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Teaching Engineering to Kids


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Why The LEGO Movie Deserves An Oscar Nomination For Best Animated Film

With the Academy Awards just around the corner, there will be one blatant omission from the animated movie category:  The LEGO Movie.  The film does not need an Oscar nomination, as it did phenomenally well at the box office, becoming one of the highest grossing animated movies of all time.  The directors are pretty clear that they are not looking for any Academy Award accolades, especially when they can build their own.

The question though is whether or not The LEGO Movie deserved a nomination for best animated film?  The answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ and here are the reasons why:

Production Value: One of The Most Detailed Animated Movies Ever Created

The LEGO Movie was one of the most complex and ambitious animated movies ever produced. According to Business Insider, “there were a total of 3,863,484 unique Lego bricks in the movie…if you wanted to recreate the entire movie, you would need 15,080,330 Lego pieces.”  No other animated movie has had to base their animation on over 3 million toy pieces before.

Also, the 3-minute stop animation ending credits took 50 people over a year to make using 60,000 pieces of LEGO.  This may be one of the most painstakingly detailed ending credits of all time.  See it for yourself.

These two animated achievements alone deserve recognition by The Academy.

Story Line: A Multi-layered Story That Challenges Societal Norms

Now ignore the production value and focus on the strength of the story.  On the surface, The LEGO Movie has a cliche storyline.  An ordinary individual, Emmet, is chosen to save the world.

If you look past that though, the are many complex layers underneath it.  A critique of American mass culture, an introduction to a burning man type society (an unambiguous nod to Aristophanes’ satirical play “The Birds,” written about 2,400 years ago, which included a chaotic realm called Cloud Cuckoo Land).  And even a 2nd Inception type level of the story where you find a LEGO Hobbyist father, obsessed with keeping his LEGO perfect with the help of Kragle Crazy Glue and his son, who just wants to create fun worlds with LEGO.  The two of them determine the outcome of the main LEGO characters through their own process of play.

That’s quite a few layers for a film simply called The LEGO Movie.  Based on that title, the writers could have easily cooked up a weak plot to only appease kids so that they could sell more LEGO. Instead, they created a complex enough story line to cause a political debate which the New Yorker, Fox News, and the Economist covered.  Here is an excerpt from the Economist about the filmYou can make what you like of “The Lego Movie”, but your correspondent found its message to be pleasingly libertarian: suspicious of top-down power and supportive of individual rights (such as the right of Lego people not to spend eternity in the position Lord Business deems correct). Its target is dull conformity. “Take everything weird and blow it up!

When was the last time an animated movie stirred up this level of debate?

Competition: More Ambitious Goals Than Their Nominated Counterparts

If you still are not convinced, take a look at the animated movies nominated this year: Big Hero 6, Song of the Sea, The Boxtrolls, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. There are some strong animated movies here that undoubtedly deserve an Oscar nomination.  Big Hero Six is a great heartfelt, tear-jerking story.  The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, from the legendary Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, produced many other amazing animated films.  The other nominees are also strong films.

However, they did not take on the challenges that The LEGO Movie chose to do. From recreating an entire movie out of LEGO to attempting to address the ills of our economic and political system, all while also being extremely witty and entertaining.  The other movies also did not have a demanding fan base, the way the LEGO community has. There are the fanatic LEGO kids, the tweens/teenagers of First LEGO League, as well as the adult fans of LEGO, and everyone in between.  Those are drastically different populations to please and the producers were able to ride that fine line extremely well.

Even the critics agreed.  The LEGO Movie is one of the highest rated animated movies ever on Rotten Tomatoes, beating out all of this year’s Oscar nominated animated films.  One year after its release, critics still consider it a ground-breaking movie.

Impact: Children Are Inspired To Build More

Now if all of those reasons are not enough, the one that resonates most with us is that The LEGO Movie inspired our youngest LEGO enthusiasts.  Every good movie is inspirational in some way, but how many films compel kids to go home and start immediately creating?  In our classes, a year later, our LEGO engineers are still referencing that movie as they build their creations.

"I know what you are thinking. He is the least qualified person to lead us. And you are right!"  The LEGO Movie

Scene built by our engineering students

Some of these kids may end up becoming our future engineers, scientists, and next great innovators, shaping the world the way the LEGO Master Builders do in this movie.  And they may in fact reference of all things an animated film about LEGO, as one of their inspirations. Name an Oscar nominated movie this year that has the potential to make a similar impact.

If you watch any great Oscars acceptance speech, it’s about being inspired to pursue some impossible, irrational dream?  The LEGO Movie achieved their impossible goal of creating a complex enough movie that critiques American mass culture, captures the zeitgeist of the LEGO world, all while inspiring the next generation of creators.  Because of this, it should be recognized as one of the best animated films of the year.  Luckily for The Academy, they’ll have a second chance when The LEGO Movie 2 is released.  The consolation prize of having their subversive “Everything Is Awesome” song nominated for best song is simply not enough, even if it is a catchy song.


