Ryan Katkov
Feb 27, 2018 · 4 min read

At Life360, we typically arrange team outings every few months to help build camaraderie among team members — and it was suggested that we attempt to put together the new flagship Lego set; the UCS Star Wars Millennium Falcon. With a whopping 7541 pieces and build times ranging from 35 to 50 hours, it was no small feat. Fortunately, there were enough Lego aficionados and interested people in the office.

Best things first: the time lapse!

Time Lapse Goodness (with huge thanks to Josh Wickham)

The Project

Four boxes and a 550 page instruction manual. Glorious.

Once the set arrived, thanks to Lego VIP member Josh Wickham, we took on the task of attempting to figure out a schedule and build order.

Since we didn’t want to disrupt employee productivity but make it available to everyone in the office, we decided to assign a schedule based on two time blocks per day, around lunchtime and closing time. Members rotated through in order. With this schedule, we hoped to complete the build in 2 to 3 weeks.

The Schedule

This was meant to have one person building a component/module at once with another person building another module at a future point in the instruction manual (we used the main instruction manual and a downloaded PDF on an iPad/iPhone).

Josh Wickham also graciously donated his camera for the time we were building — we used an intervalometer to take a photo every 10 seconds, which would be assembled into a final time lapse video.

Once we organized the bags into their individual components, we started.

7500 pieces in 17 different groups. Numbered bags are a winner.
Most of the interior completed. Check out that Dejarik (holo-chess?) table!
Basic framework first!
Greebling and surface panels take a LONG time.

We used Post-It notes to keep track of where people were in the instruction manual — the checkpoints actually were quite helpful.

The build definitely started out with a nice pace, but over time, the schedule broke down and it became a free-for-all build. Even then, mistakes were rare, and there was still steady progress and there was very little confusion when people picked up each other’s work.

The project started on October 10th, 2017 and did not finish until February 1st, 2018, nearly five months.

For a project that we expected to take about 2 to 3 weeks (given that people were building 2 hours a day, or 14 person-hours a week for something that was estimated to take 35+ hours, this took quite a bit of time to complete.

Numbers at a Glance:

Team Members participating: ~12
Number of pieces:
7541
Number of seemingly extraneous unneeded pieces:
~200
Frames shot for the video: 9151
Video Length: 15 Hours 25 Minutes
Person-hours invested into the build: ~35 Hours

We were missing some footage mostly because the card got full at one point or some people forgot to turn the camera on. See if you can tell where in the video, and email us at hello@life360.com.

Finally complete! A whopping 30 pounds of Lego.

Postmortem

In retrospect, I’ve thought about what we could have done better and what did got well.

Went well:

  • Minimal confusion and almost no hand-off required because of Post-It notes.
  • Almost no mistakes as people followed the instructions well, even novices found it simple to follow.

Could have been better:

  • Piece hunting, not assembly, took up the majority of time. Part bins helped, but still took time.
  • The build sat for extended period of times as it was forgotten about. Similar to a bug that never gets worked on or a stagnating project.
  • One instruction manual made it difficult to pair people up — iPads and iPhones weren’t the easiest to use.

Things to do in future:

  • The schedule could have been volunteer based, rather than rotation based, so it’s more flexible and allows people to contribute based on their availability.

Overall, this was great fun and everyone really enjoyed taking a break from work to put some blocks together. We’ll no doubt be building other Lego projects in the future.


If you’re interested in working on some cutting edge engineering and maybe build some Lego: We’re hiring in all of our departments, ranging from infrastructure engineering to mobile engineering. Check out our open positions at https://www.life360.com/jobs.

Life360 Engineering

Musings of Life360's talented engineers

Ryan Katkov

Written by

Head of Infrastructure at Life360. Follow me at @solidspark.

Life360 Engineering

Musings of Life360's talented engineers

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade