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Club builds community with LEGO bricks

| Thursday, February 25, 2021

Student organizations are often seen as communities built out of like-minded individuals and shared experiences. In some cases, they are built out of Lego bricks.

Founded four years ago by a group of friends from Stanford Hall, the Lego Club of Notre Dame has been sharing its love of Legos with the local community ever since.

“We believe that Lego bricks offer a wide range of creative, educational, and social opportunities across all demographics,” junior Matthew Herrmann, Lego Club president, said in an email.

According to Herrmann, Legos offer unique accessibility, making them a perfect tool to foster community across age and cultural boundaries.

“They are simple enough that children can understand how they work from a very young age,” Herrmann said. “And all instruction booklets rely exclusively on graphic representations of the model, so there isn’t really a language barrier that prevents one from using them.”

In the past, the club hosted events ranging from casual “stress relief” build sessions, building competitions, themed building events and Lego movie watch parties.

The Lego Club also prioritizes outreach, Herrmann said, as club members have taken trips to local elementary schools to provide Legos for students who might not otherwise be able to access them.

“The only flaw that I see [with Legos] is that for some, they can be relatively expensive,” Herrmann said. “That is why our club likes taking trips to schools or hosting community events, so children can enjoy Lego bricks regardless of their family’s financial situation.”

However, like many other student groups, the Lego Club has been largely sidelined this year due to pandemic restrictions. While not able to meet in person, Herrmann said the club is allowing members to check out Lego sets from the club’s collection. This allows people to access Legos while staying isolated and safe, he said.

Once restrictions are loosened, the club is hoping to hold its annual “Theme Park Build.” The event, held for the past two years in collaboration with Notre Dame’s Themed Entertainment Association, typically involves students, faculty and local kids working together to build a model theme park entirely out of Legos.

“Students from all across campus are involved with the build,” said senior Colleen O’Leary, club secretary. “They design an entire theme park that takes up a whole room. It’s really neat.”

This year, the Theme Park Build will be limited to Notre Dame students only, she said, but still promises to be a thrilling event.

“You know it’s been a good day when you see all the structures are up at the end,” O’Leary said.

While Legos are primarily viewed as an outlet for fun and creativity, Herrmann also uses them as tools for his architecture work.

“Now that I am an architecture student, I find them to be useful in preliminary stages of the design process,” Herrmann said. “Sometimes I use Lego bricks to physically model and manipulate things like general massing and proportions before drafting.”

Legos have also helped O’Leary discern her career path in an unexpected way.

She initially took her love of building structures literally, entering Notre Dame as an architecture major. But, through her experience of going to elementary schools with the Lego Club, she said she realized that Legos were really a vehicle for something greater.

“Building Legos with second and third graders — that was something that was really impactful for me because it showed me that I wanted to be a teacher,” O’Leary said. “I remember I was in a room with 20 to 30 seven-year-olds just having a blast. That was when I knew I wanted to work with kids all the time.”

Beyond elementary school visits, O’Leary said her favorite part about the Lego Club has been the community and the ability to meet different people from across campus.

“I have always loved Legos,” O’Leary said. “But through my time here, I realized that it’s not so much the building that I was drawn to but the people.”

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