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Winter Study, Lego Bricks, Williams and Beyond

I’m a professor in the Math/Stats department, and for the second year in a row I’ve taught Math 12, The Mathematics of Lego Bricks, as a winter study. While we used Lego bricks as a springboard to talk about a lot of interesting math (the lectures and additional comments are available here), the main goal was to successfully build the 3152 piece Superstar Destroyer in under 10 minutes. It was an interesting challenge to divide the work among all the students, and a great way to explore issues in teamwork, efficiency, authority and responsibility, all of which will be useful to students after Williams.

After just missing last year (with a world record best time of 10:21, which was still fast enough to be adding more than 5 bricks per second), we succeeded this year, assembling the Superstar Destroyer in 8:47. One of the items I love most about Williams is how well this place does at building ties between different parts of the community (faculty, staff, students, Williamstown and beyond); our final time for everything was 9:13, as we outsourced building the minifigs to a consortium of elementary school kids (while this increased our time a bit, it was in the spirit of the event and fortunately didn’t cause us to miss our goal!).

Many thanks to all who came to the ’62 Center to cheer us on, and to all the organizations on campus that helped fund the class (including Dining Services, DRFC, EComm, the Alderaan Preservation Society, the Neighborhoods, Williams College, …). Below are some stories on the event.

We’re planning several related events in the future; possibilities include some at WCMA (including possibly a LEGO Chopped, inspired by The Food Network Show), and perhaps a joint Winter Study / Adventures in Learning with the Williamstown Elementary School next year. If you’re interested in either coming to or helping with such events, please email me at

"EAG-L-LEGO" groupphoto



Excuse the all caps headline. This news comes to us via EphBlog math correspondent “12

Williams recovered the Green Chicken from Middlebury in a hard fought battle Saturday, November 7, 2009, winning 199-180 (maximum possible score was a 240). The top four scores for each side made up the team; the Williams team was led by Nick Arnosti (tied for top score overall), Carlos Dominguez, Ralph Morrison, and Wei Sun. There were 40 participants, 19 from Williams and 21 from Middlebury (making this one of the largest competitions on Middlebury soil). Pictures and a copy of the test. Celebration dinner this Wednesday, November 11, 5:45-7 pm, Mission (Dennett Room); all welcome. Congratulations to all participants and fans, including Coach Steven Miller and Professors Beeson and Stoiciu.

For extra credit, solve it yourself:

(thanks to nuts for the image)