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Teaching Engineering to Kids


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LEGO…You Are Better Than Beauty Tips

We recently came across this parent blog post in the New York Times called Beauty Tips For Girls, From LEGO.  Here is an excerpt of the piece:

motherlode-lego-tmagArticle

“My 7-year-old wants to know if she has an oval face. Why? Because “oval faces can often have almost any style haircut because almost everything looks great on this face shape!” Her sudden concern with her hairstyle “looking great” comes courtesy of her new Lego Club Magazine, which included “Emma’s Beauty Tips” in the March-April 2015 Lego Club Magazine.  She is 7. My little girl, the shape of her face, and whether her haircut is flattering are none of Lego’s concern. It wasn’t even her concern until a toy magazine told her to start worrying about it.  I had come down (barely) on Lego’s side in its quest to sell girls the glammed-up Lego Friends line, full of bricked-out beauty salons and pool parties and horse stables. But now this?”

Our Response:

Dear LEGO,

Typically we love you and your work, but your LEGO Friends beauty tips in the last issue of the LEGO Club Magazine is just wrong.  Being smart and kind is beautiful, not your hair or face shape.  Playtime shouldn’t be about beauty tips, it should be about learning and growing. Shaping the next generation is a great privilege. Let’s not waste it.  If anything, this is the type of beauty tip we expect from you LEGO and you said this message back in 1981.  Still relevant today.

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Happy PI Day: 3.141592653589793238

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In commemoration of this historic PI day, 3.14.15, we created a video to honor this awesome day. And we get to celebrate Albert Einstein’s birthday too today. Yippee! The best way to recognize PI Day is with some LEGO.

FullSizeRender-1 FullSizeRender


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Happy 103rd Birthday Girl Scouts!

Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia, on March 12, 1912, for a local Girl Scout meeting. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. Happy 103rd Birthday Girl Scouts!

Pic_GirlScouts


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Boulder Public Library’s Introduce A Child To Engineering Day

On Saturday, February 21st, we teamed up with Boulder Public Library and local residents to build the city of Boulder out of LEGO.

Over 600 people came out to help build Boulder and learn about the world of engineering using LEGO.

The city of Boulder put together a video of the event.

We also were featured on the local Colorado TV Station, Channel 9 News.

Check out the pictures from Introduce A Kid To Engineering Day below.

Colorado Mountaineers Stadium

The Colorado Buffalo Stadium complete with clouds in the background and the LEGO guys running the Buffalo on the field.

 

Gondola area

The gondola room where vehicles traverse up to the mountains of Boulder with the help of the young drivers.

 

Mountains of Boulder

The Rocky Mountains built out of LEGO. Snow and clouds cover the mountain.

 

Volunteers

Our awesome volunteers getting prepped for the event. We had over 30 volunteers come help us out at the Boulder Library.

 

Building 1

Families hard at work on the city of Boulder.

Building 2

That building is coming along nicely. Almost ready to add.

Building 3

The buildings and houses are beginning to surround the mountain. It is only going to get bigger.

Building 4

These kids are excited to see the city of boulder complete.

Building 5

We are almost there.

Building 6

Here it is. Countless amount of houses, buildings, stadiums, and towers to make up the City of Boulder. Awesome job!

Building 7

Here is another angle on all of the creations. Amazing work.

Building 8

Before our staff had to take them apart, we took one last photo. Such a fun day. We want to thank the Boulder Public Library for having us and all the people that came out to help make this day awesome. Thanks so much!

 

It was an awesome event that we hope inspired more kids to get into STEM-related fields in the future. For everyone that came out to this event, thanks for coming.  If you’d like to run an event like this with us, visit our Special Events page for more information.


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Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March For Civil Rights in LEGO

Our thoughts are with the everyone that has gathered in Selma, AL today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march across Edmund Pettus Bridge as one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement.  We created the movie poster of Selma in LEGO.

MoviePoster_Selma


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US History Art Project in LEGO: Trail of Tears

One of our curriculum designers, Ben Pfister, recently did a unique US History Art project with a group of his students.  It ended up being one of his favorite History Art Projects his students have ever done.

“We studied the Trail of Tears, where in 1838, over 15,000 Cherokee were forced to relocate their homes in the Southeast and trek over 1,000 miles to current-day Oklahoma.

We placed over 5,000 1×1 bricks along a path to commemorate the over 5,000 Cherokee men, women and children who died on the Trail of Tears.”

Trail of Tears


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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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