The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is a biannual race taking place in Australia. Driving vehicles energized only by the Sun, contestants make the 3000 km trek from Darwin to Adelaide, camping in the outback along the way. This year, the Brunel Solar Team returns to the race for another shot at bringing home the win. Incidentally, the Brunel team currently holds the record for the most wins in the 36-year history of the World Solar Challenge. They’ve brought the trophy home to the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands seven times. However, this year, something is a little different. Their solar car, the Nuna 12, has a little companion built from LEGO® bricks.
As the name suggests, the Nuna 12 is the twelfth generation of the solar racer in question. Its designers, the Brunel Solar Team, are a group of students from the TU Delft. The school is the oldest and largest public technical university in the Netherlands. Additionally, it ranks among the top 10 technical universities in the world according to QS World University rankings. The team has raced in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge since 2001, when they became the first newcomers to ever win the World Solar Challenge.
The Nuna 12 races in the World Solar Challenge from Oct. 22-23, 2023.
The LEGO® brick model of the Nuna 12 is a new development for 2023. This year, the Brunel team hoped to excite the public about sustainable technology. Of course, the best way to do this is to offer a fun and relatable connection between the Nuna 12 and the public’s everyday lives. And what’s more fun and relatable than LEGO®? This is especially true if you aim to inspire future racers. Consequently, the team from TU Delft designed the LEGO® version of the Nuna 12 in collaboration with Björn Ramant. Ramant is a LEGO® certified professional and contestant in the 2020 Dutch edition of LEGO® Masters. The instructions and printable sticker sheet are free on the Brunel Solar Team website.
As it happens, I built myself the racer using the online instructions and my own parts collection. It’s a fun, little build that will entertain you for a short while. I spent a lot of time trying to find the pieces. Speaking of which, I like to think I have a pretty extensive part collection… but I had to make some substitutions in this model. Some parts are not all that common. For example, how many of you have twenty 1×4 solar panel tiles hanging around? Unless you bought the International Space Station, chances are you don’t. The windscreen is also rare-ish. It comes in 11 sets, but until I recently bought the new Batmobile set, I owned none of them.
The LEGO®-brick Nuna 12 contains some harder to find elements.
Structurally, it is also not as sound as I’d like. Some elements fall of easily. Additionally, while the build generally captures the sleekness of the Nuna 12, the cab area does not. There are certainly aspects of this build that I would design differently. With that said, it provides a good starting point and inspiration to work with for a MOC. It also keeps the process simple and piece count low for younger builders. As for the rarer pieces, you can substitute other elements in. For example, trans-blue elements could replace the solar panels. Additionally, any element on the undercarriage is not readily visible and can be a different color other than white.
The LEGO®-brick Nuna 12 was an amusing build experience. It got the gears in my head turning as I imagined ways to customize it and make the design more my own. It could make a good design activity for kids. The basic model is a good starting point, and kids could be encouraged to make it work better, or to build it with slightly different elements. If I was still teaching, I’d be inclined to use this as a design project in my classroom. What do you think? Will you build the LEGO®-brick Nuna 12? Let me know in the comments or reach out on social media.
Until next time,
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