LEGO Education is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and we are exploring the history of this unique division of the LEGO Group. Part 1 presented an early history of LEGO Education, while Part 2 outlined the development of the first LEGO robotics platforms. In our 3rd and final installment, we dive into the story behind the game-changing release of LEGO Mindstorms.
LEGO Education is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary! As a birthday gift, we are commemorating the occasion with a three-part history feature on this special division of the LEGO Group. Part 1 provided an overview of the history of LEGO education from the 1980s through 1990s, but we left out an important component of the story. Part 2 picks up where we left off, covering the beginnings of LEGO’s programmable robots in the classroom and at home. These were the precursors of LEGO Mindstorms!
LEGO bricks have long been considered an educational toy, but it wasn’t until 1980 when The LEGO Group formally established an educational division. Known today as LEGO Education, the division is celebrating 40 years of collaborating with and developing educational tools for teachers around the world, with products ranging from Duplo to Mindstorms. Here at The Brothers Brick, we are taking a closer look at LEGO Education with a series of articles, and what better way to observe a 40th anniversary than with a history of the subject?
To get everyone pumped up, LEGO created a special video highlighting some of the key points behind the history of LEGO Education. Think of the video as a preview of the history we are about to cover here. Get ready, because it’s time to dive deep into LEGO Education 101!
Last year, we shared an article on vintage LEGO holiday greeting cards. The LEGO Group has established a tradition of giving their employees exclusive Christmas themed sets like the X-Mas X-Wing for the holiday season. Even longer than that, since at least the 1970s, the LEGO Group has produced special Christmas cards for employees (and, occasionally, the UK LEGO Club). Each year brings a new card, with artwork ranging from carefully staged minifigures to elaborate brick-built designs. You can find blank examples that were used to send personalized messages, as well as cards with printed holiday greetings from LEGO’s leadership, such as owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen.
There are some individuals who find sorting LEGO pieces therapeutic, but most of us loathe the task. And there are entirely non-LEGO machines that could do it, although what fun is that? Some people have tried to use LEGO to build sorting machines, yet their limitations have been quickly apparent. Enter Daniel West and his incredible Universal LEGO Sorting Machine! This baby uses Artificial Intelligence, with the most extensive index to date, to sort parts at a speedy one brick every 2 seconds!
What if I told you there was a toy history museum with over 100,000 square feet of displays, interactive exhibits, playable pinball & arcade machines, and an indoor butterfly garden? All this and more can be found at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York! For the past few years, I’ve been meaning to visit The Strong to check out its collection of vintage playthings and research LEGO history. A scheduled trip to nearby Niagara Falls provided the perfect opportunity for my girlfriend Natalie and I to explore the museum and what it has to offer.
With the release of the new Creator Expert 10266 NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander set, LEGO is once again delving into the world of space exploration. Some of the oldest, most notable, and most nostalgic LEGO sets and themes are based on space exploration, so it’s no surprise many of these sets are favorites of LEGO fans young and old. To commemorate the occasion, LEGO has compiled a list of interesting facts on LEGO Space sets, from the very first rocket ship in 1964, to the more recent behemoths of the past few years.
Want to learn some of the history behind the earliest LEGO Space sets? Or perhaps test your knowledge? Then read on to find out!
It’s hard to believe twenty years have passed since the release of the first official LEGO Star Wars sets. Unofficially, children and adults alike have been building Star Wars-themed models since the first film hit theaters in 1977. While many of these custom builds have been lost to history, some photographs of Star Wars models made their way into LEGO Club magazines like the UK’s Bricks ‘n Pieces and North America’s LEGO Mania Magazine. One of the earliest models I was able to find was this AT-AT walker from The Empire Strikes Back (1980). That movie was only two years old in 1982, which is when twelve year old Philip Dodge had his model featured in the Summer 1982 issue of Bricks ‘n Pieces. While the photography might not have aged well, his AT-AT looks amazing for having been built during the 1980s.
Do you have any 2×4 bricks in wild colors with unusual letters on their studs? If you do, you just might have a treasure from LEGO’s historic quest to improve the quality of its bricks back in the late 1950s-1960s. German LEGO fan Beryll Roehl (aka Fantastic Brick) enjoys collecting and artfully photographing such test bricks. We found Beryll’s pictures so impressive and intriguing that we reached out to her for an interview. Get ready for a fascinating and colorful journey into the wonderful world of test bricks!
TBB: Hi Beryll, and welcome to the Brothers Brick! Can you tell our readers little bit about yourself?
Beryll: Sure! I grew up in the late 1960s, so I come from the generation that built LEGO models with the few types of basic building blocks that were available. I currently live in small village in northern Germany with my three adult sons…and their LEGO bricks! Careerwise, I studied mathematics and art and currently work for a school in the special education sector.
TBB: Could you tell us why you collect test bricks and how you became interested in collecting them?
Over the past two decades, LEGO Star Wars has released more than 700 sets and 1,000 minifigures. It is no surprise that the theme has racked up a significant amount of interesting milestones along the way. From the first flesh-colored faces to the first new hair piece in 20 years, LEGO has explored a lot of new territory within the Star Wars product line.
Below we have two lists, one of interesting LEGO Star Wars trivia and the other an abbreviated history of the product line. To whet your whistle, which droid has appeared the most throughout the entire LEGO Star Wars history? How many LEGO versions of the Millennium Falcon have been created? How many bricks were in the world’s largest LEGO X-Wing that was built in Times Square? Read on to find out.
Where were you when the LEGO Star Wars theme launched twenty years ago? For me, it began with the January 1999 LEGO Shop-at-Home catalog. The front cover promised “LEGO Star Wars action” on pages 6 and 7, and it did not disappoint! My eyes widened at the sight of LEGO versions of the X-Wing and TIE-Fighter. As soon as the sets hit store shelves, I gathered my allowance money and purchased the Landspeeder as my very first LEGO Star Wars set. Now as an adult, I find the story behind the beginnings of LEGO’s first licensed theme just as exciting.
The foundations for LEGO Star Wars arguably existed long before the launch. Space exploration was a big topic of interest in the 1960s and 70s, giving rise to hit space-themed TV shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. In 1977, Star Wars was released and became a blockbuster hit. During this period, LEGO too began embracing the space age and released the first Classic Space sets in 1979. Instead of lightsaber battles and dogfights, the initial emphasis of LEGO was on exploration. Conflict would eventually make its way into LEGO space sets with the introduction of the thieving Blacktron I faction in 1987. The relationship between these defined “good guys” and bad guys” was relatively tame, keeping in line with founder Ole Kirk Christiansen’s commitment to not make “war toys.”
The opening weekend of a movie is typically an indicator of how successful it will ultimately be. And even though the The LEGO Movie 2 (TLM2) took the number one spot in the box office (read our review here), the financial performance looks troubling, possibly placing the development of future sequels at risk.
The first LEGO Movie netted $87.4 million worldwide during its opening weekend. TLM2’s opening weekend was comparatively disappointing, reaching just $52.5 million. Let’s take a closer look to compare the two.