If You Build it, They Will Come
There are lots of different milestones that stick in your mind during your college experience: move-in day, graduation, your first group project, joining the LEGO Club …
Or, at least, that’s the case for Patrick Nieman ’23, who “joined LEGO Club on [his] second day of classes as a freshman.”
It’s no surprise that Nieman made a beeline for the club—he’s been a LEGO builder since he was four years old, he founded a LEGO club at his high school, and he had always hoped to build a model of campus, before he knew that WPI even had a LEGO club (“WPI’s layout and architectural style made it a great candidate for a small-scale but high-detail recreation,” he explains).
Now, as the WPI LEGO Club president, he’s played an important role in shepherding the project along: After nearly four years, the model is now complete and on display at the Bartlett Center. To celebrate such a monumental achievement, Nieman took some time to share the ins and outs of what it takes to build a "95-acre" LEGO campus (in addition to time, patience, and a goat-load of LEGOS).
Origin Story: Nieman first pitched the idea to the club’s executive board in Fall 2019. Once they were on board, Nieman started designing the model’s layout and landscape in a LEGO CAD program called BrickLink Studio. “Once I’d determined the positioning and dimensions of the buildings, I sent brick outlines of some of them to other club execs so they could model the buildings and send back designs that would fit in with my landscape.”
Patience, Young LEGO Master: A lot of strategy went into the planning and building process. The design and construction was split into five phases, with the Quad acting as a central point, giving the group the ability to build one section while another was being designed. It also ensured that they could design and build the section with Unity Hall last, since they didn’t have enough reference content for the model early on. “In total,” Nieman says, “the design effort spanned 18 months, while construction took almost three years.”
Some Assembly Required: We’re all about the numbers at WPI, and those from the LEGO Club are more than impressive. Altogether, the model includes 69,830 elements with 1,067 different kinds of shape and color combinations. The model clocks in at 82” x 69” x 8” and weighs 89 pounds. No glue was used in its construction, and to acquire specific bricks, the club ordered from over 100 sellers on BrickLink, the official secondhand marketplace for individual LEGO bricks.
Next Stop, Bartlett Center: “We’ve always felt that the model is a great representation of WPI’s hands-on approach and of the creativity and quirkiness of its students,” Nieman says. “We’re thrilled that it’ll be there to welcome and be seen by the countless thousands of prospective students and visitors who pass through the Bartlett Center.”
Shipping Up to Boston: Campus isn’t the only model the club’s completed—they’ve built a larger-scale model of Unity Hall, as well as ones of Salisbury Mansion, Bancroft Tower, and the PracticePoint facility. So, what’s next for the club? Nieman’s got an answer for that too: “Right now we’re working on a 40,000-piece model of Boston’s Museum of Science, which will ultimately be displayed permanently in the real museum.” The answer is especially fitting, considering the fact that it was recently announced that LEGO’s headquarters will soon be moving from Connecticut to Boston.