BrickCon: Building Legos and Futures With Kids

Geek Culture

London Bridge lego structureLondon Bridge lego structure

Photo: John Luke Venables

The BrickCon 2011 exhibition in Seattle went out with a clatter (of Lego parts, that is). The annual Lego brick fest drew over 500 registrants to the rainy city this year. If you aren’t familiar with it, BrickCon is a four-day convention for adult fans, collectors, and builders of Lego. Attendees from around the country and around the world share their Lego creations, learn from each other, and meet new friends. This year BrickCon had 78 registered attendees from outside the US! Now in its 10th year, BrickCon is the longest running Lego convention in a single location. If you live on the East Coast or Southern regions of the U.S., do not lament, as BrickFair is coming to Alabama and is only fourteen weeks away!

Borg Cube lego structureBorg Cube lego structure

Photo: John Luke Venables

BrickCon is a great family event that highlights the power of using Lego building activities in the context of a constructive hobby (no pun intended). Many of the Lego structures that my son and I saw at the convention were built by Lego teams. Planning and building a large Lego structure is an excellent team building exercise that rewards the cooperative efforts of all the team members. Many children have the opportunity to meet other Lego enthusiasts that they might otherwise not have the opportunity to meet, build relationships within a framework of cooperative learning and make lifelong friends.

The Defender of the Universe!The Defender of the Universe!

Photo: John Luke Venables

BrickCon also highlights the importance of education and community building through its partnership with FIRST, an organization founded by Dean Kamen. I had a chance to chat with the very enthusiastic Heidi Lovett, Senior Mentor with FIRST about legos, kids and education. FIRST’s goal is to help young people to discover and develop a passion for science, engineering, technology, and math. The not-for-profit’s programs include FRC, a colossal international robotics competition where teams win recognition, gain self confidence, develop social skills and make new friends. Children work in teams in various age-geared programs to design and build Lego component and Lego technology based robots. FIRST programs involve center on solving a design challenge using research, critical thinking, construction, teamwork, and imagination. Lovett highlighted the fact that FIRST challenges younger children to consider science, technology and math as viable career choices. She went on to point out that many high schools already have robotics clubs which kids can join. Judging from the amazing structures and robots I saw at BrickCon, I have no doubt that they have a very bright future indeed as engineers, scientists and architects.

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