Building The City of Honolulu out of 20,000 LEGO® Pieces

On Saturday, June 3, 2017, Play-Well TEKnologies and the Hawaii State Public Library will be collaborating together to create an opportunity for families to build the city of Honolulu out of 20,000 LEGO® Bricks.  Families will have the opportunity to create Honolulu, as they would like to see it.  They can construct the library, downtown Honolulu, their own home, school, playgrounds, parks etc., all out of 20,000 LEGO® pieces all for FREE.  Kids will explore hands-on architecture and learn about how to build strong structures out of LEGO® bricks.

The event is the Kick-off to Hawaii State Public Library’s Summer Reading Program and is completely FREE to the public.  We do encourage families to register at the link below, as the event may sell out.

Here are the details:

Date & Time:  Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 / 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

(You can register for one of six different 30-minute time slots throughout the day)

Location: Hawaii State Public Library, 478 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813

Register For The City of Honolulu Build Here

Event Contacts:

Frequently Asked Questions:

What do these city builds look like?

Can I drop my kid off at the event?

  • We ask that parents stay with their kids at all times

Will the kids get to keep their LEGO® creations after the event is over?

Can kids bring their own LEGO pieces to add to the city?

  • We ask that kids keep their LEGO® pieces at home as we would not want them to lose their favorite LEGO® pieces

We aren’t able to make it to the event, but would love for you to come to our neighborhood or school.  Is that possible?

How Long Has Play-Well Been in Hawaii?

For more information about Play-Well, visit play-well.org or send a question to Wrenn Okada at Wrenn@play-well.org.

Warwick Elementary Builds Star Wars Worlds with 60,000 LEGO® pieces

On May The Fourth, 2017, Warwick Elementary Families and Play-Well TEKnologies collaborated to build three separate Star Wars Worlds.  Those worlds included the Ewok Village, Cloud City, and the trenches of the Death Star.  Here is what over 200 families were able to create in just two hours…

If you’d like us to do an event like this at your school, visit our special events page for details: http://play-well.org/about-special-events.shtml

How To Turn Your Passion For LEGO® Into A Career

Retired LEGO® Master Model Builder Steve Gerling wearing one of our Play-Well Bow Ties.

Parents frequently ask us “How can my kid become a LEGO® Master Builder?”  Although we are not LEGO® Master Builders ourselves, we have met a few of them and we have spent a great deal of time in the world of LEGO®.  So, we decided the best way to answer these questions is to compile an extensive list of our favorite resources about the various paths of turning your love of LEGO® into a career.  

We apologize for the length, as we wanted to make it as comprehensive a list as possible.  If you have additional links you’d like to share, feel free to provide them in the comments below.  

We have broken it down into two sections:

  1. How Can My Child Become a LEGO® Master Builder?  
  2. Can I Get Paid To Play With LEGO® without becoming a LEGO® Master Builder?

We hope you find this helpful.

How Can My Child Become a LEGO® Master Builder – Comprehensive Resource List

Before we begin, we must first define a few job terms in the world of LEGO®.

LEGO® Master Builders are generally responsible for designing and building promotional displays for The LEGO Group, such as X-Wing, LEGO® Version of David Ortiz, and the Millennium Falcon.  There are currently only 7 LEGO® Master Builders in the world.

LEGO® Designers create the LEGO sets that you get to build with.

LEGO® Master Model Builders create promotional displays at LEGOLAND Parks around the world.

LEGO® Certified Professionals is a community-based program made up of adult LEGO® hobbyists who have turned their passion for building and creating with LEGO® bricks into a full-time or part-time profession.

What we found from our research is a complicated truth.  There is no specific route to become a LEGO® Master Builder. Master builders and designers come from all different backgrounds and all walks of life. Some builders didn’t even play with LEGO® as a kid!

Does your entire family consist of LEGO® fanatics? For the last seven years, we have been working with the Father and son duo, Dan and Chris Steininger, as part of LEGO® Kidsfest,. Chris has followed in his father Dan’s footsteps to become a father-son LEGO® Master Builder team! For the Steininger’s LEGO® really is a family affair.

