Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Brickstarter: Mouse Guard

Guy Himber is at is again with his crowd funded "Crazy Bricks."

This time around the subject is Mouse Guard, an avant-garde comic series set in a world much like our Earth but instead of humans being around, you have sentient mice. Not giant Mickey mice, but your standard scale mice with minimal physical anthropomorphism. 

It is certainly an interesting read and the art is quite phenomenal. You don't have to take my word for it as it is an Eisner award winning publication.

Well, back on point to why we are all here. Himber is crowd sourcing the production of minifig compatible Mice head for minifigs and a variety of medieval weapons.
I gotta say, I love it when minifigs are presented as "actual size" and Guy has proven he can deliver on these kickstarters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Some Interesting Ideas


I have two additional articles that might be of interest to FOLS this week.

  • An interview with Alatariel, the creator of the Research Institue.   We discuss her history with LEGO, her experience with the project, and her thoughts on LEGO Ideas.
  • An in depth review of The LEGO Neighborhood Book.  I would recommend this book to any FOL, but especially to those trying their hand at a modular on LEGO Ideas.

Pick(s) of the Week

This is one of those rare weeks where I could not decide between two great projects.

Concorde Display Set

The Concord is one of those modern marvels that, like manned moon missions seemed to be the start of something new and spectacular, a new era,  but unfortunately stands alone (well, nearly alone) as a singular front runner. 

I think, like the DC-3, that these detailed aircraft builds could be a way for the classic non-LEGO model building community to transition to the interlocking bricks that the kids are much more into these days.  Additionally LEGO could bring aviation geeks or avgeeks (their term like our FOL) that don't have the time or skill to build classic models into the LEGO fold as well due to the ease with even a complete novice can execute a LEGO set.

As for the model itself, I like it a lot.  The heavy studding of the wings is a bit of a negative but there is really not much you can do about that.  The addition of the Bristol Olympus engine is a great touch to set this apart.

As usual ABStract expertly executes the presentation of the main image with an attractive model, background, and titling.

As for the audience, although this is an retired aircraft this is a pretty good choice.  You have this transcontinental appeal (North America, UK, France, and even Barbados), you have an in with avgeeks, and as an engineering marvel you have a lot of engineers that identify with the craft.  

Little Red Schoolhouse
by tdh-br

If you are a serious LEGO fan, make sure to really check this project out.  At first I was not expecting much, but as I really examined it, it went from notable, to honorable, to a shared "pick of the week."  Like the Food Truck, this project really exemplifies the subtle excellence you expect in an official LEGO model.

Excellent model at the perfect scale that really nails the image people have of the tiny red brick schoolhouse.  The roof is also extremely well done and quite efficient with part usage.  I love that the structure is off angle as well, though there are more officially acceptable ways in which to execute it.

I really love how the project basically nails all the critical points without excess.  That is extremely difficult for even experienced FOLs to pull off.   At the same time there is attention paid to even simple part placement.  For example, the pillars are turned 45 degrees off standard to give them a bit of a pop.

The Bus is a nice accent and gives us that vehicle that nearly every LEGO set needs.

The only problem is I am not sure about the global appeal of this image of an "old school" school.  I think of it as very "North American" image and not just because of the U.S. flag integrated into the project. 

Honorable Mentions

Steampunk Betty (Emerald Night Redux)

A fun build that leverages a classic set.  Very clever.  I like how the mecha is clearly embracing the train motif, not just using parts from the Emerald Night but also trying to evoke the design itself.

I think the legs fail to live up to what the rest of the build is delivering.  I also think this project might be the ignominious winner for "most tags on a single project."

Versailles 1668
by Djeaser

This build is not quite so huge as a first look might imply.  Micro scale on a grand scale!  Not quite sure where I would display this but it is simply gorgeous.

Pictorial Map of The United States
by mmbace

Love this for all the same reasons as the European model.

As someone who grew up in Wyoming I feel inclined to give my two cents: Add a reference to Yellowstone, perhaps Old Faithful.



Project Voltes Five (Voltes V)
Only vaguely familiar with Voltes but this project has done a great job of accessing the subject fan base.
Lego Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
With all due respect to Konrad Keska and the project supporters, I must admit that I am not too impressed with this set concept.  It would make a mind blowing MOC, and I certainly appreciate the work, but it falls flat for me as a product.

