Apr
4

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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

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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.

Apr
3

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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

Mar
31

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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.

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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.

 

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lego-rotunda

What Jefferson Would Have Made If He Had Lego

Friday, April 4, 2014

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…