real polaroid camera sits next to a lego version
The LEGO set of the vintage Polaroid OneStep instant camera features rainbow stripes and a working shutter button and gives all the nostalgia feels. (Steven Trinh/UC Davis)

All Grown Up: New LEGO Polaroid Kit Captures Marc Corfmat's Childhood Design Dreams

In January, a new LEGO set hit store shelves. The LEGO Polaroid Onestep SX-70 is an uncanny replica of the vintage instant camera, with on-brand rainbow stripes and a "working" film printing function (with LEGO photos, of course). It even comes with a "box" of film.  

Mechanical engineering graduate student Marc Corfmat holds a vintage Polaroid OneStep camera.
Mechanical engineering graduate student Marc Corfmat holds a vintage Polaroid OneStep camera. (Courtesy of Corfmat)

The designer, Marc Corfmat, has been working on LEGO designs since he was a child and is, in fact, not an employee of LEGO but currently a master's student in mechanical engineering at the University of California, Davis.  

Corfmat has always been interested in how things are made, and how they're made affects their function. He received his first LEGO set when he was 3 years old and grew up making his own LEGO designs with his younger brother, Nick, a computer science student at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  

Since middle school, the brothers have submitted 30 of their original designs to the LEGO Ideas challenge to get them made and onto store shelves, including an intricate 1,500-piece set of The Polar Express train. The camera was the fifth design the brothers submitted that received the necessary 10,000 votes to be considered, and the nostalgia of the Polaroid camera earned the green light from LEGO.  

Corfmat had long entertained the idea of designing a LEGO camera based on his younger sister Mia's interest in photography.  

"My sister has her own camera, and she's got a bunch of Polaroid pictures on her wall," Corfmat said. "It was always on the back of my mind, to design something to pay tribute to that. Eventually, the stars aligned. LEGO released a brand-new piece that looked a lot like a lens. Immediately I thought, 'Oh, this looks perfect for the camera.'"  

Corfmat first created the design of the LEGO camera digitally. Then he brought in his engineering knowledge to figure out how to make a LEGO camera that "prints" a LEGO photo triggered by a shutter button, just like the real Polaroid. 

Inside the 538-piece camera, the shutter button moves a lever, releasing a mechanism that pushes the photo out. The camera was designed to function without any power source: the energy comes from a rubber band being released.  

lego pieces
The 583-piece LEGO set features three photos to "print" out and a box of film. (Courtesy of LEGO)

As a graduate student in mechanical engineering, Corfmat specializes in additive manufacturing with the hopes of applying it to product design engineering. With the Polaroid camera, Corfmat applied his engineering skills and learned about product marketing and design, crucial aspects of his chosen career path.  

He attributes his unrelenting motivation in pursuing the LEGO design challenge to his love for creating something that no one else has realized that is then out there for everyone to enjoy. In winning a spot on LEGO store shelves, he's also achieved what his younger self could only dream about.  

"You go to the store and pick out something cool, and it's always at the back of your head, 'I want to do this when I grow up.' It's like wanting to be a firefighter; I wanted to be a LEGO designer. It's definitely fun to realize that childhood Marc would be very happy about that."

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