UVA Today Blog

What Jefferson Would Have Made If He Had Lego

lego-rotunda

This amazing Lego Rotunda is the work of fourth-year student Thomas Lockwood, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He worked on it on-and-off beginning in his first year and used about 6,500 pieces. Check it out:

lego-rotunda

00-lawn 01-rotunda

Thomas explained how the project came together:

 I’ve been building with Lego since I was four, which greatly influenced my decision to major in mechanical engineering. Normally I build airplanes or vehicles from sci-fi movies, but I was surprised to learn no one had built the Rotunda in Lego yet and felt obligated to try building my own model.

I first looked at Thomas Jefferson’s original plans, and used my own pictures of specific areas such as the columns and capitals, to make the model more accurate. In making the design, I have a computer program, which allows me to design everything in 3D without having to worry about losing or running out of parts.

Once the computer model is finished, the program automatically creates a list to help me to find all the parts for the physical model, and once I have all the parts, I can use the computer model like a set of instructions.

I started the model back in my first year, working on it when I went home for summer and winter breaks. I brought the model with me to Charlottesville this past semester to finish the remaining sections before graduation (which was made a lot easier thanks to all the snow).

The model is 30 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 17 inches tall. I normally count the number of pieces used, but I lost count at 6,200, though I think the final part count is in the ball park of 6,500.

Photos: The Teeny Tiny Zoo at U.Va.

Teeny Tiny Zoo

True fact: It’s almost impossible to be in a bad mood when the Teeny Tiny Zoo is on Grounds.

The University Programs Council transformed the McIntire Amphitheatre into a petting zoo on Wednesday afternoon. Alpacas posed for selfies, critters were cuddled, and a good time was had by all.

Click for bigger versions:

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

 

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Teeny Tiny Zoo

Semester at Sea: Burma

Editor’s Note: Lauren Jones, a third-year student majoring in English and Economics, is on Semester at Sea this spring and has agreed to blog about her experience. Catch up with her previous entries here.

Fisherman in Inle Lake, Burma

Fisherman in Inle Lake, Burma

Three years ago, the government of Myanmar opened a country that had been closed (or semi-closed) for close to 60 years. As Burma transitions from a military-controlled state to a democratic one, it has experienced a surge of changes, including the sight of foreign visitors – like Semester At Sea students – that pour into the country. Because tourism is all so new, SAS travelers faced some amusing/sketchy stumbling blocks while exploring a place where the difference between a luxury bus ride and a bus with lawn chairs for seats is about $2. But I think those challenges were all part of what makes Burma itself, and it made visiting this developing place an adventure.

Pagodas are everywhere. Burma is known as the “golden land” for the color of the pagodas that you can find on literally all the roadsides. When you visit the buildings, you see scarlet-clad Theravada monks meditating in front of Buddha statues, visitors lighting candles and incense, and people pouring water over the statues to bring good fortune for themselves. I visited the Shwedagon Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Myanmar’s largest city, where many monks would show non-Buddhists around and explain the various rituals that Buddhists perform during their visit.

burma 2

Clockwise from top left: golden pagodas on the banks of Inle Lake, the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, and a small countryside pagoda near Nyaung Shwe.

The priority that people place on religion is reflected in their daily lives. I was told that it is safe for women to travel in Myanmar (which I did, with three other girls, without any real problems). And if you forget your bag, no one will steal it – a phenomenon I witnessed for myself, on accident…twice.

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A “novice” monk watches a soccer game at a local orphanage for boys. Run by Theravada Buddhist monks, this orphanage was raising about half the boys to be monks-in-training. 

Money matters. One of the unique things about Semester At Sea is that it takes you to countries where you would never study abroad for a full semester, like Burma. It’s one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, with a GDP per capita of less than $2000, and its university system doesn’t support American study abroad students (to my knowledge) just quite yet.

Poverty is such a complicated issue, and this trip has revealed how relative the idea of being “poor” is. When you’re fed, clothed, and have an income, you have a lot to be thankful for – and so many of the Burmese people I met were undeniably content, happy people. At the same time, developing countries are places where basic medical care, good schools, and good jobs just aren’t available, and I think seeing it firsthand – when a man wrecks his motorcycle and has to drive an hour to the nearest hospital, or a father you meet tells you that he sends his wife and children 400 miles away so his kids can attend a decent primary school – you start to understand how different your life and your opportunities are.

It’s a complicated issue, and all I can really say is that this type of travel helps you understand how privileged you are. I saw people that don’t have anything by Western standards, and they’re not sad, bitter or feel like they need to beg for help – but if a person comes and spend money in their shops, it really makes their day.

 

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At Lake Inle, clockwise from top left: a woman weaving scarves out of lotus reeds and silk, father and son in Nyaung Shwe, and fish for sale at the market.

The people are excited to have you. Like I said, this is partly because you’re spending money, but also because Burma is a place where most towns didn’t see foreigners for years – and your presence is a sign of wealth and open doors for them.