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Help Us Pick Our First Play-Well T-Shirt!

For many years, people have asked us if we had Play Well TEKnologies shirts. Well, we finally are getting around to tackling this project and we need your help. We have five different t-shirt designs and we are trying to figure out which ones is the best. Simply like the picture of the t-shirt you think is the best on our Play-Well Facebook T-Shirt Page.  If you like more than one, feel free to like more shirts. Based on the # of likes, we will create a t-shirt that you eventually can purchase for your child or even for yourself.

Don’t have a Facebook Page.  No problem.  We have provided the t-shirts below and you can vote in the comments section.  We have numbered the shirts below as a way to identify them.

Shirt Idea Brain

Play-Well Shirt #1

 

ShirtIdeas_Combine1

Play-Well Shirt #2

ShirtIdeas_DaVinci

Play-Well Shirt #3

ShirtIdeas_Dreamit

Play-Well Shirt #4

ShirtIdeas_Other2

Play-Well Shirt #5

Thanks so much for your help!


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Press Advisory: Building Boulder Out of LEGO For National Engineering Week

National Engineering Week: Building Boulder out of LEGO

WHEN: Saturday, February 21st, 1 PM – 4 PM

WHERE: Boulder Public Library

It is no mystery that America has some catching up to do with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.  The National Math & Science Initiative has reported that “only 38% students who have STEM majors receive a degree in that major, and 31 percent of U.S. bachelor’s degrees were awarded in science and engineering fields, compared with 61 percent in Japan and 51 percent in China.”

The city of Boulder, Colorado is doing something to address this problem.  Boulder Valley School District is applying for STEM Grants and building STEM Coalitions with local universities. Supporting local STEM non-profits like Cool Girls, hosting Maker Faire Boulder and Boulder Public Library’s STEAM Saturdays.

On Saturday, February 21st, Boulder Public Library is teaming up with Play-Well TEKnologies, an organization that teaches kids engineering concepts using LEGO, in a collaborative effort to introduce more kids to the world of engineering.  Over 100,000 pieces of LEGO and hundreds of families will be converging on the Boulder Public Library, in an effort to build the City of Boulder out of LEGO and get more kids interested in engineering and other STEM and STEAM-related fields.

Introduce A Kid To Engineering Day

For more information on the event, visit: http://bit.ly/BoulderLibraryEngineeringDayForKids

Brianna Laffey, a Play-Well staffer who is helping to coordinate the event, says “the goal of this event is to introduce kids to engineering in a fun, memorable way so they want to know more” and “help promote the good work that the Boulder Library is doing around STEAM.”

This event coincides with the beginning of National Engineering Week.  “The idea of building Boulder out of LEGO partly represents that it is going to take a community to help build the engineers and scientists of tomorrow.  We just so happen to be doing it one LEGO brick at a time.”

For more information about the Boulder Library STEAM event, visit http://bit.ly/BoulderLibraryEngineeringDayForKids or contact Brianna Laffey at 720.515.7309 or at brianna@play-well.org.

Play- Well TEKnologies programs are not authorized, sponsored or endorsed by the LEGO® Group.

What Is It Like Working With Play-Well?

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What Is It Like Working at Play-Well? We asked our managers and instructors from across the country what it was like working for Play-Well TEKnologies and this is what they had to say.

If you are looking a fun, challenging, dynamic job teaching kids engineering with 20,000 pieces of LEGO, find out more information here: http://bit.ly/play-well-jobs.


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Congratulations Patriots Fans! Earn Your New England Patriots LEGO Bow Tie!

Super Bowl XLIX was one of the closest Super Bowls of all time, so we decided to recreate the final play in LEGO.

New England Super Bowl Win

Congratulations N.E. Patriots Fans on your Super Bowl Win.  For winning, we are doing an additional LEGO contest where you could win a New England Patriots LEGO Bow Tie.

New England Patriots LEGO Bow Tie

In order to win a LEGO Bow Tie, here is how to participate.

or

  • Tweet the photo to Play-Well Twitter Page, #SuperBowlLEGOBowTie
    • Don’t have a Facebook or Twitter Page? No problem.  Just email your photo to jeff@play-well.org and we will post it.

Here is an example of New England Patriot Tribute in LEGO:

New England Patriots LEGO Tribute

Be as creative as you want. We will pick the two most creative photos by this Sunday.

Questions:

When is the deadline to enter?

Photos can be submitted up through Sunday, February 8th.

When and how will you pick the winner?

We will choose the most creative, off-the-wall fan photo that incorporates LEGO.  If it is a tie between more than two winners, we may give another LEGO Bow Tie away.

To get started, click HERE to like our Play-Well Facebook Page and start taking photos.

For more information about Play-Well Engineering with LEGO Program, visit www.play-well.org.

 

 

 

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