Monday, December 28, 2015

One Last post...

Well, this will be my last blog post here.  We never really gained any momentum as a separate blog.  But, that is okay....

We will be completing the relaunch of the Brickworld web site just in time for the opening of registration for Brickworld Chicago 2016.  And, the new site will include a blog of its own.  So, perhaps things will be published never know.

Thanks to the 30 or so people that actually followed this!!  Your support is appreciated.

And, that support is rewarded here with a sneak peak at the new home page for Brickworld.COM (you see what I did there?)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Project MTron

Written by:  Bryan Bonahoom

Project MTron.  Who remembers that theme from the early 90s?  Lots of red, black and light grey.  Magnets.  Trans-neon yellow.

If you haven't noticed, we do an MTron collaboration at almost every Brickworld event.  Note the word COLLABORATION.  There is always more than one person involved and it is open for everyone to participate just like the rest of the collaborations we post.

But, not many people know the history of the MTron collaboration.  The MTron collaboration first appeared at IndyLUG shows and was probably a 5 ft x 8 ft display with 3 or 4 people involved.  Nobody really knows exactly where and when the collaboration first appeared.  But, ever since Brickworld Indy in 2009, it has done nothing but grow and improve.

At Brickworld Indy next month, the display will be 7 1/2 ft wide and 56 ft long.  There will be at least 10 people contributing to the collaboration.  Of course, it is largest at the Indy show because all of IndyLUG is involved.  But, even at Brickworld Chicago last year, the layout was 8 ft wide and 30 ft long.  The coolest part is that in Chicago, there are parts of the collaboration from other attendees.  So, the Chicago layout always has something different going on.

Over the past couple years, there has been more and more height in the structures.  And, a significant amount of custom rock work is appearing in the layout.  The introduction of 1 Watt LED ultraviolet lights in 2014 will make the MTron layout glow bright during the world of lights in Chicago this year.

You can find the basic definitions for participating in the collaboration here.  If you have questions, send them to the Contact Us form on the Brickworld web site and the MTron coordinator (Steve McDonough) will be happy to help!

Remember, collaborations are an easy way to make something small so that you are participating in displaying.  This keeps life simple - easy to carry on an airplane - easy to set up - looks really cool when you take pictures of your stuff to show friends.  So, don't be afraid to contribute a space ship, a vehicle or a small building to the collaboration.  Every little bit helps!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Introducing the Microscale Castle/Pirate Collaboration

Written by:  David Gregory

At Brickworld we’re always looking for new ways to engage people in building projects that are fun and let LEGO fans combine their efforts to create something beyond what they could do alone.  Some fans of the castle and pirate themes had a meeting at Brickworld 2014, to try and come up with a project that would let anyone get involved on any level of commitment.  It was decided that a modular microscale project was the best way to do that. As with any modular project, we had to come up with a standard for the “base” module.

Have you ever seen a patio paved with octo stone pavers?  Each stone is the shape of an octagon with a square on one side.

The base module for a micro castle/pirate display is based on the principle of this pattern.  Back in 2010 TLC released a 10X10 octagonal plate <> .  So far this part has been released in 6 different colors, 4 of which will work just fine for making modules: green, tan, dark bluish gray and dark tan.

All you need to get started is to attach a 10X10 octagonal plate to a 4X4 stud square, bring the height up to 1 brick + 1 plate, and voila!  You have a module.

Here you can see examples modules in three different colors (banana for scale.)

Now you may be thinking that when multiple modules are put together, their borders will be sort of wavy due to the angles of the pieces meeting.  You’re right, when these modules are put together, there will be no gaps, but there will be angles—angles in LEGO that are not 90°!

Straight lines work well for city blocks and space stations, but the coastlines, fields and stone walls of a micro medieval display have so much more character when they’re allowed to deviate from straight lines.

We have an example of blue water modules, even though the 10X10 octagonal plate hasn’t been released in blue.  We’ve simply put 4X4 cut-corner wedge plates <>  on one of the octagonal plates.  In fact you could use those same wedge  plates in colors such as light bluish gray, black, white or reddish brown to make modules in colors that are different from those in which the octagonal plates have been made.

Believe it or not, there’s also another way to make a water module.  The
solid version of the 10X10 octagonal plate has a small hole in the center, but there’s also a 10X10 octagonal plate that has a large cutout in the
center <>  that comes in dark azure.  Once you have one of those, attach 4X4 studs worth of some dark azure bricks, build something that covers the center cutout (volcano, island, whirlpool, etc.), and you have a Caribbean water module.

Once you have your base(s) built, the details are totally up to you. Castles, pirate ships, farms, krakens, towers and islands are only a few of the many ideas of what you can make to fill your module(s).

We say that this project is “microscale,” but what does that mean?  For the purpose of this project microscale is any scale smaller than minifig scale. Do you want your people to be the little dudes from the LEGO boardgames?  Go for it.  (That would be the largest that the scale could go.) 

