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Brick Breakdown: LEGO Research Institute

(Written by William)

In this Brick Breakdown series I review official LEGO sets, from the perspective of looking at interesting building techniques we can all learn from. Today we will be looking at the #21110 LEGO Ideas Research Institute. You can also check out the previously discussed LEGO techniques found in official LEGO sets at the end of this article. 🙂

#21110 LEGO Research Institute Female Set Review

If you’re keeping up with what’s hot in the world of LEGO, you know fans are going crazy for this LEGO Ideas set. This is no surprise, as you get three nice scientist ladies, some pieces in new colors, and essentially three interesting models. However, as nice as the astronomer and chemist minifigs are, there is no doubt that the paleontologist steals the show. And the skeleton of the dinosaur is downright inspiring. The set does have a few special pieces, but you can still build your own with some slight modifications, in case you’re inclined to do so. You will see that most of the interesting building techniques are used in the dino – everything else is pretty standard build – so that’s what we will focus on.

LEGO Ideas Research Institute Minifigures


We briefly talked about this technique before as larger sets like the #10937 LEGO Superheroes Batman Arkham Asylum and the #10237 LEGO Lord of the Rings Tower of Orthanc use this technique to great effect. Essentially you need interesting patterns to break up the monotony of large models. The obvious difference in this set is that it is not large. This means we get an example of the technique used in a slightly different way.

#21110 LEGO Research Institute Review

Take a look at the dinosaur’s spine; the majority of it is made up of a repeated series of modified plates with some small round plates thrown in for shape and spacing. Ultimately what you end up with is a pattern, however – unlike in large constructions – this is not an accenting method to help decorate a wall or window, but it is providing the main structure for the model.

The bottom line is that when you are making patterns on a smaller scale you have to be aware that it may also need to serve a much more functional role. Which means that how the pattern looks can’t be the number one concern, like it would be on larger models. A smaller creation has to put structural stability on the same level as the decorative aspect. Here you will see that the spine is reinforced at the front with a stand and at the back with the legs.


Another fascinating technique you can learn when looking at the dino is the use of clips; some of them are used for the structure of the model, whereas others are for shaping the skeleton. You can usually tell the difference by looking at how many clips are used to secure a section. Start with the structurally less important elements; the barbs for the ribs and the arms are all held using a single clip for each. Now look at the stand in front; it uses a clip at the base and a clip on the skeleton. Since these clips are working in tandem, you can tell that they have a bit more important than just pure decoration. This may all get a little confusing with all the extra clips thrown in, but ultimately you have to look at what is being supported. You will find that – for the most part – clips are doubled when they serve more than just a decorative purpose, and you can get away with using single clips when they are not supporting a structure.

LEGO Ideas Research Institute Review

The feet have to be solid, therefore each foot is locked in place with two clips. Next, the hips are secured to the legs with two clips locking them in. And because the spine needs to bend, another two clips are used to achieve the effect. Then the shoulders are locked in place with two more clips. Finally, as the head needs to hold its integrity, two clips are used for the top of the skull and two for the lower jaw. As for the stand, the clips are important to secure it, as it helps the legs to hold up the entire spine. The neck on the other hand does not need to hold a lot of weight, and in addition it makes a great pivot point, so a single clip is all that’s required.


We often don’t think about creating patterns in smaller models simply because we are trying to fit lots of different shapes in a small area. Take for example a sink in a house; there is the faucet, the tank that holds the water, possibly a counter, and you can still try to make a drain. That is a lot of very different shapes. Pattern creation requires a degree of regularity. This is why the spine of the dino is such a good example. Next time you want to make something that has a consistent shape, you might want to consider pattern creation as an option.

As for doubling clips, this is less of a technique you have to practice, but rather a good habit to get into. Working with clips is often a delicate form of LEGO model creation. They are some of the most susceptible pieces to break, so learning to use them appropriately is a good idea. Generally speaking two for structure and one for decoration is a good rule of thumb to follow.

Please note that the #21110 LEGO Ideas Research Institute is shown as sold out at the time of writing this review, however according to this blog-post at the official LEGO Ideas website it will be back soon, so keep checking back at the LEGO Ideas section of the Online LEGO Shop.

Shop LEGO Ideas Sets

What do you think? How do you like the LEGO Research Institute? Were you able to get the set as of yet? Have you built it already? Which of the three small vignettes do you like the most? And do you use similar techniques in your own LEGO creations? Feel free to share your own experiences, tips or ask questions in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the other reviews in this series:

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • John August 22, 2014, 12:48 PM

    She’s an astronomer rather than an astrologer 😉

    • admin August 22, 2014, 12:56 PM

      John, thanks for catching that. Just corrected it. 😉

      • Håkan August 22, 2014, 7:42 PM

        Typical virgo nitpick!

        • admin August 22, 2014, 9:30 PM

          LOL! That may be, but I need that! 😀

  • Kim August 22, 2014, 3:32 PM

    Man, I really want this set. I know they’re going to release more of them but I’m betting it will still be super hard to get. It might actually be worth it to pay an inflated price.

    • admin August 22, 2014, 5:02 PM

      Kim, I know… I want one too. William is lucky because he is in California with so many LEGO stores around. Here I have to drive two hours to get to the closest one. I think it is worth waiting until September when it supposed to become available again. I would not wait around with my order, but I’m pretty sure they would make enough to last for at least a little while, especially if they put a limit on how many you can order. I have been checking the Online LEGO Shop daily for any updates.

      • Shea August 22, 2014, 11:28 PM

        It must be so nice to be able to visit a LEGO store. As far as I know, there are no LEGO brand stores in Australia, and I am certain that there are none in Tasmania where I live. This set looks really nice, but I’d rather get the Exo-suit. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to get either of them.

        • admin August 23, 2014, 3:14 PM

          You may not have a LEGO store, but you have an amazingly beautiful island. 😉

  • Kim August 22, 2014, 6:58 PM

    Yeah. We’ll see how long my impatience lasts. LOL I do have some good ideas for it though. Like, I might combine it with museum break-in and flesh it out some for a science institute / museum type deal with historical and scientific exhibits.

    • Håkan August 23, 2014, 5:25 AM

      Sounds like a good idea to bricklink some specialized pieces.

  • Ernest August 24, 2014, 12:56 AM

    Well, yeah, this set sure does looks quite decent, however I’m most not satisfied with the 3 minifigures included in it. Their torso are very common, maybe a bit too common. And in the real laboratories, no make-up are allowed, yet there are lipstick on the head piece of the chemist. Apart from that, I think the designers had outdid themselves and this is a tremendous LEGO set. I hope can get my hands on this set ASAP. 🙂

    • Håkan August 24, 2014, 5:51 AM

      I believe the lipstick is chosen to code the minifigs as women. It’s a shorthand due to the iconic art style.

      • Ernest August 24, 2014, 7:27 AM

        Yeah, you maybe right! 🙂

      • admin August 24, 2014, 10:54 AM

        It’s true that they have to choose some basic drawing style, but the didn’t have to use red lipstick. There are many female minifigs where the lips are pink or kind of flesh color – indicating that the minifig is female, but not wearing lipstick, or wearing something simple and everyday color. Red is for partying, not for these kinds of workplaces. But minifigs like to have fun. Who knows what these ladies are up to. 😛

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