First off, the structure in the main image, is large and thin with no minifig play value other than, well, going through the entrance.

If it was by itself I could see it working out okay as a display model propped against a wall, but still the whole structure only gets a few minutes time in the movie and it only serves as the entrance and exit to the movie's last sequence, in other words, it is a lot of bricks and volume to display something, though assuredly pretty, is technically irrelevant to the film and story.  I feel the same way in regard to the Lars homestead.  It is a desert igloo where that whiny kid Luke lives before all the cool stuff happens.

But, despite the main image, there is actually a long sequence of traps and such from the movie attached to the back of this build.  So, you have this inherent setup problem.  Where are you going to put this thing.  When you are considering a design you hope to market you need to do a thought exercise where you try to picture where someone is going to put the set to showcase it.  Generally people only have a few location in their home that are appropriate and they tend to only have one good viewing angle.  So in order to see the sequence of traps, all you see is the back of this really tall, thin, wide structure.  If you display it with the pretty wall face out you end up with this awkward facade hanging out in space with a thin, long hard to see structure pushing it out from the wall.

Now, on to the "action sequence."  This is also problematic.  This structure is basically a canyon build.  It is long with two sides, the problem being that everything of interest is inside the canyon.  This obstructs the view and lighting and  is an impediment to general playability.

As a comparison lets look at the action sequence set from Raiders.   

You can see that one side is open.  The circumstances of the sequence are the same: Characters going down a long tunnel of traps and challenges, but in this case, LEGO has created an open diorama.  This has a much wider angle of playability, and view and has a very photogenic view angle. 

King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table
Well presented and executed.  The figure count does seem a little high though but I would like to think that fans of the project and LEGO would be receptive to scaling down a project of this nature if that was required.
Music School and Instruments Music Store
by max78tn
An interesting concept and fairly well executed.  I think you need something really astounding to warrant a four story modular.  This could easily be condensed.
Huckleberry Finn Diorama
by mpoh98
Beautiful.  I would not know this is Huckleberry Finn though if you didn't tell me.  This one certainly deserves an image title.
The Hobbit: Troll Barbecue
by saabfan
Similar to the Huck Finn one above, at the scale of the thumbnail for this project I might not have realized this was the troll sequence from The Hobbit.  However, with the integrated image title, this is much more likely to get fans to click through. 
Hogwarts Castle Micro
A nice reboot of Scorpius's earlier version.
Modular Bank Robbery
Clever idea to have a story integrated into the modular.
Lego | Arkham Knight | Batmobile
Not too familiar with the Arkham Knight Batmobile but the design here is very compelling.  Glad to see the use of text in the main image stress the subject matter.
Santa's Sidecar (featuring Rudolph Red Nose 5)
I really love the X-wing Reindeer in this. 
White Lake House
A well executed design of modern architecture. 
Kenworth W900 Road Train
An impressive truck.
The Hobbit - Halls of Thranduil
I like this build.  It has a lot of unique character, especially the "antlers" on the throne.

I don't care for how the pictures for the project are sorted though.  The first six images are for a much larger, over the top, "Canceled" version that detracts from the quality of the more elegant project.  I don't exactly mind that they are included, but I think it would send a more consistent message if the "cancelled" images were after the main concept.

Turtle CS-1 and the Space Guys
While I love the turtle on this Ideas has specifically prohibited "Battle packs" or sets that are predominantly figures. 

I therefore find it quite surprising that Ideas confuses the issue by allowing a project that actually refers to itself as a "battle pack" in the text.
by Sevalgo
A great design magnified by an excellent presentation.
Rolling robot - PALLA
Personally I love this.  But I don't see much point for it to be LEGO.  By its very nature it is a sphere.

I love dynamic projects that I can figure out how to change into something different while leveraging the animatronics that the build introduces.

Adding anything to this sphere will basically break its function.  So, awesome concept, but I can't see a way to leverage the design.
Gym Equipment
A lot of well designed equipment.    
Corner Doughnut Shop
I like the concept of a Doughnut shop and the internals are well done.  The outside is impressive and well structure but I would like to see some more color for a doughnut shop.
Aria Space Station
This is an impressive build.  It is unfortunately sullied by spam tags: Star Wars? Star Citizen?  Piano?    
HMS Romulus
The right background and some basic rendering help a space ship stand out.
Batman Beyond Project (75 Years of Batman)
An impressive build of the future batmobile.
Robinson Crusoe
A great example of an impactful main image.  The right render and custom figure could would have made this stunning.
The House
A lot of detail and surprisingly impressive builds hidden behind a low-rez render and a horrible background.
Stage for Rock, Jazz and Metal Band
Your main image is critical to selling your project.  This project offers so much more than the main image implies!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: The LEGO Neighborhood Book

Modulars are very popular on LEGO Ideas and, in reviewing ideas projects I occasionally get emails asking why I didn't showcase one modular or another...the specific details vary but it is almost always because the presented modular lacked the touch of flair and attention to detail that makes the official LEGO line so popular with even the most casual FOLs.

Some will press on with "well, how do I make it better?"  Historically my response to this question has been "Make a build like the official modulars but redesign it to highlight your subject matter."  Useless advice right, but what else can I say?

Well, now I have a new answer: Get The LEGO Neighborhood Book by Brian and Jason Lyles.


I was not quite certain what I would find in this book, but I have admired the Lyles brothers' Chili's Restaurant in person so I was expecting to be impressed and that I was.

The majority of the book, about 60%, is dedicated to instructions for a Drugstore and three modular houses in various styles.  The rest of the book contains advise, mostly in a lead by example format, on how to design your own modulars. 

I am going to discuss this book working from the concrete content (the instructions) and work my way towards the more esoteric content (design suggestions)

The Drugstore

The Drugstore is a two story corner modular.  The first floor is a drug store with a bar and big windows.  It has a back room with gated access for delivery vehicles.  The second floor is reminiscent of red bricks with a fully equipped apartment on the second.  There is no roof access with this modular but there is a nice billboard and some air conditioning equipment.   

While the entire build is noteworthy three features really stood out for me:
  • There is a really fantastic display case behind the shop counter constructed by snotting a door frame on its side in front of an array of bottles.  (see the picture below)
  • The shop has a loading dock with large double doors.  A great touch that is unique to this build.
  • The second floor apartment manages to contain a bedroom, full bathroom, kitchen, and living room on a single floor.  A pretty impressive feat given the limited floor plan. 
The book also briefly showcases alternate signage and shop floor for creating a hardware store instead of the drugstore.


The Houses

The last 30% of the book is dedicated to three houses: a Parisian, a Colonial, and a Canal Ring.  Now the real beauty of these design, a real stroke of brilliance, is that these three houses are all snot-on facades snapped onto a functional base model.  

The basic model is designed on a 16 x 32 plate with the traditional 8 studs for the side walk and 8 studs in the back for a yard.  The structure has a door to the front and the back, and four windows on each floor and a pair of attic windows.  

The critical factor however is that the structure has an array of forward facing studs on the top and bottom of each story as well as around each window.  

The book then shows how to create a snotted Parisian, Colonial, and Canal Ring facade to snap onto these studs.  

This is a really inspired way to explore a variety of Modular styles without breaking the bank or burning time creating brand new structures from the baseplate up.  

Now these base builds don't take into account the internal framework, there are not even stairs to get from one to story to another, but they serve their purpose of fleshing out an entire city extremely well while letting you concentrate on the aesthetic qualities. 
In my opinion this concept of facade modulars pays for the book, especially for any FOL or LUG looking to build big on a budget.

This picture displays the base model with some of the Parisian facade


The Rest 

Although there are a few more instructions sets for minor items, the rest of the book is mostly about designing your own modulars.

In many ways it reminds me of those DIY home design and repair books as it showcases several options and discusses the thought process behind those choices.

In other ways it reminds me of a department store catalog (ah! a bygone era), as it is filled with multiple incarnations of various appliances, furniture, and home decor to choose from.  

Here is a break down of the six chapters:
  • Getting Started with the Cafe Corner Standard

    This covers the details that make a modular a modular: the interconnects, the baseplate, the sidewalk, the stacking, etc...This is probably not news for anyone who would be getting the book for themselves, but is fundamental to setting up the book.

  • The Design Process

    This chapter discusses the use of color and symmetry in creating an attractive modular. 

