On January 13th, 24-year-old Crystal Lake native David Howard started a new job kids (and more than few grown-ups) dream about: Master Model Builder at the Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg. Howard joins an elite team of master builders all over the world whose job duties include designing official Lego sets and creating giant sculptures at Legoland parks and events. Just Kidding spoke to Howard about his lifelong passion for Legos and his sweet new gig.
How does someone become a Master Model Builder?
All the Legoland Discovery Centers recruit their Master Model Builders through a kind of build-off or a Brick Factor, as they like to call it. I was in one of the Brick Factor competitions.
What did you build?
In the first round, I built the lions outside of the Art Institute. Then I built a little city in the clouds; we were supposed to build a mini scene. Then in the third round, I built a pretty-close-to-life-sized guitar out of Lego bricks.
What does your typical day look like at the Legoland Discovery Center?
I'm kind of the Lego expert if you will. I go around the center building new models, talking to guests, making sure everybody's experience is as full as can be. I also develop classes for the center. Really, I'm in charge of developing the Lego side of the attractions and making it the perfect experience for guests.
What's your favorite thing you've built?
I built the Chicago Bulls' symbol [during a competition]. I was really into basketball when I was younger, and I built the Bull's head. I actually won that competition and won one of the very first Star Wars Lego sets.
What do you look forward to most about your work at the center?
I really get a kick out of just meeting Lego fans. I've been a part of several Lego clubs in the past, and I've met a lot of Lego enthusiasts in my time with the company. I just love seeing the creations. People have photos of them saved on their phones, and I love to see what people can make with what is supposed to be just a simple toy. You can go so much further with it. I love that part.
What is the hardest part about being a Master Model Builder?
There are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want. I just want to build everything. I just want to create constantly.
What's your next big project?
The center is installing its new Star Wars mini land. It's like our display of Chicago; we have lots of mini-figure-scale things everywhere. [The Star Wars mini land] is the same kind of design, scaled down to mini-figure-sized models that are in the "Star Wars" movies. It's based on “Star Wars: Episode Four.” It's going to be a lot of fun.
What is it about Lego that makes it more than just a hobby or fun toy for you?
I love that spark that everyone gets when they see that one piece, trying to design something around just one piece or one mini figure. I love how you can just run with your imagination with this toy. It's really become so much more than I think the Kristiansens, [the original owners of Lego], ever could have imagined.
What's your advice to kids who are big Lego enthusiasts?
Don't get caught up in the details. I catch myself doing this all the time. Maybe if I'm making a face and something doesn't look right, I need to go back to the basics and start with a good solid base first. Always start with a base.
Howard will answer questions during a live Twitter feed at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Jan. 25. Tweet your questions to @LDCChicago using the hashtag #LEGObuilder.
Visit the Legoland Discovery Center at 601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg (847-592-9700, legolanddiscoverycenter.com/chicago).