Steampunk coming to LEGO this summer

Hang on to your pith helmets and goggles because LEGO has just announced they are officially venturing into the increasingly popular fantasy world of steampunk!

For many years, enthusiasts have been using LEGO’s versatile plastic building blocks to create replicas of their favorite steampunk designs, typically featuring steam-powered machinery and a Victorian-era flair, a la the works of HG Wells and Jules Verne.

But according to this month’s issue of LEGO Club Magazine, the toy brick company is jumping on board the winged flying machine and into the brass-age this July and releasing the steampunk-themed Level 4 Master Builder Academy set. Each level of the Master Builder Academy includes three models with 13 designs, follows a particular theme and focuses on various advanced building techniques. For this level, LEGO Master Builders will be able to build realistic Victorian-era architecture, design their own inventions and merge the futuristic idea of time-travel with the historical feeling of steampunk.

The models -- "Travel to the Past," "You are the Inventor" and "Master Historical Designs" -- are previewed after the jump, along with the model images.

MASTER HISTORICAL DESIGNS… TO BUILD MODELS FOR ANY PLACE OR TIME! - Designing & building realistic architecture! – LEGO Master Builders are influenced by real-world architecture when they design new LEGO sets. Learn how they use different styles from different eras or cultures to create all-new models! Whether it’s Roman windows, Asian temples or medieval houses, mastering these styles expands your building skills and helps you see new uses for all your LEGO pieces!

TRAVEL TO THE PAST… AND DESIGN THE FUTURE! – Launch your Invention Designer adventure! LEGO Master Builders merge the futuristic idea of time-travel with the clockwork gears and puffing steam-engines of the Victorian 1800′s – Steampunk! Steampunk is a science-fiction art-form that imagines the future as people might have in the past. Let it inspire all kinds of new ideas, and pick up some tips from professional LEGO designers on how to make your creations look futuristic, industrial or just plain cool!

YOU ARE THE INVENTOR… ADD MOVEMENT AND FUNCTIONALITY TO YOUR CREATIONS! – Follow in the footsteps of the great inventor Leonardo da Vinci! Build a model of one of his most famous inventions, a boat with two large paddle-wheels on its side! As you build it and more designs in this set, learn how to add gears and other mechanisms to your models to create real movement and functions! Be inspired by the LEGO Master Builders – and Leonardo – to imagine your own inventions!

As a fun side note, the LEGO steampunk movement gained momentum in January 2008, when a challenge was issued on the forums of From Bricks to Bothans: build a Steampunk version of an iconic Star Wars vehicle. There were so many entries that a second, more generalized contest was held the following month on, attracting the attention of the company.

Listen for the faint hiss of steam and the clanking of clockwork gears in LEGO stores this summer!

-Virginia Fasulo