in the development of synthetic bone as an alternative to bone grafts.
Let’s face it, not all of us grow out of LEGOs, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. LEGO enthusiasts everywhere keep wowing the general public by creating things like to-scale replicas of famous buildings, robotic arms that can do a task for us, to even fully functional LEGO printers. Today, a group of engineers from the University of Cambridge are now using these brightly stackable bricks to aid in growing fake bones.
Unveiling this experiment for an upcoming Google Science Fair, this team uses LEGO Mindstorm cranes as important tools in the process of developing synthetic bone, which will be an alternative to current bone grafting procedures.
“To make the bone-like substance you take a sample, then you dip it into one beaker of calcium and protein, and then rinse it in some water and dip [sic] it into another beaker of phosphate and protein – you have to do it over and over and over again to build up the compound,” explained Daniel Strange, a PhD student in engineering currently working on the project. Rather than employ someone to sit there and do it for hours and have to pay them while listening to them complain that their arm hurts and constantly worrying if they messed up the procedure, this cheap LEGO Mindstorm crane can do it instead as it contains motors, microprocessors, and sensors that can be programmed to perform a number of basic tasks on repeat. Because the bone procedure is a repetitive and lightweight process, the LEGO Mindstorm crane was the perfect option.
Watch it in action below!
While it strikes many as quite odd to entrust such a major part of a scientific research study to a construction kit that is labeled for use by kids ages ten and up, Michelle Oyne, who is a Lecturer in the Cambridge Department of Engineering, said, “A lot of things we use around the lab are household objects, things we’ve picked up at the home goods store, so our robots just fit in with that mindset…the importance of science is the creativity in going forward, it’s not hat tools you use to get there.”