LEGO spectrometers

First-year Computer Science projects from Imperial College in London have been providing us with some really, really cool stuff for this blog over the last couple of years. Not to be outdone, the Chemistry faculty have hopped on board the Raspberry Pi bus as well – only they’re using LEGO too, which we calculate to be worth at least an extra eleven cool points.


I do not recall my own bright college days being anything LIKE this.

Students studying Chemistry are being set a challenge: they have to design and build and optimise a UV-Vis spectrometer using LEGO. They then have to refine the design and make it as sensitive as they can, using a number of samples, learning about instrumental limitations in the process. A Raspberry Pi collects the data – which means that the students have to learn how to use Linux and write some Python as part of the project.


Dr Joshua Edel, who ran the project, says:

“This is the first time we’ve done this type of project. It’s the students’ first introduction into measurement sciences and we wanted to create a fun problem solving element to what they’re doing and at the same time ensure they refine their analytical skills.”

Some spectrometers, like this one, sprouted trees (one had flags representing the nationalities of everybody who'd worked on them). At least one was built in the shape of a Greek temple.

Some spectrometers sprouted tiny LEGO trees; one had flags representing the nationalities of everybody who’d worked on them attached. At least one was built in the shape of a Greek temple.

The plan is to roll a simplified version of this project out to schools, teaching much younger kids that light is much more involved than the visible spectrum might have them believe. And that LEGO and Raspberry Pi make, as always, a beautiful partnership.