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YouTube // BrainCraft

How LEGO Helps Blind People See

YouTube // BrainCraft
YouTube // BrainCraft

Matthew Shifrin works to make LEGO kits accessible to blind people. Along with help from his family friend Lilya Frinkel, Shifrin became an expert LEGO model builder, developing a scheme to translate visual LEGO assembly instructions into Braille. Shifrin wrote:

Lilya could make just about anything accessible for the blind. Making things accessible was a challenge she enjoyed, but LEGO was different. It was impossible to Braille the blueprints. The instruction manuals had no words, and they were too complicated to be turned into raised-line drawings. Building a model required so many steps that I couldn't copy them all. LEGO was the only thing that stubbornly resisted adaptation.

Or so I thought.

For my thirteenth birthday, Lilya had custom made instructions for the Battle of Almut, a Middle Eastern domed castle. How had she done it? Where did she find text-based instructions?

It turned out that she didn't find them--she created them! Lilya wrote out the instructions step by step, describing every blueprint, giving names to every kind of LEGO piece, figuring out the most logical sequence for a blind person to follow. She also sorted the LEGO pieces, putting the pieces necessary for each step into a Ziploc bag and labeling each bag in Braille.

Shifrin has begun posting these instructions on his website.

In this 13-minute documentary, Vanessa Hill visits Shifrin to explore his work. This is not just about LEGO, it's about spatial perception, which is fascinating stuff. If you're sighted, keep an eye out for the Braille display Shifrin uses—that device pops up one line of Braille at a time, and along with the attached keyboard, allows easy access to long sets of Braille instructions.

Enjoy:

If you liked that, you might enjoy this outtake video in which Shifrin's screen-reader reads out 10,000 digits of Pi from a YouTube comment. (Then he flips it into Russian mode and does it again.) This is a nice mini-demo of how screen-reader software works, even for silly stuff like YouTube comments.

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Titanic Museum Attraction
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A 10-Year-Old Built the World's Largest LEGO Replica of the Titanic
Titanic Museum Attraction
Titanic Museum Attraction

The Titanic never completed its voyage across the Atlantic, but a LEGO replica of the infamous ocean liner has officially landed in the U.S. As CNN reports, the model, which was constructed by a 10-year-old boy from Reykjavik, Iceland, holds the record for the largest LEGO replica of the ship ever assembled.

LEGO fans can spot the ambitious creation at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee starting Monday, April 16. Consisting of 56,000 bricks, the structure is 5 feet tall and 26 feet long. It took Brynjar Karl Bigisson, who's now 15, a total of 700 hours to build it over the course of 11 months.

Ships and LEGO bricks are two of Brynjar Karl's greatest interests. When he was 10 he set out to construct a LEGO Titanic that would be proportional to his minifigures. His engineer grandfather helped him convert the original Titanic blueprints to LEGO-size and calculate how many bricks the model would require. With support from a crowdfunding campaign set up by his mom, Brynjar Karl was able to purchase the tens of thousands of LEGO blocks needed to complete the project.

Brynjar Karl is also an outspoken supporter of kids on the autism spectrum like himself. He has given talks about living with the disorder and has even written a book on the subject. "The LEGO Titanic project has taken me on a new exciting journey," he says on his website. "It's about shedding light on the positive side of autism."

After showcasing his replica Titanic in Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Germany, Brynjar Karl is bringing his model to America for the first time. The LEGO Titanic will be displayed at the Titanic Museum Attraction through December 2019.

[h/t CNN]

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LEGOLAND Japan Breaks Record With Cherry Blossom Tree Made From 880,000 LEGO Bricks
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iStock

A 14-foot-tall sakura tree has sprung up in LEGOLAND Japan just in time for cherry blossom season. As SoraNews 24 reports, the 7348-pound structure is made entirely of LEGO bricks, earning it the Guinness World Record for largest LEGO cherry blossom tree.

The tree's unveiling marked the one-year anniversary of the opening of LEGOLAND Japan. To construct it, a team of expert builders at the LEGO factory in the Czech Republic spent 6700 hours assembling 881,470 plastic blocks around metal support pipes. The final components were then shipped to Nagoya, Japan where they were put together and displayed at the park. Every visible part of the tree is made of LEGO—even the lanterns, which light up at night to illuminate the pink canopy.

The cherry blossom is an icon of springtime in Japan that's recognizable around the world. Each year, the nation celebrates the season with festivals and sakura-flavored treats like Pepsi and frappuccinos. This latest homage to Japan's national tree may be the most ambitious yet.

Like the living sakura trees that explode into vibrant color around Japan this time of year, the LEGO cherry blossoms won't be around for long—LEGOLAND guests have until May 6 to catch a peek of the tree.

[h/t SoraNews24]

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