Top: The son, Chris Steininger, and his family wearing LEGO® Bow Ties Bottom: The Father, Dan Steininger talking with an aspiring LEGO® Builder at the final LEGO® Kidsfest.

The LEGO® Master Model Builder world has been a bit of a boys club but the field is transitioning into an increasingly girl-friendly environment. In June 2014, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester hired their first female LEGO® Master Model Builder, Veronica Watson.  She was recently in a NY Times article, featuring her LEGO version of Picasso’s Guernica.   

Dana Brandsema, one of our awesome Play-Well staff, was a LEGO® Master Model Builder back in 2010 at San Diego’s LEGOLAND.  Here is her story on how she became a model builder:

If your daughter loves to create unique creations out of LEGO® make sure to snap a lot of photos for her portfolio.  One day she may be competing to become the next LEGO® Master Builder.

Not all of the LEGO® Master Builders spend their time making models for theme parks and discovery centers. Former corporate attorney, Nathan Sawaya left his job in New York City to become a full-time LEGO® artist. His brick sculptures have been featured in countless museums and galleries around the world.  He is best known for his Art of The Brick Exhibition, which CNN has called “one of the top global exhibitions to see.”

Many of the Master Builders we have come across have a background in the arts including fine art, cartoons and sculpting. Erik Varszegi didn’t play with LEGO® as a child but he did love comic books and Star Wars.

The LEGO® Blockumentary Series is a great resource for parents & kids who want to learn what it’s like during at an average day working for LEGO®.  Here is one of Dan Steininger.

If you would like to work at LEGOLAND as a LEGO® Master Model Builder, there is one rite of passage for everyone in this coveted job. The LEGO® Master Model Builder job interview is a live competition where LEGO® fanatics have to build against one another to earn the spot as the newest LEGO® Master Model Builder. Check out this video of a real LEGO® Master Model Builder build competition at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Arizona.

According to LEGOLAND staff, “passion and the agility of being creative” are key ingredients to becoming part of the LEGO® team.  Here is an infographic from LEGOLAND on how to become a LEGO® Master Model Builder. 

Quartz recently did an interesting interview with Erik Varszegi and asked him about becoming a Master Builder.   According to Eric, the harsh reality is, “Sadly, you probably have a better chance of being a pro basketball player.”  There are only 7 LEGO® Master Builders in the world.

That is no reason to be discouraged.  There are still hundreds of jobs with LEGO® besides being a Master Builder and working at the LEGO® company is a great way to climb through the ranks. You can start as a gluer, a model builder, product design, transportation logistics, engineering, game design and more. LEGO® is always hiring enthusiastic, passionate people. They have offices and build centers all over the world and many times model builders will have the flexibility to relocate. Check out their online job listings for more information.

Want to know what it is like to work at The LEGO Group Headquarters?  Check out this video and the Life At The LEGO Group YouTube Series here.

Can I Get Paid To Play With LEGO® without becoming a LEGO® Master Builder?

You sure can.  Another route to being able to play to build with LEGO® is to explore the world of AFOL:  Adult Fans of LEGO®.  An entire documentary called The LEGO® Brickumentary depicts the AFOL world and all the awesome people who are part of it.  

Quite a few people in the AFOL community have been able to turn their passion of LEGO® into a part or full-time job playing with LEGO®. One of those amazing people, Alice Finch, built gigantic models of both Hogwarts and Rivendell out of LEGO® materials.

Alice may not have the title of a LEGO® Master Builder, but all of her work communicates otherwise.  There is Miss Courageous, Millie Higert, who makes LEGO®-Inspired Jewelry.  There is the creative artist, Guy Himber, who makes fun, customizable pieces out of LEGO®.  Mariann Asanuma, a former LEGO® Master Model Builder, makes models out of LEGO® materials through her organization, Modeling Building Secrets.  Joshua Harlan and Matthew Kay turned their love of LEGO® into a film career where they spotlight the world’s top LEGO® builders and their creations on their youtube channel: Beyond The Brick.   They recently visited Alice Finch’s house to see her 4 Million LEGO® piece collection.

