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Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.

-Albert Einstein

As a child growing up, I was fortunate enough to play with numerous toys and games that my parents would purchase for me and my brothers. I remember playing with numerous toy cars, robots, water guns and building blocks. Out of the countless of toys, it was the building blocks that I was drawn to the most. And back in the day, there weren’t any building block type of toys other than Lego.

I remember spending countless of hours after school and during weekends creating Lego models of anything and everything that I could imagine. Lego allowed me to be immersed in a world manifested from my own imagination. It also taught me many useful things. In a way, I could say that Lego helped steer my path to have a career in engineering.

When opening a Lego set, a child is often overcome with so much emotion and it gives them a sense of adventure or imagination. They follow a set of instructions in order to build the specific model. If the set of instructions are not followed, then the model will not be built according to its intent. This teaches children a very important aspect of engineering. It teaches them that in order to get the desired model or outcome, then instructions must be followed properly.

Engineers typically do this as part of their daily activities. Every invention, every piece of equipment and each design are bound by a set of rules that must be followed. These set of rules may be equipment specifications, a set of standards, and/or proper installation procedures. It could even be generalized to the most basic of things, the laws of physics and science. If this is not done or instructions are not followed, then the design is susceptible to failure and accidents are bound to occur.

As important as it may be to have an ‘always follow the rules’ type of thinking, it is also equally important to push the boundaries of human knowledge and rules in order for someone to create and innovate. Some of the greatest engineering inventions of our time were the result of people pushing these boundaries. In the quest for human flight, many inventors throughout history have attempted numerous experiments to allow humans to soar with the eagles. Many of them ended in failure, but ultimately, it paved the path towards the development of the modern day aircraft.

Orville Wright once said “If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted is true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.” This is the very essence of true innovation. Innovative individuals who are not satisfied with what they see often seek ways to make things conform to their desired wants and needs. They set out to break out of the norm in order to generate something even greater.

The greatest thing that Lego teaches children is that you are not bound by the rules and instructions that they provide. It encourages children to build the set models, to modify them so they conform to their liking, and to destroy them to create something new. It is great to build the models as it is intended, but it is so much greater to build something better. It fosters creativity and innovation. It teaches children that they can create anything they wish and that they are only bound the limit of their imagination and the number of Lego pieces that they have. Teaching this important aspect at such a young age allows kids to be more innovative in the future and provides them a skill set that will allow them to be successful.

Lego is engineering at its basic core. Build a design, improve the design, and destroy to create something new.

Innovation stems from creativity, and creativity leads to innovation. It is a constant cycle that builds upon itself. It is the engine that drives individuals to create the things we use in our daily lives. Most people prefer to simply follow instructions set out to them, because it is comfortable and all the hard work is done for them. Innovators set out to differentiate themselves from the crowd. They find ways to do things differently, effectively and efficiently. They do this because the norm is not good enough. So do not be afraid to test those limits and break the rules of physics and science; if you can. Innovate using your knowledge of how things go. Put together the pieces one brick at a time and then marvel at the masterpiece you’ve created.

The Lego Pneumatic Ball Factory video by Quanix is an amazing custom creation that uses engineering principles of gears and pneumatic actuators to move an object from one place to another much like a factory.