Summer Scholarship for Minifigure Taxonomy

Posted by ,

Fancy doing something interesting during the southern hemisphere summer? Chrstoph Bartneck, author of the Unofficial LEGO Minifigure Catalog emailed to say that he's been able to organise a scholarship for a student to work on a taxonomy for minifigures. The student would spend the summer (November-February) in New Zealand to work on it. The University of Canterbury has allocated 5000 NZD for the project. He adds that 'I hope that a younger AFOL, who is still studying, might be interested.'

If you fancy combining your love of LEGO and software (like I do) this could be the ideal opportunity for you.

Find out more at the university website.

18 comments on this article

Gravatar
By in United States,

so, there looking for someone make lego minifigures to get a scholarship?

Gravatar
By in United States,

^ No, they're looking for an intern to help develop a taxonomy (family based classification) for minifigures and software that will provide queries about a minifigure until it can be properly identified. It sounds like a pretty cool opportunity, and I hope a brickset member is able to land it!

Gravatar
By in United States,

too bad i m in the states. LOL

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

^^ That's my understanding, too. A bit like '20 questions' for minifigs:

- Does it have blue legs?
- It is male?
- Does it have glasses ?

...

- It's the workman from set xxxx, minifig number xxx

Gravatar
By in United States,

Interesting... so basically, you get to make a classification system?

Gravatar
By in United States,

I agree with Aquapolis.

Gravatar
By in United States,

Upon first reading this, I thought that it was surely a joke. But apparently it looks legit.

I'm sure that there is academic value in developing a system for decision trees and taxonomy, but I wouldn't have dreamed there was a place for Lego minifig-based research. Sure, my local uni uses Lego Education products for research, but they don't do research ABOUT Lego. I think this is pretty cool.

Gravatar
By in United States,

From browsing the listing, I didn't see any geographical restriction for a candidate, so being from the United States, or anywhere else for that matter, shouldn't preclude you from this opportunity apart from the logistics of having to travel and stay in NZ during the duration. I realize that this may be cost-prohibitive, but perhaps the funding will offset this and one could just consider effectively accepting a reduced wage as a trade-off for a summer spent in a beautiful country abroad.

Gravatar
By in New Zealand,

My following post will be somewhat bias on the basis I'd love to get the scholarship myself, and based on how similiar scholarships work at my uni (Otago, south of Canterbury).

Make sure you do all your research on this scholarship before applying. Typically the person getting the scholarship has to be enrolled at the uni, and planning on doing advanced study such as a masters or a phd, or "4th year honours" [our degeres are 3 years long usually]. IF accomodation isnt included, you'd be looking at roughly $200 a week on rent and other expenses. Canterbury has been hit by 3 major earthquakes in the last 12 months.

On the plus side, the scholarship is almost definately tax free, you'll probably get published in an academic journal, and you get to do cool stuff with lego as well.

If you can crack the cost of getting to NZ, things are reasonably priced [other than Lego] and theres lots to see and do. Its also our summer time, so that is enjoyable as well.

Gravatar
By in United States,

I too, am bummed I'm in the US!

Gravatar
By in United States,

This sounds awesome! I think it would be too logistically hard to get there, and I'm not able to get out of school for that. Maybe another one will come up in the coming years. :-)

Gravatar
By in United States,

How much is that in USD?

Gravatar
By in Australia,

Oh, New Zealand, this sort of thing is why we love you. After all, how many tertiary institutions across the world would take seriously and accordingly fund so substantially a project about childrens' construction toys? But meanwhile, New Zealand is making bold strides in... well, doing stuff like this. I guess I know exactly where I'm emigrating to if Australia downward-spirals. :P

also I don't think I could do this - I've no idea how to database, never mind at a level adequate for something like this, not to mention the timing clashes with my own studies

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

Shame i'm 10 and in the United Kingdom!

Gravatar
By in United States,

If you think about it this shouldnt be that hard to accomplish. Honestly how many unique minifigs are there? Has anyone ever played that little handheld game 20 questions? It is the exact same principle they are using here except you can think of anything and after 20 questions it tells you what you are thinking. My kids had one and believe me you have to get really out there to even have a chance of fooling it. My point is if they can do a tree like this for everything then surely it will not be too hard to do one for even a half million minifigs.

Gravatar
By in United Kingdom,

I imagine gathering the data will be the difficult and time consuming aspect. It would be pretty cool though, wouldn't it, being able to describe a fig you've found in a second hand lot and for the program to tell you what it is and where it came from. I guess that is the ultimate aim.

Gravatar
By in New Zealand,

As I see it, they already have a database of atleast 3600 different minifgs.

One of the bigger challenges is probably how everyone agrees to describe something, and then having a "Dont know" option as well.

After all, "Face colour" not being yellow would narrow it down a bit [zombie series 1, Geisha series 3 etc] but how would you classify the Gorilla man, after all, his face is yellow, but normally he's wearing a mask.

Then you have to figure out if you start head down, feet up, in the middle, or accessories first and so on.

It has to be extendable to accept all sorts of new minifigures as well, and might need a "species" tag as well "human" "alien" "monster" and so on.

As mentioned above, it does sound like 20 questions but I suspect one of the other challenges would be how to get it down to as few questions as possible, as well as being able to ask the distinctive questions as well. After all the minifigs in the "Brickbeard's Bounty" are reasonably similiar but its possible to distinguish most of them

Then its the challenge of making lists upon lists upon lists of options to each question.

To the right person, its a great project for sure.

Gravatar
By in United States,

Ironically "Face Color" is one aspect of taxonomy that has been traditionally forbidden from a politically correct aspect. Going up the taxonomic tree from Kingdom to Species, Humans goes like; Animalia, Cordates, Mammals, Primates, Homo Sapiens. When I ask my zoology teacher how (from a taxonomy stand point) if I were an alien discussing the diverse types of humans from all over the Planet, what scientific term would be used to differentiate, a USA hillbilly (myself), from a dude from Kenya. He said there is no term for that physical difference all humans are Homo Sapiens. Essentially if you can produce viable offspring under normal circumstances, your in the same species.

But in the case of a Dog or cat there was the "BREED" so something like that should be considered. But I think the only time face color would come into it would be when there was 2 of the same characters with different skin colors like slave girl leia. Also, I would prefer to see Peach and Brown instead of White and Black in respect to Caucasian vs African American lego characters.

don't forget an "Undead" classification. I like the Ultimate Minifig classification the best so far.

Commenting has ended on this article.

Return to home page »