  • Bricks Everywhere

    This chapter discusses the practice of observing real world architectural elements as specific brick elements.  This is a fundamental skill for LEGO crafters.  In this book, the Lyles brothers use a variety of photos of real world architectural elements paired with very similar LEGO elements to emphasize the practice.
  • The Details

    This chapter displays a variety of ways to orchestrate external details of a modular.  For instance, there are 16 variations on windows with shutters.  For the most part these builds do not come with instructions but they are displayed in such a way that most knowledgeable LEGO fans should be able to reverse engineers the builds.  There is one notable instruction set in the chapter for a very detailed traffic light.
the traffic light and an array of street lamps
  • The Interior

    The Interior is, as one would expect, similar to The Details in format but applies to the furniture and appliances that occupy the Modular.  There are, for example, 20 seats ranging from bar stools to recliners, 7 beds, and 12 night stands.  
  • Modular Building Gallery

    This chapter is pretty much the most straight forward showcasing 21 very creative and well implemented modulars and four mini-modulars.


Round Up

This is a great book for the moderately adept through accomplished Modular Builders.   The less experienced will get some great tips on how to liven up their builds and the grand array of example decor and architectural elements should please even the most veteran FOLs.

Less experienced LEGO builders might have some difficulty, at first, reverse engineering the content that does not have explicit instructions but as long as the don't give up on it, it will actually turn into a great training exercise.

As far as brick budgets go I really love the ideas of the base model with facade introduced in this book.  Since the sides of most modulars are covered up by, well other modulars, and the facade totally covers the front facing support structure, you can implement the base model with whatever brick is handy.  This leaves you a lot more wiggle room, both in part count and price, to work on core designs and giving variety to the modular neighborhood.

The concepts, advice, and examples in this book can really help with not only modulars but also with any build where you are looking to breath more life into your displays.

Some Interesting Ideas

Pick of the Week

Brownout: Pythagoras Chase

I have been waiting for some good "space western" material to show up on Ideas. Firefly is off limits but that does not mean the genre has to be avoided completely and this Brownout seems to fit the bill.

If the style looks a bit familiar it is, because this project is brought to you by Nick Royer formerly of "Space Troopers" and currently also working on Hyperborea.

If you like rough and tumble sci-fi adventure, or you just want to see what a really impressive LEGO Ideas project looks like, well here you go.

Honorable Mentions

LEGO Vehicle models Package (Mini figure scale ve

LEGO has made big version of each of these vehicles and slightly less than minifig version, so this might be a hard sell to get LEGO to produce a third, but it would certainly be nice to see these guys driving around in front of some Modulars and other City sets.

Ninjago Dragon Arena
by Imagine

This is just plain gorgeous.   The only problem is I don't see how you could get your fig spinning very well.  There does not appear to be any room to get your arms in there, well, not without whipping your arm out and destroying one of those factions.

Still, an amazing display piece and worth of note.

William Tell

I had not idea the legend of William Tell was so detailed.  This is one of the things I love about Ideas, finding out new things I never expected.  Make sure your project has interesting or fascinating qualities that make people want to share it with other, like I did just now. 


LOTR - Doors of Durin
Impressive MOC but as an Ideas project it has way too many figures based on traditional LotR sets and it relies too heavily on retired elements to give the right look to the monster.

Not only retired elements, but parts prone to breaking.
Muppet Theater
This is a great build but it will always be handicapped by the fact that it can't use custom elements for the muppets.

You can certainly get away with Miss Piggy, people will forgive you for Kermit's head, but Gonzo's giant nose just can't be forgotten.  It is a defining character trait.

To be blunt, minifigs don't do a very good job of replicating characters that are not nominally human in scale and form.  Projects intended to be minifig scale and including abstract characters will always have an issue garnering support.

