Creating LEGOLAND’s Ferrari digital race board a ‘fun’ challenge

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – For LEGOLAND rides engineer Carl Hughes, the work doesn’t end when an installation he helps develop opens.

Real-time feedback from guests helps shape an experience even after it has undergone hours of controlled pre-launch testing.

So, as he wandered the 3,300-square-foot building that houses a new Ferrari Build & Race exhibit that launched Friday, he was watching. Listening. Observing.

Hoping to overhear guests’ thoughts at the packed exhibit that might help further shape the tech experience.

“Just like building a car, we are always fine-tuning,” Hughes told Orlando Tech News. “We take a look at it constantly and figure out how we can make it that much better.”

LEGOLAND Florida debuted a new experience that allows visitors to build a car using on-site LEGO bricks.

An educational experience

They can then run the car through a handful of tests of the car’s physics and use a scanner to create a digital version and race it on a digital replication of Ferrari’s 1.8-mile Pista di Fiorano, the iconic Italian company’s development and test track in Maranello, about two hours north of Florence.

“As they go through the exhibit, they learn how key things like speed, weight and physics play into their design,” Hughes said.

The trials include a handful of tests, including jumping from one ramp to another and building up speed in a pinewood derby-like downward ramp.

Once a creator is satisfied with their car, the car is scanned and a digital version is created.

The scanner outlines and detects the shape of the car, provides calculations that would affect the racecar’s physics, including aerodynamics, weight, speed and downforce, Hughes said.

Add in weather elements and it becomes more than just a playground.

“They get to understand and learn that the choices they make will impact design and performance,” he said. “There is a lot of education going on.”

LEGOLAND’s niche in Central Florida

LEGOLAND Florida has consistently looked to carve out a niche in a crowded Central Florida market.

In the past several years, the location has opened three onsite hotels and a theme park area that revolves around Peppa the Pig.

By targeting families with small children, the park has managed to grow consistently.

“We have these popular brands that no one else has,” said Julie Estrada, public relations director for the park’s parent company, Merlin Entertainments. “LEGOLAND is especially geared toward families and we never deter from that.”


For the fourth time, LEGOLAND partnered with Kansas-based Dimensional Innovations to create the Build & Race experience.

The firm has worked with iconic franchises like the Chicago Cubs, the Amelia Earhart Museum and the Denver Zoo.

Dimensional Innovations Practice Director Spencer Farley said one element that the LEGOLAND installation’s partnership with Ferrari does is appeal to people of all ages.

“Maybe someone’s grandfather is a big Ferrari fan and they can bring a grandson or granddaughter in here to build it and kind of have that excitement, as well,” said Farley, who spends time building with LEGOs with his 2-year-old. “Obviously, there is excitement for a 2- or a 4-year-old but you also have people 40 and 60 years old, right? It kind of brings everyone together.”

424,000 bricks of Ferrari

As they walk into the exhibit hall – even before they get their hands on the LEGO bricks – visitors are greeted with a life-size, 424,000-brick model of a Ferrari 296 GTS that took 1,850 hours to build.

They are encouraged to take pictures behind the wheel and post on social media – it is 2024, after all.

The 85-year-old Italian car company remains one of the more-recognizable in the automotive industry with a rich history and tremendous following.

“We are pulling from that history,” said Ryan Wood, LEGOLAND Florida model shop manager and Master Builder. “There is a natural story to tell there.”

A ‘fun’ opportunity

Hughes and his engineering team worked closely with Merlin to gather ideas before creating the digital experience.

The challenge, he said, was taking a physical product and building an engaging experience that would help them learn while also being entertained.

“It was a challenge,” he said. “But it was also a fun opportunity.”