When I was young Lego was the be all and end all of all toys. My brother and I would build all manner of spaceship or boat, and play for hours. We used Lego to supplement our Star Wars figure fun…no Landspeeder? No problem, Lego will solve it all. Of course many years later the union between Lego and Star Wars would take on a new life with co-branded and co-themed video games delivered by Lucas Arts, and Star Wars themed Lego sets.
But my brother and I were first…at least in our own minds–no sets, no models, no instructions. We were old school Lego-maniacs!
The thing that stuck with me through our Lego play was what I learned from playing with that toy is that we could solve any problem, and build any replacement part or piece or item for any activity. I’ve built table legs, propped up beds, Landspeeders, X-Wings, and even a Death Star. I’ve used my imagination to build things I couldn’t see, I couldn’t touch, and that I couldn’t remember.
Later in life I would go through uni and earn a Mechanical Engineering degree, and those key skills I learned from my Lego days helped me through: problem solving, basic engineering, physics, efficiency (using the least number of pieces to achieve one’s goal), and design. As with all things I suppose I grew older, and Lego lay mostly forgotten until February of this year when I seized the opportunity to run the Lego club at the local library. I work with 40 kids in a single day (2 sessions of 2 hours with 20 kids a piece) every couple of weeks, and it’s nothing less than re-living my greatest childhood achievements–yes they all had to do with Lego and what I could build, and nothing to do with academics or sports.
A couple of weeks ago I picked Ancient Civilizations for the Lego club’s theme. Standard fare is to show a short presentation on what Ancient Civilizations are, and then Ancient Civilizations themed scenes or items created with Lego. After that mandatory first 10 minutes we set the kids loose and leave them to decide what they’re going to build. One 11 year in my older group decided to recreate The Sphinx on his own from a 1″ x 1″ black and white picture in one of the books the library had provided for inspiration.
At first I thought what a lofty goal and applauded his enthusiasm, but I didn’t believe that he was going to make it. By the end of the two-hour period he had reminded me exactly what Lego is for, and what is achievable by through sheer determination and an ability to see through the lines. Noting that all the pieces we have that the club live in six 40 litre Rubbermaid containers and mostly filled with odd-ball pieces, his achievement deserved a special mention. Thankfully the library agreed and put it on display.
The slide show below shows a few items (including The Sphinx) that created that day:
My little friends had reminded me of that ultimate Lego moment: when one’s chest fills with pride; one’s heart glows brightly with achievement; and when the umbilical of one’s creation is cut and the creation shared with everyone. A pure moment.
When all was done I thanked the youth for his brilliant contribution that day and ended as Palpatine would end his fleeting meeting with young Anakin in Episode I: The Phantom Menace:
…We will watch your career with great interest…