A second batch of Research Institutes has just made its way into brand stores so now would seem like a good time to post a review, written by guest reviewer FlagsNZ:
This set was almost a complete sell out within days of being released in August. I have felt that a set review was overdue and I hope that I can write an objective appraisal for a set that created quite a bit of discussion during the LEGO Review phase.
I was looking forward to this set as soon as I saw it heading for Ideas project review stage and I waited with anticipation that it would be accepted by LEGO. With an interest in astronomy and sciences in general, it was the overarching scientific theme that hooked me.
I was impressed with the originality of this Idea and pleased that it was not based on a licensed theme. The set was designed by Dr Ellen Kooijman, better known in the LEGO community as Alatariel. It was her aim to "increase the overall number of female LEGO figures and to make them more interesting as characters."
Read on to see if she has successfully achieved this with her Research Institute set.
There is something special about the Ideas box. It is printed black inside which makes it seem different than regular LEGO boxes. On the front of the box is an image of all three vignettes while the back shows the vignettes separately in their own hexagons.
The parts are in three numbered bags which match the three vignette builds.
The instruction book is also of a superior quality. It is a stapled booklet printed on better quality paper.
The first page introduces Dr Ellen Kooijman with a good photo of her working as a senior researcher in her clean laboratory of the Swedish Museum of Natural History.
The set includes three minifigures – If it is assumed that the chemist is based on Dr Ellen Kooijman, then the other two minifigures, named by Ellen Kooijman, as Dr. B.A. Star the astronomer and Dr. M.O. Lecule the palaeontologist.
All of the minifigure pieces, heads and hairpieces have been seen in other sets except the printed female torso with the lab coat and ID tag.
Each scientist has a reversible head print with concerned, uncertain and frowning expressions on the reverse side. When something is going wrong in the lab you can rotate the heads and make the scientists look suitably stressed out.
The first vignette is that of a chemist’s laboratory. It has a lab bench with drawers and a cupboard filled with laboratory equipment.
The bench has a ring-stand with ring clamp made out of a 3.2 shaft and space skeleton arm, Erlenmeyer flasks, chemical bottles, beaker, glasses and pipettes.
There are green and purple liquids represented in the Erlenmeyer flasks which may indicate the presence of dangerous laboratory chemicals in solution such as chromium (III) oxide or potassium permanganate. The chemist should be wearing protective gloves.
These pages of the instructions continue the hexagon theme with a couple of organic chemical chains as a watermark.
The second vignette is a palaeontologist studying bone fragments using her microscope.
The star of this set is the brick-built, LEGOsaurus rex (L. Rex). There is so much potential to design your own dinosaur skeleton for this display.
There is a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex in the watermark on these instruction pages.
The astronomer has an alt/azimuth telescope and a smart board showing several constellations. The telescope is made up with a bucket, sextant and light sword shaft pieces.
I have used Stellarium, a free open source planetarium for your computer to project celestial information in the classroom similar to the way it is shown in this set.
The instruction pages for the astronomer have two constellations as a watermark; Ursa Major (big bear) and Ursa Minor (little bear). These are sometimes known as Big and Little Dipper. Ursa Minor contains Polaris, the pole star.
This image includes the rare parts found in this set which appear in less than five LEGO sets, or parts appearing for the first time in a new colour.
I have really enjoyed this build. I have enjoyed creating dinosaurs and have several designs in mind. I also plan to build a LEGO observatory in a mountain setting to develop the astronomy theme. This set has so much potential.
The completed model
Embedded within this set is a large range of optical and chemical scientific equipment; the microscope includes a set of binoculars, the telescope has a sextant and the scientists have a magnifying glass to utilise.
Female minifigure set
Part of Ellen Kooijman's aim was to "increase the overall number of female LEGO figures and to make them more interesting as characters."
Most of the citizens of LEGO City are blue collar workers employed in construction, emergency services, trains and other forms of transport. The minifigures in this set represent a shift towards white collar professional occupations.
There has been a change in LEGO City to include more female minifigures. When minifigures were first introduced in the mid 70’s, the only indication of gender was their hair piece; all minifigures had the same generic facial expression.
This set first appeared under the LEGO Cuusoo system and was originally called Female Minifigure Set. It had its name changed to Research Institute during the Ideas review phase.
Dr Ellen Kooijman’s original concept image submitted under the pseudonym Alatariel.
This set has introduced minifigures in more interesting professions to make LEGO City communities more diverse. I am pleased that this set also brings female minifigures into these varied professions.
Hopefully this set will raise awareness of scientific professions during creative play regardless of whether there are male or female minifigures included in the play experience.
A Google search for this set will give some indication as to the extensive positive international media interest that Dr Ellen Kooijman created with this LEGO set following its acceptance by the LEGO Group.
I believe that part of the conflict with this set resides with its two names; originally calling it the Female Minifigure Set caused some hot discussion, however changing its name to Research Institute does not describe the set accurately.
A research institute would be a Creator modular building. This set has the senior researchers that would be employed in such an institute or university.
Taking that into consideration, this is a great set. I hope LEGO use the open source Ideas process to design future sets. I think it has more potential than other Ideas sets as it is not linked to any other license and therefore will draw in a larger audience.
I would like to see this set as a catalyst for a new LEGO theme, as I feel that this could be the starting point for a Research Institute or University building. This could be the way LEGO introduce a modular Park theme.
If you are lucky, it may be possible to purchase this set in the USA as it could be available from LEGO Stores in October.
LEGO Ideas concept
The LEGO Ideas concept is an invitation for LEGO supporters to submit new, original, and creative ideas to be considered as future LEGO products in the form of “projects”.
In order to achieve review status, the Ideas project must get support from 10,000 followers. It would seem that the production runs for Ideas sets is insufficient to match demand.
The almost instant sell out of this set and the other Ideas set released in August, the Exo Suit, would indicate that there is untapped sales potential for the LEGO Group.
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