You can meet tremendous LEGO® builders and creators, just like them, at the AFOL events that happen all over the country and see some of their incredible creations.  Here is a list of these LEGO® Conventions.  

Here are a few other pretty amazing people creating phenomenal creations with LEGO® materials:

Adam Ward, Soul Pancake

Jason Allemann of JKBrickworks

Yoshito Isogawa, who has written a few books about LEGO, including The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Simple Machines

In our travels, we have met LEGO® Stop-Motion Animators,  photographers of all things LEGO® with huge followings on Instagram, writers blogging about their love of LEGO®, designers who create custom LEGO® Minifigures, as well as individuals making a living simply opening LEGO® kits to talk about them.  Check out this next example.

Do you think you are still too young to get paid to play with LEGO®?

Meet Evan, who started making videos of him playing with toys at 6.  He now has been doing reviews about LEGO® sets and other toys on his channel EvanTubeHD for the past 5 years.

His little sister also has a channel called JillianTubeHD.

How do we play with LEGO® at Play-Well?

At Play-Well, we play with LEGO® by teaching LEGO®-Inspired STEM and STEAM programs. Our hope is to inspire the next generation of engineers, inventors, and innovators, as well as LEGO® Master Builders & Designers.  Our staff love getting kids excited about engineering while playing.  Here is how our staff plays:  

Some of our staff now help build huge structures out of LEGO® materials as a way to bring the community together.  Here is one of our favorite recent builds:

Want even more information about becoming a LEGO® Master Builder, artist or designer?  We have provided additional articles, interviews, and videos below.  If you see a great article or video missing from this list, let us know and we will add it.

LEGO® Master Builder Articles:

LEGO® Master Builder Interviews:

LEGO® Master Builder Videos:

Great Links That Are All Things LEGO®

 

Team Building Through Play

Back in 2009, a corporation asked us if we could provide them a fun team building event using LEGO® materials.  Well, our organization had been playing with LEGO® bricks since 1997, so we thought, why not give it a try.  Approximately 8 years later, we have now run team building events for Fortune 500 companies, around the country, such as Google, Microsoft, VISA, Pixar, and Clorox.  Check out some of what we have done below:

Check out some of the events we have run below:

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We ran a team building event recently for Google’s Global Food Program Team. Here is what they accomplished: https://playwelltek.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/google-team-is-connecting-over-lego/

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We participated in one of Medtronic’s retreats and had them building with LEGO at a winery. https://playwelltek.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/medtronic-plays/

Clorox visited Play-Well Pleasanton and created a Rube Goldberg LEGO project that used it’s own products.

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We ran a team building event for 100 B.O.S.S. Staffers.  Here is an article describing that day: http://bit.ly/BOSSPlay-WellTeamBuildingDay

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MarkWest Energy in Colorado held their annual retreat for their engineering staff and we provided them some creative, collaborative challenges with LEGO. https://playwelltek.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/team-building-with-mark-west/

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An NCAA college basketball coach had us create a LEGO basketball challenge for their team before the start of the season: https://playwelltek.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/college-basketball-team-plays-well-with-lego/

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Amazon asked us to create a LEGO building contest for their team of engineers. Here is what they produced: https://playwelltek.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/amazon-slo-lego-building-competition-with-engineers/

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We brought millennial students and working professionals together to learn about each other, how they work, and what is important to them all through LEGO. https://playwelltek.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/millennials-professionals-collaborate-with-lego/

Click HERE for more information about our Play-Well Team Building Events or you can complete our Team Building Interest Form HERE.

Google & Play-Well Connecting Over LEGO

We recently ran a Play-Well Team Building Event for Google’s Global Food Program Team.  The goals were to inspire creativity, collaboration, all while solving problems in a fun way.  And of course, we used LEGO to do this.  Check out some of the LEGO challenges they got to do.

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The team dove fully into the project, sometimes even standing on tables in order to accomplish their goal.

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We hope that will stay up there.

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Staff took a lot of joy in trying to knock each other’s LEGO Towers down.

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This LEGO tower was left standing though.

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Now on to the more complex LEGO build.