The Secret of Monkey Island - Guybrush and Carla t
Probably my favorite of the Monkey Island projects to date. 
Apollo 17 Lunar Rover
Eventually someone is going to get a Lunar Lander project to 10k...
HUN - Heavy Starfighter (Galaxy Command)
LEGO and FOLs are going to get a lot of mileage out of that new cockpit element.  It looks great everywhere.
Car crane LTM 1400 8axes
If it moves on its own, you need a video. 
The Day of The Doctor 50th anniversary special set
Very well done Doctor Who project.
I got a soft spot for LEGO motorcycles, but I am not sure what it is going to take to get a fan model to 10k
Mini Laputian Robot
by speshy

Monday, October 13, 2014

Interview with Alatariel

...when you have the right idea at the right time anyone can make a large impact. - Alatariel

Ellen Kooijman has quickly become one of the most spoken of AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO)s in history, at least among the "muggle" community.  The production of her Research Institute a.k.a. the Female Minifigure Set, with its pro-active display of women in fields of advanced science, has now been reported on in nearly every major news outlet there is as well as innumerable sites. 

The majority of the articles and reports on both the set and Alatariel (Kooijman's username in the LEGO community) have come from either uninformed or biased sources so I am honored that Alatariel has taken some time out of her extremely busy schedule to have this conversation between FOLs about her history with LEGO, opinions on LEGO Ideas, and her thoughts on the Research Institute.

Alatariel's Pages & Projects

On Alatariel’s Background & History

Can you give us a quick, auto-biography:

I’m originally from Gouda, the Netherlands. I studied Earth Science at Utrecht University and then moved to Germany to do a PhD. After graduating I worked as a researcher in Germany and the US before taking up the position of senior researcher and Head of a national laboratory at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

We know from your project you are a Geochemist. Can you please elaborate on what that entails?

Geochemists use chemistry to study Earth’s materials such as rocks, sediments, soils and water. This is of course very broad, but my own research is in the fields of metamorphic petrology and tectonics. I use trace-elements and isotopes in accessory minerals such as zircon, rutile and monazite to understand continental crust formation and the tectonics of mountain belts.

When did you first become interested in LEGO bricks?

I think I was probably around 4 when I started playing with LEGO, but I remember having Duplo too so it might have been earlier. It has always been my favorite toy, because of the endless building possibilities. What I liked best is to try and create the alternative models displayed on the boxes or in catalogues, because these did not have instructions and therefore provided a better challenge.

How have LEGO bricks influenced you?

It is hard to pinpoint this, but I imagine it helped me develop a lot of important skills such as spatial visualisation ability, problem solving and collaboration. It was also the perfect way for me to forget about daily life and create my own little world (literally).

Do you have a favorite official Lego set?  Theme?

My favorite themes are Castle or Kingdoms and Harry Potter (also a lot of ‘castle’). I think my favorite set to date is Medieval Market Village. I clearly remember first seeing that set in a catalogue and almost exploding with excitement.

What LEGO builders do you admire? How do they inspire you?

One builder I really admire is GRusso. He is very active on LEGO Ideas where I first learned about his work. The level of detail he brings to his models and the creative use of parts is what stands out for me. One of my favorite models is his Research Lab Submarine

Another builder that creates brilliant models is Alice Finch (Bippity bricks). Her enormous models of Hogwarts, Hobbiton and Rivendell are absolutely stunning. I only wish I had enough bricks to make such large and beautiful models. Her work can be found here.

What inspires your Lego building process?

It can be literally anything, inspiration just comes to me at random times. Sometimes I build scenes from a movie I have just seen, a book I have read or a game I have played. It also happened once that a friend described to me an idea he had for a set. As he was setting the scene I totally saw it growing out of LEGO in my head and decided to build it. The great thing is that the end result was very different from the set my friend built.

Are you a member of a LUG (or other Lego based community)?  If so which one?

I am not a member of any local community, because I have moved around the globe too much in the last 10 years. I intend to become a member of a Swedish one when I understand the language a bit better. Of course, in the online world I’m an active member of LEGO Ideas.

On LEGO Ideas

How did you get started in the LEGO Ideas community and what does that community mean to you?

I just happened upon it by chance when surfing the web. I wasn’t sure it was an actual serious thing, but I really liked the idea so I posted a project (Female Minifigure Set) to see what would happen. When I found out it was real I posted a second project and became more active. Slowly I discovered how much fun it is to share creations with other adult builders. This was a totally new discovery, because it had always been a private hobby and I had never shared my creations with anyone. Through Ideas I also got to know some really nice people and made some friends. Basically, the platform completely changed my hobby by adding a social component, which is really great.

What is your motivation behind posting to LEGO Ideas?

