It’s fair to say KSQ staff relish an opportunity to play with LEGOs and encourage a fondness in others for the classic building blocks. We’ve created an original bilingual LEGO STEM classroom program and recently had the opportunity to judge a Block Kids competition. The national LEGO building competition is hosted by the NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) and aims to introduce K-6 school children to the AEC industry. Members of our Charlotte office judged a local competition and helped select students to move on to the regional (and hopefully national) level. The event showed us what students could design and create using 100 LEGO blocks, a piece of string, and aluminum foil within a 40 minute time frame. Upon walking into Invest Collegiate–a tuition free public charter K12 school–children were seen running through the halls, going down an indoor slide, and mingling amongst each other. Their imaginations are running wild, and they are eager to let their imagination flow into a LEGO structure. However, once the competition began complete silence swept the room and structures began to rise from the tables. Cranes, planes, boats; everything their mind could conjure started to take shape. Once a student finished their design they shot their hands up in the air, eager to explain their design to a judge. As judges we conducted interviews and scored each child on multiple design and presentation categories. During the interviews we heard stories ranging from personal experiences to future life safety vehicles and found each child provided a valid reason behind their design. Some leaned towards a more structural approach, while some simply designed to aid and assist others in a more expedited way. Questions about the design ranged from what they wanted to be when they grew up, to whether or not they enjoyed the competition. No matter how serious the child was while building their structure they all had a face filled with excitement and pride when interviewed on their design. I admit it was not an easy task to pick a winner, because in design I believe that there are no bad ideas. As Edison once stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The same applies to any design work and to K12 makerculture in general as we simply learn and improve on designs, and that’s exactly what these children will do going forward. This initiative was evident during the interviews when children realized flaws within their design and proposed ways to fix it without being asked or prompted. One child even realized the concept of counter balance and knew how to go about fixing it within his design. Encouraging children to participate in events such as the Block Kids Competition sparks imagination and allows them to further understand the engineering and architectural professions. Our industry (and the construction field specifically) are dependent on a new workforce and introducing children to these professions and their possibility at a young age is essential. These children are our future and may well be working alongside us in our offices in the near future.
KSQ Principal Doug Burns, AIA, conducting an interview during the competition: All photos by Nicholas Reese, Associate AIA