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One of the challenges is to figure out how to get many different contraptions to work all at a uniform rate.

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Attendees used everything at their disposal to help solve a complex LEGO build.

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Even choosing to build on the floor if necessary.

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One of the managers overseeing his staff’s work. He was quite impressed.

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Now they have figured out what they need to do and are building fast.

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We even had time for LEGO car races.

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And the competition was fierce.

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Some staff even left the build to watch the LEGO races.

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Back in the room, the large build is moving quickly.

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Once that task was done, it was time for the creative LEGO builds.

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Many different ideas were coming into play.

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This build included a pirate theme and a flag.

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This group incorporated flowers, twigs, and a wine cork into their LEGO contraption.

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This team was quite proud of their LEGO creation.

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Overall, people were having a great time.

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In the end, we had a debrief about the build and the day.

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Many people had built some impressive LEGO creations in such a short span of time.

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We reviewed some of the lessons we learned that day about the team. Overall, a really great group that worked extremely well together.

If you’d like us to provide a team building event for your organization, simply complete our team building interest form HERE.  For more information about our Play-Well Team Building events, click HERE.

TedX Attendees Playing Well in Colorado

At Tedx Mile High #IdeasAtPlay Conference, we created a play activation zone using LEGO for attendees.  Here is what we came up with.

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Attendees were excited to participate in our LEGO Battle Track Jousting Competition.

 

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TedXMileHigh Attendees got to build with over 20,000 pieces of LEGO.

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This is what they named our zone.

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We built a working LEGO Ferris Wheel for the event.

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And added a working LEGO conveyor belt and Nepalese LEGO Pagoda.

Let us know if you’d like us to add a LEGO play activation zone for your next conference or special event.  To request more details, complete our special request form here.

To see our other large scale LEGO build events, click here.  

Press Advisory: Female Scholars of Science & Technology with Alice Finch

Femal Scholars with Alice Finch

WHEN: Saturday, April 18th, 10 AM – 5:30 PM

WHERE: Play-Well Northwest, 11743 124th Avenue NE, Kirkland, WA 98034

Rachel Swaby asks her readers, in a recent Wire magazine article called “We Need To Stop Ignoring Women Scientists” can you identify a female scholar of science and technology who has helped to change the world?  For most people, the answer is no.

Play-Well TEKnologies and World-Renowned LEGO Builder Alice Finch, the creator of the 400,000 piece LEGO Hogwarts Castle, are hoping to change that. On Saturday, April 18th from 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM, Alice Finch (with a little help from Play-Well) will introduce students to the many technological advancements contributed by female scientists and engineers.  Alice and Play-Well will do this by having children learn experientially through building LEGO models of these great female scholars’ inventions. This is Alice Finch’s kick-off event as part of a larger project to introduce a variety of women scholars to kids through a LEGO curation.

Why is this such an important issue to address? CNN recently reported that in the U.S., “just one in seven engineers are female, only 27% of all computer science jobs are held by women, and women have seen no employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000.” A group of women leaders in STEM fields surveyed by CNN presented these possible solutions to address this issue:

1. Recognize that the the toys and games that young girls play with mold their educational and career interests.

2. Introduce girls early to role models of other women in STEM.

3. Engage girls in STEM and keep them interested.

This workshop addresses all three of these solutions, providing students an opportunity to learn about female science and technology role models in an engaging way using LEGO.  This initial event is a trial to see how much interest there is for this type of learning and subject matter… and if having this event sell out in a few hours in any indication, there is definitely a need for more of this type of education.

For more information about the Female Scholars of Science & Technology event, click here or visit http://bit.ly/FemaleScholarsOfScienceWorkshop.  For specific questions about the event, please contact Claire Stafford at (206) 310-0678 or at claire@play-well.org.

LEGO Female Scientist

New LEGO Female Scientist Minifigure by LEGO.

 

 

Can We Measure Learning Through Play?

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This look of wonder and amazement in our students is what we strive for in each of our classes.

A question was posed on the LEGO Foundation Ideas Conference Forum: How can we measure learning through play?

