Lego enthusiast Greyson Beights is equally passionate about history. That’s in part why, when he was 11 years old, Beights submitted a large castle with a working gate, towers and a full dungeon into a local Lego art contest in his native Afton, Va. He won the contest, which came with a $500 prize.
“As you can imagine, that’s a ton of money for an 11-year-old,” Greyson said in an email to the Herald-Leader, “and I was able to buy more Lego bricks.”
Greyson, now 16 and in his fourth year studying at Liberty University, is the founder of BrickUniverse, a fan-operated Lego convention that is sponsored and supported by The Lego Group. Six conventions celebrating the toy are scheduled for 2017, the first happening at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville this weekend.
Several professional artists — Jonathan Lopes from San Diego, Rocco Buttliere from Chicago, and Lia Chan from Dallas — will be present and have galleries at the Louisville show. Also on display will be a 25 1/2 -foot long model of the USS Missouri — the largest Lego ship in the country — built by Daniel Siskind, an independent designer whose company, Brickmania, makes unofficial custom model building kits using Lego bricks and parts.
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When he put together the first BrickUniverse event last March, Beights wanted to create an environment where Lego fans could experience every aspect the toy offers — observing impressive craftsmanshp is nice, but playing is just as rewarding, if not more. Themed building zones offer the chance for attendees to build their own creations. Braver patrons can participate in head-to-head challenges.
“Some of my fondest memories from our past shows are seeing families build together,” Greyson said. “Often, the parents are building creations right alongside their little ones, and it is so meaningful to see so many smiling faces.”
Greyson, who was home-schooled and took classes at Piedmont Community College in Virginia, said he thinks teaching could be in his future. His own interest in history was spurred by a U.S. history professor at the school, and it led to him writing “Medieval Lego,” a history picture book with contributions by medieval scholars.
If he goes down that road, he said, Lego will definitely be a teaching tool. The endless building possibilities and avenues of reach — movies and video games are as much a part of Lego now as the bricks themselves — make it a brand with timeless appeal regardless of one’s age or experience.
“Lego can be used for so many different areas,” Beights said. “Whether it be teaching history, science, technology, engineering, math, or just having fun building a Lego city.”
BrickUniverse Lego Fan Expo
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 7 and 8
Where: East Hall of the Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville
Tickets: $15 each day