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®

 

A CNN Contributor Wrote That LEGO Kills Creativity In Children…Here Is Our Response.

CNN Contributor, Jake Wallis Simons, recently wrote a opinion piece, Why Is LEGO Ruining Our Kids’ Imagination.  Here is our response.

Hi Jake,

I recently read your opinion piece on CNN about Why LEGO Is Ruining Our Kids’ Imagination.

As an adult who plays with LEGO, an uncle of kids who play with LEGO and as someone who is part of an organization that teaches engineering concepts to kids using LEGO as the primary teaching medium, I completely disagree with you.  In my experience, LEGO continues to expand the imaginations of kids all around the world.

Tablets, TV shows, and video games are constantly competing for a child’s attention. Surrounded by all this technology, we somehow have more children than ever before choosing to play with small pieces of plastic in a pretty similar way to what kids did back in the 1950’s.  I’d consider that a win.

Sure, kids these days now have themed sets, from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars.  But when I watch my 8-year-old nephew flying Harry Potter on a Ninjago Dragon to Hobbiton, I realize that he is still using his imagination.  He just asked his grandfather to buy him a 2000-piece LEGO Simpsons House for Christmas, even though he has never watched The Simpsons.  Why?  Because the LEGO kit looks cool and seems challenging to build.  Completing such a complex, big build will not only boost his building confidence, but teach him subtle building tricks like how to build an angled roof, which I never learned with my 80’s LEGO sets.

Like a writer who needs inspiration by writing someone’s else words before starting to write their own, these kids are simply starting their creative process, and these sets help them get there.  These themed sets are bringing in more kids that otherwise may not have gotten involved with LEGO before, as they feel a connection to Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins, and Spiderman.

It’s true that, for a certain kind of kid, a bin of bricks by itself can be an amazing springboard for creativity.  But that’s kind of like assuming that the Mona Lisa can be painted with a box of twelve crayons by any child with no prior experience in the arts.  Sure, someone can do it.  But there is more than one path to finding out just how creative you can be.  For some kids, continuing down that path is easier when you have something really cool to show for all that hard work.

As adults and educators we know the skills, experiences and values that we want to share with children but part of what creates a life-long learner  and a well-rounded child is empowering them to discover those things on their own. That means that to a certain degree, we have to meet kids where they’re at and not send the message that the things they like are somehow wrong or bad. The truth is that kids love Super Heroes and Harry Potter and if we can use that love to foster an appreciation for science, engineering or learning in general, we absolutely should.

When you speak of kids having their creativity stifled, it ignores the fact that kids come to building with LEGO in a variety of ways.  If you are trying to help them find their creative confidence to build, you need to know and embrace where they are coming from.

In our engineering classes, we get kids of all building persuasions. There are some kids who love to build a set and are adamant about leaving it on the shelf never to be touched. There are the kids who choose to build based on whatever pops into their heads.  And we have seen kids who aren’t confident building at all. For all of these kids, as they build increasingly sophisticated projects over a 5-day camp, you can see their confidence and creativity getting stronger simply through the sheer act of building.

I’ve watched students in our classes start by simply making the projects we ask them to do.  As soon as they have accomplished that task, they can get into the good stuff, where we provide open-ended building challenges for them to solve. Because of the small wins of building the easier projects, they are more willing to take on more difficult builds. 

LEGO Sumerian Ziggurat

LEGO Sumerian Ziggurat built by students.

It’s easy to say that this or that thing just isn’t as good as it used to be. All the fear-driven articles we saw last year about the evolution of LEGO faces  is a good example of that.  I, like many, have a tendency to use the “kids these days…” argument when talking about popular toys.  I really shouldn’t judge though, since I grew up in the 80’s, when some of the most popular toys were He-Man and My Little Pony.  Talk about gender stereotypes.  It’s gotten better.  It’s far from perfect, but overall you have more kids building and playing.  Isn’t that what we want?

LEGO Letter to Parents

A letter to parents included in 70’s LEGO sets. Here is the story of the person who found it: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jobarrow/its-the-imagination-that-counts

As for LEGO Friends, we have seen kids who love it and kids who shy away from it.  We have learned ourselves that we must include the whole rainbow in our teaching kits because despite what “society” tells us, all kids like all colors.  This is a complicated issue, but again, you are getting more kids to build who otherwise might not.  And where LEGO may have misstepped with some of the less than stellar LEGO sets of the 80’s and 90’s, they made up for it with some encouragement (I.e. LEGO Scientist).

Kids are still kids.  Just like previous generations, they still play to create, to express themselves, and to solve problems. And there aren’t many toys out there that allow kids to do that anymore besides LEGO.  That’s why I teach with this toy and not with others.

