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Life’s A Snap for Rose-Hulman Student Who Uses LEGO to Showcase His Love of Engineering
May 18, 2011
Andrew Milluzzi's mother recognized his potential at an early
age. "Andy, you're going to be an engineer," she declared to
her young son as he enthusiastically built objects with LEGO bricks
one day at his home. His response: "But Mom, I don't wanna
drive a train!"
LEGO Master: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology junior
Andrew Milluzzi is the youngest LEGO MINDSTORMS Community Partner
in the U.S. He has developed LEGO-based models
for LEGO conventions, the launch of NASA's latest space
shuttle and National Instruments.
Fast forward several years and you'll find Milluzzi driving not
a train, but NASA's Enterprise space shuttle. Well, not THE
space shuttle, but rather a working replica the Rose-Hulman
Institute of Technology student has designed and assembled from
approximately 8,000 bricks of all shapes and sizes.
However, working with LEGO isn't just a hobby. Milluzzi is
actually one of 50 LEGO MINDSTORMS Community Partners throughout
the world and the youngest in the U.S. The shuttle is the
result of a four-month-long collaborative effort involving a team
of Community Partners from throughout the U.S., Canada and
"My job is to encourage the community to get excited about LEGO
MINDSTORMS," he explains. The junior computer engineering and
software engineering major has combined his love of all things LEGO
with his programming ability to develop interactive, engaging
robotic models that provide a hands-on way for children and adults
to experience the fun of science and technology.
"The shuttle model is my most complex project to date," Milluzzi
says of the project built to help commemorate NASA's space shuttle
program, which is being discontinued. "I thought it would be
cool to pay tribute to the shuttle program," he says, because
modern robotics is a result of technologies developed through the
shuttle program. LEGO liked the idea and the project
Milluzzi's Enterprise model was originally slated to be on hand
for the final launch of the NASA's space shuttle Endeavor at Cape
Canaveral, Fla., but launch delays prevented that from
happening. Still, the shuttle and its caretaker have become
somewhat of a celebrity duo at such special events as the FIRST
Robotics World Championships in St. Louis and Yuri's Night Party,
hosted by NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia to commemorate
the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight by
Space Shuttle: Andrew Milluzzi used nearly 8,000 LEGO bricks and
other parts to help develop a scale model of NASA's Enterprise
space shuttle, which has played a key role in science
"The owner of LEGO has played with the shuttle," Milluzzi says,
but "the best part is seeing people's faces when they see
Milluzzi has also created large-scale LEGO projects for this
year's Brickworld Indy, an annual convention for LEGO lovers; the
opening of a new Lego Store in Indianapolis; and for National
Instruments, during a summer internship. He has also created
a Bluetooth-controlled Segway robot.
Gears of varying sizes, beams and other bricks occupy one side
of the living room in Milluzzi's Terre Haute apartment. At the
peak of the shuttle construction phase, he was receiving weekly
shipments from LEGO with thousands of pieces for the project.
His apartment now has boxes and bins of LEGO parts with
approximately 20,000 pieces. "I usually have cases upon cases
of LEGO parts at any one time," he explains.
You might think that after investing four months in the building
and programming of the shuttle, Milluzzi would discourage people
from touching it. On the contrary, he's a firm believer in
hands-on learning and enjoys seeing his creation "being played with
and used" at public events. "You gotta have something that
people can walk up and touch," Milluzzi says.
An enthusiastic proponent of making science and technology fun
and engaging, Milluzzi has found himself in a position to share his
knowledge with audiences of all ages. He helped arrange for a
12.5 foot-by-12.5 foot square Monster Chess board, with LEGO
robotic chess pieces, to visit the Terre Haute Children's Museum in
hopes of attracting youths toward careers in science and
engineering. The exhibit drew enthusiastic crowds to the
As he talks to school children, Milluzzi encourages them to see
the science in the interests they already have. "Junior high
girls might say, 'I want to be a photographer.' I say,
'Great, you can do that, too, as an engineer. Why not work at
Kodak?'," he said.
"People are going to make their choices of what they've liked
based on what they've experienced," he observes. Milluzzi
enjoys showing kids that "there's more to engineering than just
pencil and paper. It is a creative outlet." He adds, "I
love what I do. I love to share it."
Commencement Speaker: Andrew Milluzzi, a computer engineering and
software engineering major, enjoyed the opportunity to meet and
interview groundbreaking theotrical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku
during last summer's internship at National
Instruments. Dr. Kaku will be Rose-Hulman's commencement
speaker on May 28.
Attending Rose-Hulman was a natural fit for the 21-year-old
budding engineer. The college uses LEGO bricks as a central
theme in its recruiting literature, using the slogan "You've known
it since you were a kid . . . (that you should attend
Rose-Hulman)." The brochure features a child building
something with LEGO.
"When I got the brochure in the mail, it quickly caught my
attention from all others. That was me on the cover,"
On campus, the northeast Ohio native maintains a 3.93 grade
point average, represented Rose-Hulman at last year's world
Digilent design competition in Romania, serves as a LabVIEW Student
Ambassador for National Instruments and recently received the
Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering's
Outstanding Service Award. He plans to earn a doctorate in
high performance reconfigurable computing.
Milluzzi notes that attending Rose-Hulman has given him the
flexibility to pursue his career before he has even
graduated. He credits professors with making his travel
schedule possible, as well as encouraging and supporting his work
with LEGO. "This is something that could only be done
at Rose-Hulman," he says.