If you’re going to be in the Atlanta, Georgia area the weekend of June 27-29 and your children are fans of LEGO, then you absolutely must plan to attend LEGO KidsFest. There are only seven North American KidsFest events each year, and this is the first one for Atlanta – and my two boys are absolutely looking forward to it.
The three-day event is broken into five sessions, and attendees must register online at www.legokidsfest.com. The indoor activities will be held at the Cobb Galleria Centre, with fifteen different activities planned that include (and subject to change):
- LEGO Model Gallery: dozens of life-sized models made entirely from LEGO bricks
- LEGO Master Builders: live demonstrations and activities from the crew who get paid to play
- Race Ramps: build a custom car, then race it down the ramp against friends and family
- LEGO Chima: choose a tribe and test battling skills with the whole family
- LEGO Star Wars™: build and display a Star Wars model
- Creation Nation: build your own creation to add to a custom map of the U.S.
- LEGO DUPLO®: younger visitors can explore imagination through building
- LEGO Retail:purchase LEGO merchandise and official KidsFest tour goods
- Brick Pile: a gigantic pile full of LEGO bricks for creative play and enjoyment
- Monochromatic Builds: bricks of a single color to foster group creativity
- LEGO Friends: build for the five empowered friends from Heartlake City
- LEGO Ninjago: spin the way to being a Spinjitzu member
- LEGO Mindstorms: build and program robots and snakes
- LEGO City: using the imagination to create buildings and vehicles to the urban diorama
Uh, yeah… I’d LOVE… I mean, my kids would LOVE to go to this. My seven-year-old is already talking it up about the Star Wars stuff, and my four-year-old love LEGO City and Ninjago and is starting to show an interest in Chima. I have no doubt it’ll be like pulling up a boat anchor when it’s time to leave for the day.
Tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for children, and there are limits to the size of each four-and-a-half-hour session, so go register NOW if you think you want to go. I have a feeling that slots will fill up fast once word really gets to spreading on all of Atlanta’s various kid-friendly websites and between parents.
On hand will be some Master Builders, including father and son team Dan and Chris Steininger. Apparently you CANNOT miss the Master Builders who have these bright and colorful lab coats they wear — be on the lookout for them.
I had a chance to reach out with some questions to Chris Steininger about the Master Builder program and that job that so many of us would love to have.
Note: I’d like to thank Tracey W. for providing me information about the show as well as access to Chris for the following questions.
10 Questions with Chris,Steininger, LEGO Master Builder
GeekDad: How did both of you get started as Master Builders? Did you begin together or did Dan go first… then Chris?
Chris: Well to make a long story shorter my father was employed by LEGO® first, but I take credit for getting him to play LEGO® First! When I was growing up I would play with LEGO® all the time, my father would come home from his job in sales and of course I would want him to play LEGO® with me. He soon realized he enjoyed building too. Through a friend he was able to get an interview at LEGO® in the model shop and he got the job (he has now been at LEGO for over 20 years), this was great for me because it meant a bonanza of LEGO® was Coming my way. During high school may father or “The Old Man” as I call him was able to get me into the Model shop as an intern, this is where I built a base of good building skills doing everything the master builders didn’t have time to do. After high school I went off and did my own thing for about 5 years carpentry work furniture making and general woodworking, eventually LEGO® got busy and needed some help and I got the call I have been full time at LEGO® for 7 years now 5 of them as a Master Builder.
GeekDad: Do you build your creations together or separately? If together, what’s your favorite design that you’ve done as a team? (Can you include a photo?)
Chris: For the most part we are working on separate projects, but from time to time we do work together. One great example would be the building of a 15 foot tall Big Apple built for the grand opening of the LEGO® store in Rockefeller Center NYC.
GeekDad: Does LEGO offer up suggestions or requests for projects, or do you come up with your own ideas and submit them?
Chris: For the most part groups within LEGO® request that we design and build specific models, but they generally give us creative freedom.
GeekDad: How do you begin planning a project? Or do you just start putting bricks together to make the basic shape and then refine the object as you go?
Chris: We design almost all of our models on the computer using a software called MAYA this is a 3D modeling program, just like what Pixar uses to create movies like Toy Story and Cars. From MAYA we import the 3D mesh into our Program LEGO® Brick Builder, this takes the 3D mesh and turns it all into LEGO® bricks. From there we can build it layer by layer brick by brick, viewing it like a cat scan from the top down. The program does not show us what size brick to use or its orientation that’s up to us to figure out, also all of our models are hollow.
GeekDad: Talk about your LEGO collection of parts — do you have a system? Does LEGO have you come to a specific location to build? How do you keep track of all the parts available to you?
Chris: Yes we all work out of the LEGO® corporate headquarters in Enfield CT. All of our elements are stored in brick trays very similar to something you would get at a home improvement store to keep bolts and screws separated in a work shop.
GeekDad: What are your backgrounds (in terms of education)? Do you think certain subjects lend themselves to becoming a Master Builder? Do you have “real” jobs or is Master Builder your profession?
Chris: I do not have a college degree my background is more on the hands on building side, with woodworking skills. generally most of the master builders have art backgrounds where I am more on the engineering side of things. Definitely a background in 3D art is extremely helpful as a Master Builder you have to be able to create in a 3D environment. Believe it or not being a LEGO® master builder is a real full time job and I get PAID to do it!
GeekDad: How many Master Builders are there? Do you ever work together in a single location?
Chris: There are 7 here in Enfield, CT and that is all for the entire North and South America continents. There are more MB in Denmark, the motherland of LEGO®. We share an office!
GeekDad: Do you have any special tools or software that LEGO makes available to Master Builders to do your work?
Chris: We use LEGO® Brick Builder 2 to design our models, there is a somewhat similar version of this available to the public called LEGO® Digital designer this is a free download.
GeekDad: Can you share about any of your current work-in-progress projects?
Chris: Currently we are working on some really cool models to be unveiled at Comic-con in July. And that’s the extent of what I can tell you “I know bummer huh”
GeekDad: What advice would you offer to the children of geek dads and geek moms who might like to become a Master Builder one day?
Chris: I would suggest taking lots of art classes not only 3D art but painting or drawing anything that gets those creative juices flowing.