SAS kids went all over the country in Burma. To the beach; to Bagan, where 1400 temples are scattered across a desert plain; to Bago, where Golden Rock hangs off a cliff and defies gravity (because Buddha’s hair is apparently keeping it upright). I travelled to Lake Inle, a shallow, blue 45-square mile lake with small villages lining the coast. It’s surrounded by mountains on either side, which I hiked after spending a day visiting the lakeside villages on a motorboat. The town of Nyaung Shwe, where I stayed with three friends, was small, with buildings on almost every street that each offered the same plethora of services: lake tours, hikes, bikes for rental, horse back rides, tuk-tuk bicycle rides, bus tickets, and plane tickets. Though it’s all thrown together and a little unorganized, tiny Nyaung Shwe represents the country well – excited that you’re here, and ready to show you around.

 

Some Instagram Fan Mail for U.Va. Men’s Hoops

The U.Va. community is getting behind the Men’s Basketball Team in a big way. Here’s some Instagram fan mail for the team from all corners of the University. Be sure to cheer them on this Friday night as they enter the Sweet Sixteen in Madison Square Garden using #NCAAHoos. Let’s Go ‘Hoos!

Larry Sabato

‘Hoo Crew

Chelsea, Second-Year, Nursing

Allen Groves

Tara, First-Year, College

Miss Kathy

Katie Couric (’79)

Semester at Sea: Study Days and Singapore

Editor’s Note: Lauren Jones, a third-year student majoring in English and Economics, is on Semester at Sea this spring and has agreed to blog about her experience. Catch up with her previous entries here.

A statue of Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, stands in front the city skyline

A statue of Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, stands in front the city skyline

It’s midterm season at Semester at Sea, and just as the travel is intensified (12 countries in four months), so are exams. While I can’t really complain about midterms because hey, I’m on a boat, I do think the nature of schoolwork is much different from home universities. You’ll spend six days in a port, and then have a test covering half the material in your textbook the next morning – which means you’d better learn to strap down and focus.

In the middle of the weeklong gap between Vietnam and Burma come exams, papers, and projects galore. But in great SAS fashion, we also had a two-day reprieve in the middle of the week, at the island nation of Singapore.

I had my first field lab here, where my English literature class, “Visionaries and Exiles,” caught a day tour about the history of Singapore and its founder, Stamford Raffles. Raffles was both a visionary and an exile, in that he chose to build a port in Singapore for the East India Company, among other viable options, and said he believed the tiny, tribal island would become “a great commercial emporium.” He also acted as a great humanitarian towards its people. He learned the Mandalay language, established native-language hospitals and schools in the area, and he was an anti-slavery proponent. Unfortunately, Raffles was also an exile from home – he lost his family to illness while living in Singapore, along with most of his money, and he faced many legal charges regarding Singapore (which he established without authority) when he returned home. Raffles played a unique role in history, and my class enjoyed comparing his real-life example to our studies in visionary/exile fiction protagonists like Robinson Crusoe and Odysseus.

U.Va. English professor Dan Kinney and my classmate Josh listen as our guide, Saluma, takes us along the footsteps of Raffles in historic Singapore.

U.Va. English professor Dan Kinney and my classmate Josh listen as our guide, Saluma, takes us along the footsteps of Raffles in historic Singapore.

Today, Singapore is a modern, multicultural and globalized country that has progressed beyond anything Raffles envisioned. Because of its location in the straight between Japan, China and India, it’s considered an “Asian Tiger” of trade and has been a bustling crossroads for both commerce and culture since its establishment. Its population is comprised of four main ethnic groups – Chinese, Mandalay, Indian, and “Eurasian” – and a quarter of all people living in the country are foreign-born.

Aside from being a center of wealth (1 in 6 Singaporeans are millionaires), this tiny country has a reputation as a foodie heaven, from $3 “hawker” street food to meals that cost more than my U.Va textbooks. A true melting pot of the east, the city’s range of international food, including its Chinatown and Little India districts, adds to the country’s multiculturalism environment that already blends together so well.

A torpedo-shaped luxury resort connects the hotel buildings of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. There’s a great Photoshop picture of the MV Explorer atop the buildings that’s currently floating around on Twitter, much to the amusement of the @RealMVExplorer.

A torpedo-shaped luxury resort connects the hotel buildings of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. There’s a great Photoshop picture of the MV Explorer atop the buildings that’s currently floating around on Twitter, much to the amusement of the @RealMVExplorer.

After visiting the homogenous Japan, China and Vietnam, it was refreshing to see a country where diversity is so prevalent and accepted. And it was fun visit a place where everyone is fluent in English – a huge stress reliever for the brain-drained student traveler.

On a final note, one of my favorite things about Singapore is that its government spends over 20 percent of its budget on education – and has been doing so for decades. Today, Singapore has developed a vast, competitive university system, and students are flocking to get in, with about 30 percent of the National University of Singapore’s students coming from abroad. Maybe the U.S. should take notes?