Do you want to go with the traditional microscale standard of a person being represented by a 1X1 round brick?  That works too!  In fact you could create a landscape where the inhabitants would be too small to be  represented by any LEGO piece.

All of those options are just fine.  Don’t worry about the scale of your creation not exactly matching the scale of the creation next to yours.  That won’t be important when they’re all put together.  We’ll be too busy hearing people ask, “Is this supposed to be Settlers of Catan?” to worry about scale conflicts.

One of the nice things about building in microscale is that anyone has enough pieces to participate.  People can add 20 modules to the display or just 1.  Bringing your micro landscape to life requires far fewer pieces than most MOCs, so you can build a single module with literally a handful of pieces.  The house in the photo below is made of only 7 parts.

The micro people who populate your world can be simple placeholders, or they can have a bit of personality built into them.  The knights in the picture below are each only 5 pieces.

Are you thinking about making a module to add to the display at Brickworld?

Here are some basic guidelines:
  • Each module is made from a 10X10 octagon + a 4X4 square.
  • The 4X4 square area goes on the left.
  • Modules are 1 brick + 1 plate high.
  • Feel free to build things that are larger than what will fit on 1 module.  You can connect your modules together and build across them.
  • There is no limit to the number of modules you can bring.
  • The display coordinator is responsible for bringing/building a border around the perimeter to keep the modules from shifting around.
Also, as the 2015 event nears, make sure to check the event schedule for a presentation on microscale building from David Gregory and Ben Ellerman.

(And word has it that they might even have custom microscale kits available)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kevin Hinkle is Awesome

By Bryan Bonahoom

Kevin Hinkle is the LEGO Community Manager for the Americas.  What does this mean and is Kevin the right man for the job?  Well, obviously we think he is the right man for the job (note the title of this post if there is any doubt what we think).

If you haven't met Kevin Hinkle at a LEGO fan event in the Americas, then you really need to go to more fan events.  Kevin attends 6 or so events a year.  One in Canada.  One in South America (well, there is only one in South America).  And, four in the US.  This may sound disproportionate.  But it is not.  Most of the events in the Americas take place in the US (Brickworld has 4).

Kevin has a job with The LEGO Group that is very unique among jobs in general.  In fact, LEGO is the only company we are aware of that actually has team members like Kevin on what they call "The Community Team".  Their only purpose is to be the liaison between the company and the fan base.

Is his job to answer all of our questions?  No, not really.  In fact, at Brickworld we stopped even having a Q&A session with Kevin during large group gatherings because we were tired of the phrase "I can't discuss future sets" (or something to that effect).  That phrase was uttered countless times by Kevin and his predecessors (whom we also liked).  So, if he can't answer all of our questions, then what can he do for us?

Kevin can answer some of your questions.  Ask him about LEGO User Groups, how LEGO supports user groups, he can answer process questions, and he might even be able to help guide you toward a way to apply for discounted parts to support a special project.

Kevin is usually listening.  And, he is a good listener.  He strives to take messages from the community and consolidate them into something coherent and actionable for the company.  Does this mean he takes our messages to the company and we always get exactly what we want/ask for?  No, it does not mean this at all.  If that was the case, I think I would ask for unlimited free parts with a delivery lead time of 4 hours and the ability to send back parts I am not using.  What the heck, if they are free, then why should I bother storing anything?  It would eliminate my least favorite activity:  Sorting.

Kevin is fair and even.  Or, at least he tries to be whenever it is possible.  Kevin has to work within a set of constraints.  He is doing this as a job, not a hobby like most of us.  So, he has to watch out for the rules and procedures set forth by his boss and the company.

Kevin is responsive.  One of Kevin's roles is to provide support to the multitude of events that occur all over the Americas whether he is attending personally or not.  This means he is getting sets shipped, monitoring bulk orders of parts, working with store managers from the Brand Retail side of the business, addressing the concerns of people running events, and keeping his sanity through it all.

Do the simple math on Kevin's time:  About 3 weeks a year visiting Denmark for team meetings, a week in South America (because it would be pointless to go for a shorter period of time), probably 3 weeks of vacation, maybe he is sick for a week total (he does not have conthrax immunity), and about 2 weeks of holidays throughout the year.

This leaves 42 weeks or 210 days to do the rest of his job.  Attending 5 other events eats up 15 of those days.  There are another 12 conventions and probably 200 RLUG events that he supports throughout the year.  If he spends just 4 hours on an RLUG event then he is spending 800 hours or 100 days of time there.  If he spends 24 hours doing all the prep, approvals, and followup for each convention, there went another 51 days.  If he spends 2 hours per RLUG for their annual needs (eg - LUGBulk order) and there are about 80 RLUGs then there went another 20 days.

Now he is down to just 24 days to do all the other interaction (both internal and external), planning, and executing.  Take away department weekly meetings (1 hour per week) and report writing (1 hour per week) and there went about another 13 days and he is down to 45 days a year - less than 1/2 day per week to keep up with everything LEGO is doing and everything the community is doing.