My motivation was the prospect of having your own creation turned into an actual official LEGO product. Just the idea that your design would be produced with a real box and an instruction booklet was so exciting. I still can’t believe it actually became a reality for me. It is such an amazing thing to see your own idea as an actual product on the shelf.

What have you learned from your time on LEGO Ideas?

I have learned that there is a vast community of ‘older’ LEGO fans that like to share their hobby. I have also learned that there are a lot of really talented builders out there that are very inspiring.

Would you like to see any changes to the LEGO Ideas platform?

I think the LEGO Ideas platform is really great, especially after the last update.

Can we expect any new projects from you in the future?

I have been working on a new project for a long time, but my busy summer has prevented me from posting it. I will certainly submit it when it is ready and I also have plans for future projects.

What are your favorite projects on LEGO Ideas, besides your own of course?

My current favorite project is Natural History Museum by tjspencer1  . Naturally, the subject matter appeals to me and I also think it’s a very nice build.

Other projects I really like are Research Lab Submarine  and Mars Base  by GRusso, Edoras  by NujuMetru and Legend of Zelda: King of Red Lions  by flailx.

On the Research Institute Project and its Impact

What was the best part about taking a project to 10,000?

The positive response from people to your creation. It is so exciting to see a stream of support coming in for your project, somehow that’s very addictive.

What was the worst part of it?

I think the only bad thing about it is the occasional negative comment you get, but of course that is to be expected so it’s not a problem to me.

Your stated goals for the project were to add more female figures to LEGO sets show that girls can become anything they want.  I know it is very early to tell but do you think the project has been successful in this regard?

I am not so sure, because of the limited production and availability of the set. I think if the product would have been available in all toy stores worldwide that carry LEGO products it could have had a big impact. For example in Sweden or the Netherlands it was only available online and it sold out within a week. Many people didn’t know about it until it was too late and children never got the chance to see it in a toy store aisle. This is of course inherent to the LEGO Ideas concept of being fan created sets of limited availability, but I think in this case it is really a missed opportunity.

We know that you went to the LEGO headquarters in Billund prior to the production of this set.  Can you share anything with us about this experience?  Did you get to speak with the designer and give feedback?

It was really amazing that they invited me to come over. I met the team that was involved in making the product and they were all such nice people. I also met the designer Steen Sig Andersen who made the modifications to the set. He showed me his builds of the set and we discussed the changes he made. Photos of this can be seen on the Ideas blog! I also got a tour through the LEGO Idea House, a private museum that can only be visited by special guests. I saw the bricks being made in the factory, so cool! I also got a free ticket to LEGOland, because I had never been there before. It was the perfect day for a LEGO fan!

What is the most surprising thing about this process?

I don’t think there was anything particularly surprising about the production process. The different stages seemed logical and it was interesting to learn more about it.

LEGO Ideas project have a comments section and for the most part the comments are pretty friendly. Your project however was often the target of some very “non-constructive” criticism.
Do you have anything to say to this? Do you think the staff at LEGO Ideas handled these comments appropriately?

There are always backwards-thinking people and trolls who like to write negative comments on projects. These comments usually showed how uneducated some people are and they really only demonstrated the need for a project like this. I think the LEGO Ideas staff handled these comments well by deleting them quickly and banning the users.

Your project took 408 days to get to 10,000 votes. Under LEGO Ideas’ new rules projects only have 365 days to reach 10,000 votes. Given that your project took more than a year to reach 10,000, what is your opinion on this new deadline?

I think it is very good that such a deadline is imposed now. It makes sure project creators are put more on their toes when it comes to project promotion and it helps keep the website ‘cleaner’. If a project doesn’t make it to 10,000 in one year it is unlikely that there is a major appeal for it to become a product anyway. The reason my own project took longer to get there is because the platform was very much in beta back then and my original concept wasn’t very well developed from the beginning (as I mentioned before it was a ‘test’ project). I think on the current Ideas platform it would have had no problem getting the votes within a year.

When you created this project, were you expecting it to get the kind of global attention that it has provoked?

It was a total surprise to me that the project got so much attention. I never thought as a ‘normal’ citizen that I could make any difference, but the success of this project really showed that when you have the right idea at the right time anyone can make a large impact.

