Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Making a LEGO Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture with Power Functions

My 9 year old son loves mythology, LEGO and electronics so when he saw JK Brickworks LEGO Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture he was so inspired that he just had to make it!

I was a bit daunted by the idea, it's an amazing mechanism but looked very complicated! I didn't think we had that many LEGO Technic as my kids aren't keen on vehicles and pretty much all the Technic sets are vehicles. This model shows that that really doesn't have to be the case!

The Original Sculpture

Here's the video of the original Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture by JK Brickworks. It's based on the Greek myth where Sisyphus gets condemned to repeatedly push a boulder up a hill.

It's absolutely amazing! The main mechanism is separated from the surrounding pedestal. My son decided to just focus on the movement mechanism first. (He definitely wants to build the pedestal too though!)

My Son's Sisyphus Remake 

My son's remake of the Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture

The Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture building instructions and parts list are available for the main mechanism so we started looking for the pieces. We decided to build as we went along and make a note of missing parts to order.

I wasn't expecting to have everything we needed, but we were surprised to find that we had most of the parts. We had to raid our LEGO Contraptions set, Ninjago sets and old Bionicle sets, but we found that we even had the necessary gears. (If your kids like this kind of build then the Crazy Action Contraption Kit is fantastic.)

My job was to find parts while my 9 year old build the model from the excellent instructions.

We had to be flexible about the colours in order to have enough pieces. We also had to make some small adjustments where we didn't have quite the right pieces but there were others that would do just as well. My son's extensive knowledge of LEGO parts was really useful here!

My son knew from the beginning that he didn't have the track pieces that are an essential part of the mechanism. But once we realised we had pretty much everything else he decided to come up with an alternative. There was no way we were going to get so close to being finished and then have to wait for an order to arrive!

Instead of the track and gears he used pulley wheels and a regular elastic band. This actually worked really well.

We also didn't have the narrow connector pieces that go between Sisyphus's legs so we had to make his shorts one block wider to accommodate the pieces we did have. This also worked well.

My son made a couple of small (but critical) mistakes which he needed help fixing but he did the whole build himself. He showed brilliant perseverance (as did I :-) It took us most of a day to complete.

The model can be driven by hand by turning a crank so we did this first and worked out the issues with the model.

We have a LEGO Power Functions set so he was able to add the motor to automate the model. The model design includes instructions for adding the motor so once the model was working this was straightforward.

Adding a motor made the model even more fun. We can't resist turning it on! The design means that it's easy to remove the motor if we want to use it in another project and then pop it back.

Here's the finished sculpture in action:


If your family has an extensive LEGO collection then we'd definitely recommend this activity. The model is really impressive when build and the instructions are really clear. There's a parts list and also a video that explains how the mechanism works.

I don't think we're going to want to take this model apart in a hurry, we're going to have to invest in some more Technic LEGO as most of our went into this model!

I wish there were more LEGO kits like this for kids to build. JK Brickworks do have other models which we'll be trying. The really good news is that another model from JK Brickworks has just been turned into an official LEGO kit. 

You can now buy the LEGO Ideas Maze kit (US) (UK) from the LEGO Store.

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