The background of the question was:

“Measurements of learning is currently driven by a discussion of standardized tests in schools, which comes with a risk of teaching to the test, and not focusing on the soft skills with children’s motivation for learning and lifelong outcomes. Who are measurements actually for? And how can we provide new ways of measuring the critical soft skills, like collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, at the same time as making them relevant for the everyday situations in the home, and practices in the classroom?”

We at Play-Well have been asking, answering and re-asking this question for the past 18 years. After teaching over 500,000 kids, we have come to a few truths about play:

  • You can get kids excited about learning through play.
  • Children absorb and remember information when they are fully engaged, especially through play.
  • While it cannot replace scholastic practice in the classroom, play can be used to successfully explain and exemplify complicated academic concepts.

We know that play is powerful. We see it every day in our classes and hear it from parents. One parent relayed a story to us about a kindergartener: after one of our classes, who went to the playground, slid down the slide, and said to himself, “wow, this slide has a lot of friction!”

So, how do we measure this knowledge? That is where it gets tricky. Not only because the goals of each class are unique and difficult to pin down, but also because it forces us to confront an uncomfortable truth: we shouldn’t measure play.

Do we undermine the self-direction of play through measurement?

Play-Well Students

The entire premise of play is that it is self-directed and open-ended. Kids might play to explore the world, solve problems, or express who they are. These are only a few of the reasons children engage in play, and each has its merits in creating a well-rounded child.

Our friends in Montessori education have been strong advocates for self-direction in education: children may choose an activity and work on that activity until they feel they have completed it.  They are done when they believe they have completed it, without the interference of their teacher. They understand that self-direction empowers children and that confidence helps create life-long learners.

Any attempt to measure organic play limits the open-ended nature of it; and in doing so, we may unintentionally saddle children with adult expectations or ideas of what “success” is.

How effective would measurements on play be?

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We could come up with metrics to measure some aspects of play, but we must ask ourselves: would the data we received be worth the potential harm created in collecting it?

Our most satisfying times in the classroom, as instructors, are when our students have epiphany moments. We know that we can create the environment for those opportunities to happen, but it is out of our control as to when they happen.

Let’s revisit the kindergartener experiencing friction on the slide. We had reviewed that term numerous times through playing that week, so at some point it resonated with him. How do you measure that?  When did the connection between our class and the slide occur?  Did he have the epiphany on the slide or somewhere else? Does it matter? Furthermore, in peppering the child with questions attempting to solve the mystery, we ruin the positive association that child had with learning about friction. In the journey from qualitative play to quantitative measurement, the true magic of play will be lost in translation. It will fall short of what is possible if we just allow kids to explore the world for themselves, at their own pace, and trust that learning will happen.

A teacher in the U.S. recently wrote a resignation letter, stating that she needed to step down because she believed her profession no longer existed.  With so much of her job being about standardized tests and constant measurement, her ability to actually be a teacher, allowed to play and experiment to get her kids excited by learning, was gone.  By forcing common standards of teaching in the U.S., the powers that be had stifled this teacher’s ability to do her job in a way that spoke to her children.

In the play setting, who is the better teacher? The adult or the child?

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So, given all the risk, why would we evaluate play or use play as a measurement tool? We love our children and we recognize play as nourishment for young minds. We want to support that in any way possible and we want that support to be based in peer-reviewed study. This is where we hit the crux of the questions posed: who are measurements actually for?

In simplistic terms, measurements are for adults, and play is for kids.

If you were to ask a child at play, “are you having fun?” She would say, “yes.”  If you asked her to articulate why she is having fun, you’ll probably hear, “I don’t know, it just is.”  She might not fully understand why she does what she does, or what she is learning when she plays, but it is happening. Children submit their bodies, their minds and their spirits to whatever creative world they are traveling through when they play and they do so without judgment or expectation. You can see it in the way their limbs hang when they are being carried to bed after a long day of play: that child gave all of himself to his adventure today. The fullness with which children embrace and indulge in their experiences is something from which we adults can learn. So let us take an opportunity to embrace the process of play without analysis of the results. Can play be a valuable learning tool or method of measurement? Yes. How can we prove it? We shouldn’t bother trying. Or as a child would say, “it just is.”