The Sciences and LEGO are both male dominated communities.  Do you feel a personal obligation to promote women within these groups?

I think obligation is a strong word. I certainly try to encourage younger women to pursue a career in science by being a role model and organising book clubs where the issues that women encounter when working in a male-dominated field are discussed. The attention my LEGO project got also enables me to make a difference so naturally I feel I should put that to good use.

Do you feel that it is the duty of toy companies to promote strong role models for children?

I think the biggest problem lies with the marketing of toys and how they are presented in toy aisles. Dividing toys into pink aisles for girls and blue aisles for boys is just terrible. Marketing of toys could be much more gender neutral. However, I think it should ultimately be the responsibility of the parents to teach children that they can play with any toy they like and that they can become anything they want.

What is your opinion of LEGO Friends?

In general I quite like the Friends line and I own quite a few sets myself. My favorites are Olivia’s workshop and the Jungle adventure sets. I’m sure as a little girl I would have really liked the horse sets too. I don’t like pink very much, but it’s LEGO so I just replace those parts with a different color. I don’t like the dolls either so I just use normal minifigures instead. The success of the line clearly shows there is a big market for it, which is great because it probably gets a lot of girls into playing with LEGO bricks.

Here is a really LEGO centric question...The program you use to create your designs, LEGO Digital Designer (LDD),  updates regularly with LEGO’s newest parts, however even though they came out in 2012, LDD still does not include the Friends “Mini-doll” figures.  What is your opinion on this?

That’s a very interesting question; to be honest I never actually noticed it! I don’t know if there’s any particular reason why they’re not included in LDD, but personally I don’t miss them since I prefer minifigures.

In articles about the Research Institute, the “letter from a 7 year old” comes up, well pretty much all the time.  Do you have anything you would like to say about this?

When I first saw the letter I was rather surprised. At the time I initiated my project, early 2012, there was an obvious lack of female minifigures and the first wave of Friends sets could be considered more stereotypical so at that time I saw a clear need for additional LEGO sets like the one I proposed. However, by early 2014 a lot had changed and the number of interesting female characters had significantly increased (e.g. a scientist, firefighter, Wyldstyle). As such, I think the parents of the little girl should have pointed out these sets in the toy store instead of letting her write an angry letter about the Friends line based on poor research.

In your experience, how has the scientific community responded to this set being produced?

The response has been very positive. I got a lot of interview requests from media relevant to my work such as National Geographic, Science Magazine, Chemistry World and the American Geophysical Union. It is regarded as an important outreach endeavor to encourage women to pursue careers in science and technology. Especially female scientists are really enthusiastic about the set, because everyone likes it to see themselves represented in LEGO form.

How about the LEGO community?

The LEGO community has responded positively as well. I think especially the dinosaur is well received and people are happy to get more female minifigures.

Do you have any advice for people posting projects to LEGO Ideas?

First of all, it’s important to listen to comments from people. These can help you further improve the project. It’s also important to be persistent when it comes to advertising a project. You can send lots of tweets and posts on Facebook without result, but only one of them has to land with the right person and this can catalyse into enormous exposure. It also helped me a lot to be very active on Ideas by supporting other projects and commenting. It is quite a large community and if you are a ‘visible’ user you get more exposure.

When were you informed that your set had been selected for production?
Unfortunately, I am not allowed to give that information.

What do you plan to do with the money from LEGO?

I think I will use the money to support my research.

...research into the best way to organize massive amounts of Lego?

No, research into why the root of the Scandinavian Caledonides, which was as deep as the root of the present-day Himalayas, is currently exposed at the surface.

I walked over those rocks last week. Fascinating and Beautiful but Norway is an Expensive place to do field work so I could use some extra financial support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ideas Quarterly Review

This is quick overview of my favorite projects from the last 3 months of Ideas submissions. 

Stand Out Projects

1969 Chevrolet Corvette

"Coke Bottle Curves"

Planetary Exploration

Evokes what I love most about both LEGO and Firefly.

Record Store

Amazing job re-contextualizing printed elements into something new and unexpected.

LEGO Pueblo

Gorgeous and novel.

GHOSTBUSTERS HQ Midiscale version

Microbuilding at its best.