So, just to keep his sanity requires a lot of effort.

Kevin Hinkle is awesome because none of this ever shows.  When you are with Kevin, you are the only thing that matters.  And, he doesn't forget to follow up with you if he promises to check on something (well, not often at least).


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Doing a presentation at an AFOL Convention?

Written by: Bryan Bonahoom

At every AFOL convention there are presentations made by the fans attending the event. Why? Because one of the major points of AFOL conventions is to share what you know with your fellow hobbyists. And, let's be honest. It is cool when other people adopt your techniques. It kind of gives you a sense of pride. It is cool when other people admire your creation. It kind of gives you a sense of pride.

Anyone doing a presentation wants it to be a success. But, a lot of people making the presentations don't have a lot (if any) experience speaking to a group of people. So, here are some tips and some straight talk for you to consider.

First - and I don't include this in the list below because this one point is so very important to remember - you are doing a presentation in front of a group of people that has chosen of their own free will to be there. They ARE INTERESTED in what you have to say. They WANT TO LEARN. So, you can be confident in your topic of discussion. This one element of fear can lead you to making a presentation that comes across as scattered because you might jump through multiple topics for fear someone might not like your focus. Don't be afraid. Embrace your topic. Focus on your topic. Stick to your topic.

Some pointers:
  1. Introduce yourself. And, don't just give your name. Tell the audience enough about you and your interests so they understand why you chose to volunteer to make this presentation or lead this discussion.
  2. Maybe you are an expert on this topic. Maybe you aren't. Tell them who you are and why you are there. Don't embellish. Be straight. And, be prepared for someone else in the room to know as much (if not more) than you. Don't argue with them. Embrace their input. They are engaging in your discussion. There is usually no one right way to do things. Of course, if they are trying to take over and redirect, you can politely ask that you have that discussion after your official time is up. There are always places where you can talk to people at conventions.
  3. Organize yourself before the presentation. Maybe you have slides. Maybe you have notes. Maybe you have example creations. Just make sure that whatever you are doing, it is organized. Nothing ruins a presentation quicker than the presenter wasting time trying to find things or figure out what they were going to say.
  4. Have a goal and make the goal clear to the audience. I want to teach you how to....I want to show you how I....I want to give you an understanding of....I want us all to discuss xyz and broaden our knowledge....whatever it is, make sure the goal is clear. It will help keep the presentation/discussion focused.
  5. Have fun!! This is a hobby convention. If you have fun, the audience is a lot more likely to have fun. Stories about things you had to do over and self-deprecating humor usually work well.
  6. If someone gets up and leaves, that is okay. There are many reasons people will leave that have nothing to do with whether you are doing a good job. So, don't panic about this if it happens.
  7. Ask for feedback at the end. Invite the audience members to stop and talk in the hallway to hear how you did. A few will actually do it. Listen to what they say. Don't argue. Don't make excuses. Just say thank you for the feedback and give it consideration. If they perceived something wrong, there was a reason. And, if you think about it, you will figure out why they had that perception. Perception is reality. You can't back track them into your mind afterwards. And, arguing with them will only cause friction.

There is a growing need at all conventions for new people to step up and talk about things. Old things. Whatever!! The possibilities for topics are endless. I hope you find this information useful!!!

Play well, Bryan

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Only a couple weeks

Event preparation is actually nearing completion. We are still getting a few new things added to the event schedule (significant things). So, keep an eye on it (and maybe some announcements. We need to get logistics information out to the displayers and we need to get packed up. All of my builds are done. And, I have a couple new things. So, that is fun for me. I also spent some time upgrading my MTron MOCs (some for looks, some for durability, some for noise control, and some to make setup quicker. The one thing that is really hard on me in Chicago is that I really don't have time to set up my MOCs and enjoy it. It is always a rush because there is never a dull moment for me. So, since MTron has become the largest collection of MOCs I set up each year, it needed some upgrades (and probably still needs more) It is hard to believe that we filled the display hall to overflowing again even after expanding it by 30% again this year. Of course, some space went to vendor booths and some went to aisles. But, we still added about 400 feet of display frontage. See you in Chicago!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is Winter Gone Yet?

Brickworld Indy came and went this past weekend.  Happily, it was in the 40's.  Of course, it is now snowing again.  Ugh!!

Brickworld Indy was nothing short of awesome from the media coverage to the social media coverage to the displays to the vendors and to the public.  But, especially awesome was the opportunity to host a wish trip for the Make-A-Wish charity.  We were touched that someone would deem Brickworld worthy of the trip.

We did all we could to make it a memorable experience and many vendors and sponsors joined in on making it special.  I wish I knew who all helped.  But, there were so many!!

Chicago is up next.  The list of things that need to be done for Chicago is not short.  And, it is not getting shorter.  As we grow closer to the event, more things always seem to go on the to-do list than get taken off.  But, we will persevere and overcome with the help of the coordinators and many others.

Hopefully my updates here come a little more often between now and June.  But, only time will tell.

Until next time, Play Well!!