What will save us? Perhaps Play.

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Ken Robinson, in his lecture about schools killing creativity, explains how the musical Cats almost didn’t happen. The most successful musical of all time only happened because the creator was pulled out of a regular classroom and identified by a teacher as being a dancer, instead of someone who just couldn’t sit still in class. Ken explained that world-changing potential is sitting in our classrooms, but we need to allow kids to play if they are going to understand who they want to be. We as adults must exercise some restraint and allow children to experience that process uninhibited by our desire to understand it. We must treat play as sacred and do all that we can to keep it whole. This is how we can advocate for children and also for ourselves. Because the next great solution, the life-changing invention, the cure for cancer–these things won’t come from a mind that can merely think outside the box; they will come from a mind that thinks the box doesn’t exist.

Contributors To This Article: Erik Olson, Maddy Gabor, & Jeff Harry

LEGO or Mega Bloks: Which One Is Better? April Fool’s!

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After 18 years of working with LEGO and teaching over half a million kids with LEGO, our organization has decided to make the switch to Mega Bloks.  We know that some of our families may not agree with our decision, but based on factors outside of our control, we feel our hand has been forced.

The main reasons for this change:

  • Cost
  • Dynamic Theme Sets
  • Non-Stickability

The cost of LEGO keeps going up, and the only remaining options are to use Mega Bloks or Lincoln Logs. We opted for Mega Bloks.

We had to document our first purchase of Mega Bloks.

Our first store purchase of Mega Bloks.

We also have been very pleased with the new Mega Bloks lineup of non-violent theme sets, such as Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty.  We recently sent out a survey to our families asking: do you find more of an educational component in kids shooting aliens as in Halo, or building Minecraft Biomes?  To our surprise, “shooting aliens” was the answer.

We have found that Mega Bloks have far superior non-stickability, a word recently added to the Webster’s dictionary.  We enjoy the fact that sometimes Mega Bloks simply just fall off each other for no reason, creating an extra challenge for the kids to figure out.  Now, when a student asks “Why did my house fall apart,” we can say, “it’s not our fault.”

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One great thing about ordering Mega Bloks. They are never out of stock.

 

We have amassed over 5 million pieces of LEGO over the years and are open to selling them at a fraction of the price.  If you’d like to purchase our LEGO, simply email us at YouCannotBuyOurLEGOOnAprilFools@play-well.org.

We will miss you, LEGO, and all that you have done for us over the years.  We look forward to our new partnership with Mega Bloks and their gender-neutral Barbie line.

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Playing Well with Future Engineers at the National Society of Black Engineers Conference

The National Society of Black Engineers invited us to their annual conference at the Anaheim Convention Center. Future engineers from all across the country flew in to learn more about the world of engineering and how they can pursue a career in the engineering field. Our job was to introduce elementary through high school students to the world of engineering using LEGO.  We really appreciate the opportunity to work with extremely smart, dedicated, focused students. Thanks NSBE for having us!  Here is a video and pictures of what we were able to create with these awesome engineers of the future.

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We have a packed room for our Engineering skills class for high school students. We taught students about reverse engineering and how to see their failures as simply stepping stones to success.

 

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This student was quite pleased that he was able to reverse engineer his project and figure out how to combine two transmissions together in a simple, efficient way.

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These middle school engineering students solved a conveyor belt challenge by fixing design flaws in real time.

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One of our students, Justin, checking our 12 ft long cable-stayed bridge for any structural issues and adding the final touches.

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Success! 12ft cable-stayed bridge built in less than 1 hour.

 

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One of our staffers, Chre, who is a National Society of Black Engineers alumni, found his almamater there and they had to take a picture of this Aerospace Engineering Graduate who is now getting other kids interested in engineering

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So many different creative designs to tackle the challenge.

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We are not LEGOLAND, but for one workshop, we did provide an extravaganza of LEGO.

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We built a 17 ft long corbelled arch bridge. It took us less than 1 hour.

If you’d like us to participate in your conference, check out our Special Events page.