Red Arrows Folland Gnat


Laser Guided Catapult-on-a-Truck
by JanYap

Expertly executed genre mix-up

Formula SPACE!
by jmathis

A perfect example of taking nostalgia into new and unexpected directions.



Fossil Museum
Perhaps a bit derivative but a very popular subject.
Star Citizen: Arena Commander
Fun geometries, appealing design, and fantastic background.
Initial D - 20th Anniversary
A nice send up of a classic manga
I love Tree Houses of every sort.
Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary
Though not directly related to the project, there is a fantastic video in this project regarding Mary Poppins 
Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child
by Concore
One of the more stand out Doctor Who projects
Bilbo's 111th Birthday
by saabfan
Very festive
LOTR - Rivendell Part 5
My favorite (just based on aesthetics) of the Rivendell series by Anduin1710
Chinese New Year Dragon
by Mibitat
That Brick built head is really well done.
Coinop Videogame
by msx80
The geometry on this one is really impressive.
Exotic Market
Tropical Beach Hut
by miro78
Expert use of all kinds of specialized elements.
"Pathfinder" Recon Walker
Star Wars walker meets Exo-suit.
The Battle For Minas Tirith
You have to love the Minas Tiriths on Ideas. 
Imperial Hot Tub
LOTR - Rivendell
The complete Rivendell, huge sure, but worth a look. 
Pictorial Map of Europe
by mmbace
A really fun idea, well executed.
LEGO Starbucks Cafe Modular
All the hallmarks of an excellent Modular: consistent theme but executed with variation on each floor with clever, detailed, minifig builds inside.
1949 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible
Well done.
The Gilded Crow
Great ship with fantastic presentation.
by JWG258
I really enjoy JWG258's colorful one person crafts.
The Battle of Kazad Dum
Very well done Balrog.
Retro Space "Hyperfighter"
Now that is some Classic Space (not Classic LEGO Space)
GARAGE LIFE - Oldtimer VOLKSWAGEN "service and
All you need to keep your Large Scale LEGO Cars in shape.
Vintage Bus
Doraemon Fujiko F.Fujio 80th Anniversary commemora
by woontze
Tons of details on this one.
Micro Airliners
So much variations in such a tiny scale. 
TMNT Party Wagon
Right out of my memory of the show.
Wallace & Gromit Brickfigures
Wallace looks spot on.
Inspector Spacetime!
Not where but When!
Pan Am Worldport
I like the take on architecture with clever microbuilds.
A3 Submarine Project
So much greeble!
The Lion King Brickfigure Animals
Well done. 
Expedition Savannah
Great Presentation
Mountain Tour
Great Presentation (as above).
X-15 rocket-plane
Great build, presentation, and labeling.
World Sports
A ton of details in this one. 
V/STOL Aircraft
I love VTOLs
Combine Harvester
by Hajdekr
So much smaller than it has any right to be.  Excellent microbuild.
Catbus from "My Neighbor Totoro"
simple but just right.
Samurai Jack
by DarthKy
California Dream
Great Presentation (as above).
The Oregon Trail
by Ohmadon
ah, the nostalgia!
Gee Bee Model R Bendix Racer
I have always found this bulky plane very compelling.
Martin JRM-3 Mars Water Bomber
by mmbace
Great design
ML - Explorer
Very surprised to see the ring work out so well.
White Rose
Borders the organic and the rigid, very nice.
by mc2k13
BeeBot - The Honey Detecting Robot
by JanYap
Propeller Snowmobile
by Hajdekr
Fantastic use of the motorcycle frame.
The Hunter (SDA - 03)
I like the nacelles on this.
Datsun Roadster
Surprisingly detailed for the scale.
Hazardous Materials Management Transporter
by Rojerty
Looks like a lot of fun.
Borders between really cool and adorable.
Prince of Persia 1989
Looks just like the game, but in LEGO.  Great work maintaining the pixelated look. 
Eliminator ZZ
by JWG258
Another of JWG258's colorful one person crafts.
Mini-Dolls, Large Scale Character Frame.
by Ehl-Jay
Great designs
Galactic Defender
Nice hanging shot and a fun looking ship
Combinators: Project Duotron
Very clever how these eight microbuilds pair up to form robots. 
25th century Mech - NeonKnight Variform Steel Drag
Great microbuilds in both forms.