So to answer the questions posed in your article, what sort of adults will today’s children become? What sort of world will they create? And what are their toys actually doing to them?

My answer to that as an educator would be to tell someone who is worried to first just breathe and relax.  My confidence in the future is reinforced everyday in the classes I see.  Kids amaze me constantly by coming up with solutions to building challenges that I would have never come up with.  They are just creative as kids of the past, if not more. They are curious about the world and want to be challenged.

Just like with any of us, that palpable, creative energy that children have for building just needs to be encouraged more.  And LEGO plays a crucial role in helping to cultivate that.  We witness kids building their futures worlds in our classes on a daily basis.  If what they create in class is any indication of what the future may hold, the future is going to be pretty awesome.

Respectfully,

Jeffrey Harry

Our First Ever Program In Wisconsin Got In The News

Our awesome instructor, Ray, taught our first class ever in Wisconsin at the Lake School.  The local paper wrote a piece on it.
Source: http://www.lakecountrynow.com/news/lakecountryreporter/inventing-a-focus-at-ulss-lower-school-b99398551z1-284160401.html

Inventing a focus at University Lake School’s Lower School

First school in state to try new program

Students pick out supplies to help construct a gondola at University Lake School. The after-school program at the Lower School uses Legos to help students focus on engineering principles.

Students pick out supplies to help construct a gondola at University Lake School. The after-school program at the Lower School uses Legos to help students focus on engineering principles. Photo By Evan Frank

Nov. 28, 2014

University Lake School students at the Lower School love playing with Legos.

That’s for certain. Although they may not realize it just yet, but a new after-school program at the school is teaching them about engineering and at the same time, getting the students to become critical thinkers.

The program, in its first year, focuses on engineering principles by way of Legos. ULS, according to Jen Costa, communications specialist at the school, is the first and only school in Wisconsin to offer the program to students.

When Hollenbeck met Madeleine Gabor, a Chicago Area manager of Play-Well TEKnologies, she thought the program would fit perfectly with the Lower School’s theme of inventions this year.

So far the response from students in the after-school program is overwhelmingly positive. There are two groups: kindergarten through second grade and third through fourth that will participate in the six-week program.

Second-grader Richie Dallen felt the different projects challenged him at times, while he caught on more easily to others.

“My favorite part is when we play the games after we build,” Richie said.

The students have the chance to play games with their creations after the instruction and building stage is complete.

Having fun while learning

Like most students in the program, Richie has Legos at home and enjoys the process of building different structures and objects.

“Everybody likes Lego,” Lower School Head Adriana Hollenbeck said. “It’s a common language.”

During the program’s second session, students learned from Ray Cisneros, a play-well employee who leads the class, about a gondola lift and how to create one with Legos.

“We want them to get introduced to the basic concepts of engineering,” said Cisneros. “I think the problem is it’s easy to become disconnected with science and math because it’s so abstract, but we take Legos and basically take these concepts and they’re able to learn them while building.”

Cisneros said the goal is to have fun while learning basic concepts of engineering.

“In the back of their mind, they’re going to remember gravity, they’ll remember friction, they’ll play around with torque,” Cisneros said.

According to Gabor, play-well, a California-based company, will be in the Kettle Moraine School District in January 2015.

Hollenbeck was drawn to play-well’s motto “Dream It. Build It. Wreck It. Repeat,” because it matched ULS’s goal to have students be intellectually curious and original thinkers.

“When you talk about intellectual curiosity and original thinking, a lot of that comes from playing and exploring and making mistakes,” Hollenbeck said.

The after-school program has drawn a good amount of interest, according to Hollenbeck.

“We have a waiting list,” she said. “You can see how engaged (the students) are.”

Hollenbeck noted the school, in collaboration with The Hawkins Center, will host a conference in February called Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child.

This is also part of the push to get the students to be more innovative thinkers.

Play-Well’s Halloween Costume Contest

Each year, we are amazed by the creativity of some of the Halloween costumes that we see from our students and their parents.  Check out this costume submitted by a parent last year.

LEGO Halloween 2

How we play well on Halloween: https://playwelltek.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/this-is-how-we-play-well-on-halloween/

This year, we wanted to celebrate that creativity by having a Halloween Costume Contest.  Post your Halloween costume on our Twitter Page, Facebook Page, or email it to jeff@play-well.org, and you could possibly win a Play-Well Halloween LEGO Bow Tie or LEGO Monsters Set.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 8.18.51 AM

Have a safe, fun, candy-filled Halloween!