I always tell my children to reach for their dreams. Now I work with Lego® bricks already and in many ways this is my dream job, But there was something that called me about competing for the coveted title of “Master Model Builder” for Legoland® Discovery Centre, Melbourne.
So off I went to Melbourne to compete with 72 other hopefuls in a knockout building competition. Well, I got there and my nerves were well and truly alive, like a little kid in a lollyshop, or in this case a Lego® shop. there were 3 heats in round 1.
The bricks were all sorted just like in every Parents dream (that never seems to last). We were given the task for round one which was to build something related to your favourite hobby or sport. Now as a MAD soccer fan I decided I would totally build a legoman playing soccer. Sounds easy? I mean we had 30 minutes right?
Well despite the beautiful colour coding of the bricks there was a tricky surprise ahead. There was a limited range of brick sizes in each colour and none that were really small like i wanted for my idea. So amid a brow of sweat and shaking hands that would make it ever increasingly hard to put pieces together, I began to build. I started by using green plates to make a base as there was NO baseplates, then I called on all my creative knowledge to work on my Lego® man. I managed to calm my nerves and make it to the finish line, but there was some amazing builds around and i knew i was in some pretty good company!! It took 3 attempts to take the photo as i was shaking so much!!
I then had an anxious wait as the other 2 groups had to build before the judges would reduce the competitors to 48. It felt like it was taking forever and I was seeing some really impressive builds being created. Finally came time for the announcement, but I needed the toilet (nerves) and I missed my name being called out. I nervously hunted down a staff member to ask the dreaded question, “did i make it?” I could see the fear in her expression as we both looked down the list….. …I was in!!!!
So round 2 was 48 contestants divided into 2 heats, each heat was 45 minutes. I was drawn in heat 1 and we only had 5 mins to come up with our build idea from the theme, it was Marine Animals. I racked my brain and thought what could I build that was cool, I first thought Octopus (glad I didn’t because there was 3 octopus/squid builds). Then I thought think like a kid, and it hit me, build Dory!!!!! So the time started and off I went to get Blue, Yellow and Black bricks…. …as i looked at the bricks in the tubs I remembered that the bricks were not so straight forward, so building a 3D Dory took a little creativity. All was going well when we were stopped and told to pick up our model and move to the table infront of us and leave behind our spare pieces. Now my heart sank as the table in front of me was littered with RED pieces. after a moment I accepted that I was going to be building a RED, black, blue and yellow Dory, when judge, Ryan McNaught (that’s right The Brickman, Ryan McNaught!!!) explained that I could get new pieces from the tubs. With a MASSIVE sigh of relief I was back on track and building. About halfway through the building time children from the crowd were allowed up to help. It was great to get the chance to interact with the kids as, after all, thats what Lego® is all about to me!!! I got assistance from a few different children and let me say they were amazing builders, I was really impressed with their knowledge of the brick!!! Thanks to their help we even had enough time to build some seaweed!!
Again there was a nervous wait, and it felt like the judges were taking for ever making their decisions, but they were trying to cut down a field of 48 to only 12 builders. There was some truly amazing builds. A whale, seagull, coral reef, stingray and even 2 Spongebobs!! In the end they announced there would be a final 14, but we were all still a 1 in 4 chance of making the final round. We were all gathered, hanging on every word from the Judges. Each name felt like an eternity. I think I was about the 10th name read out. I felt such excitement, nerves and more excitement all at once. I was so exhausted from all the adrenaline of the day that once I got home I was ready for bed.
On day two I went into the final round. All the contestants had half an hour to warm up and get their creative energy flowing. I used it as a chance to get some inspiration from the kids in the audience. I asked them what to build. after a few “I don’t knows” someone said a Dinosaur!! then we decided a red dinosaur, and finally a T-Rex! so off we went on the journey of building this T-Rex. To be honest after the pressure of the previous day it was a really nice way to warm up. As we built I explained little building techniques to the kids. When we got to the head I was instructed by the crowd to build a yellow head for the dinosaur. An interesting idea I thought, why not, after all its all about the the kids and their endless imaginations!! The end result is pictured here.
The time for the final round came… … the topic was to build a representation of yourself with Lego®. There were so many amazing ideas going around, A Tazzie Devil, a Lego Mini-figure head, and Mini Cooper, just to name few. We had one hour to create our masterpiece.
For me there was only one option, a Lego® heart with bricks flowing out, as Lego® to me is so much part of who I am, how I think, and what makes me happy (apart from my wonderful family, obviously!!). I was feeling really good about the build idea. I started with creating a base once again (i will never take a baseplate for granted again!!). The the fun began straight away as the main brick I wanted was a 2×4 in red, but there was only 2×4 plates. Painstakingly I set out sorting plates and making bricks by combining 3 plates at a time. The energy in the area was amazing, such excitement and focus all at the same time, combined with loads of encouragement from the crowd as well.
Once I got in the groove I felt like I was flying along, but clearly so did the hosts. Andy and Ben from The Block handed me a microphone and told me I had to interview a fellow builder. I left Ben with my build (I won’t lie, that made me a little nervous) and decided to embrace the challenge. Off I went to find the lucky builder. I decided I would make it a Western Australian affair and interviewed Liam, the other WA contestant to make the top 14. He was creating an awesome building using his background in Architecture. It was loads of fun having the opportunity to interview another contestant. I was eventually called over to get back into my build, it was probably only a minute or two, but it felt like 10!!!!
Halfway through the build time they introduced a helper for each builder, this was an awesome addition and loads of fun to have an extra pair of hands to help and create. We worked away together at breakneck speed, I was really impressed with his understanding of the brick and building ability. Before I knew it we were down to the last few minutes and I was worried as to whether I was going get it finished in time. The final countdown started as i finished the last touches with the help of my assistant. I truly needed every second of the hour they gave. In fact I think we only had 3 seconds to spare!!!
While I wasn’t successful in my endeavour to be crowned the Master Model Builder, I had an amazing weekend competing, met some brilliant builders, and learned a little about myself as well. Sometimes the Universe has bigger plans for you, so I will have to wait and see what it has in store for me. I will leave you with a picture of the amazing trophy Ryan McNaught built for the competition (it took him 4 hours to build!!). Perhaps I will have to build my own, after all that is the beauty of Lego® isn’t it!!!
Keep Dreaming and Building,
Josh – Brick Sensei