Going big with Lego in NZ: Mosaics, malls and rescue helicopters

Back at the start of 2012 I received an intriguing email from a company investigating building a Lego helicopter – I wasn’t too sure if the idea was for me to build it, to pitch for the job or just offer advice on suitable framing methods and glues for that tricky Lego plastic.

I gave some suggestions and a picture then followed of a kids sized ride on Westpac chopper. Phew, I thought, at least they’re not trying to build a life sized BK117 (Bolkov Kawasaki 117) helicopter – I’d seen full sized LegoVolvos and suggestions that such a creation could take months with multiple team members building.

Things went quiet, and in the depths of the NZ winter I organised a two week Lego building programme – Let’s Lego at LynnMall – at the west Auckland shopping mall that attracted almost 1300 children and their families to take part in 5 dedicated themed building sessions each day.

Lego LynnMall Sessions

With the fantastic help of Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught – one of only 13 Lego Certified Professionals – we also built New Zealand’s first (and to date largest) mystery mosaic.

In total, the Lego Lord of the Rings design contained almost 56,000 pieces and measured almost four square metres in size. Over 1500 people built a small 6 x 6 stud section and we had visitors from all over Auckland (and further afield) stop by regularly to check in on progress.

Final Lego Lord of the Rings Mosaic LynnMall

Once the final object was completed it was presented to the Waitakere hospital out in Henderson, a great feature to brighten up any hospital ward.

Lego Mosaic LynnMall Waitakere DHB

Some months passed and I heard no more about the helicopter project until whilst hosting a Lego birthday party one of the children mentioned the Lego Westpac chopper had been on the news!

Check out the short video on the TVNZ website to see time lapse footage of the build, it’s a great project for a bank associated with such a positive community resource as the Westpac rescue helicopters.

I was down in the CBD today attending a Google event (geeking it up again but wearing one of my other hats as web dev/web analytics data mining enthusiast) and couldn’t help but pop in to the Queen St branch (Westpac at number 79 Queen St) to see the Lego helicopter ‘in the flesh’.

You’ll have to excuse my blurry cellphone pictures but the Lego chopper looks great close up – the team did a good job moulding the shape of the machine and included a perspex windscreen to avoid clear brick issues:

Westpac Lego Helicopter Queen St (1)

Given the lunchtime queues for bank tellers you might spot some strange looks in the photos as I shot the chopper in the branch and there were no kids there!

However the rotors move round slowly and small kids can indeed sit down inside and use the Lego controls (gently please!).

Westpac Lego Helicopter Queen St (2)

Better still, the company has small chopper kits on sale for a donation of $10 to the Westpac rescue chopper appeal in the bank.

Am I sad I didn’t get to take part in the build? Yes for sure, but it’s great to know there are companies out there seeing the fun and value in using Lego to make a marketing/corporate statement about serious community projects.

You just have to look at the effort involved in Habitat for Humanity’s Build Challenge 2012 which ran over the October school holidays around New Zealand to see how Lego, kids and a good cause can be put together.

All in all 2012 has been a great year to be involved with Lego in New Zealand and we’re still 8 weeks away from 2013.

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