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Questacon & Brickman combine on STEM

James Coleman, 7.5-metre tall rocket made entirely of Lego to launch new Questacon exhibition this May, RiotAct, 26 March 2024

A 7.5-metre-tall NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket made from 460,323 LEGO bricks has been installed in Questacon’s foyer as a teaser. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Ryan ‘Brickman’ McNaught was dragged along to a lot of school excursions as a kid in the 1970s, but they were all missing something: Lego.

The judge on Channel Nine’s series Lego Masters Australia, and one of only 21 certified Lego professionals in the world, Mr McNaught has made it his mission to deliver all sorts of brick-themed shows across the globe, covering themes from ‘Jurassic World’ to ‘all things Awesome’, so today’s kids don’t have to miss out.

His latest effort is a world-first.

The Curiosity: Building Breakthroughs in Lego Bricks exhibition opens at Questacon on 11 May. It is a partnership between the National Science and Technology Centre and Mr McNaught (aka ‘The Brickman’).

The exhibition is his most education-focused and “delivers science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) concepts from across time through the versatile magic of Lego bricks”.

“We try and do this thing called ‘education by stealth’,” he says.

“In our exhibitions, kids and adults alike will be learning things without them actually knowing they’re learning things. We try to sneak in lots of STEM into all of the things that we do.”

Of course, there’ll be no shortage of the outright mind-boggling either.

The showcase item of the exhibition is a 7.5-metre-tall NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket made from 460,323 LEGO bricks. It is fitted with lights and speakers and can run through a take-off cycle every seven minutes.

That alone took him and his team 563 hours to design and build, but Mr McNaught also promises a life-size replica of the Mars Perseverance Rover, “bigger than most people’s cars”, a giant mosaic, and a periodic table of elements – all made entirely of the beloved bricks.

Lego Rocket
The rocket will be joined by a life-size Mars rover and other Lego objects in May. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“I definitely wish I had it in school. I remember going to some of the things we were forced to do as kids back in the 1970s, and they weren’t nearly as exciting.”

Questacon director Jo White says the rocket arrived in parts on Friday (22 March), and it took a construction team late into the night to have it ready to greet the weekend’s visitors.

“There has been a lot of interest and excitement – everybody loves this big rocket. And there’s a lovely build-up, certainly from staff as well.”

She says visitors can “explore outer space, experience engineering concepts, unpack mathematical principles and try their hand at building Lego creations of their own” when the exhibition opens in May.

“We’ve also been excited about Lego and its power for learning and creativity, so The Brickman’s approach fitted in really well,” Ms White says.

It’s the science museum’s first Lego-themed exhibition, and thanks to a partnership with Vision Australia, it’s also the country’s first to feature special Lego Braille bricks. Each brick includes the braille code for the alphabet in various languages to help visitors with low vision or blindness.

Lego Rocket close-up
‘Curiosity’ opens on 11 May. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“The integration of LEGO Braille is a great example of how venues can make exhibitions inclusive for people who are blind or have low vision,” Vision Australia Library Services manager Sarah Bloedorn says.

“At the same time, it’s also a great way to introduce braille to the wider public and educate them about accessibility and the different ways people read.”

CURIOSITY: Building Breakthroughs in Lego Bricks‘ opens on Saturday, 11 May 2024, and runs until Sunday, 11 May 2025. Entry to the exhibition is included with general admission to Questacon. Pre-purchasing tickets is recommended.

A book signing with Ryan ‘Brickman’ McNaught will take place on Saturday, 11 May, from 9 am to 12 pm.