This fun article came out of a long conversation with Joe Meno as I was unloading and assembling the Saturn V rocket at Brickslopes last summer.
Joe is the creator and editor of BrickJournal, one of the most respected publications dedicated to the LEGO building community, and I have the privilege to call him a good friend. Thank you, Joe, for allowing me to post this PDF of the article.
I strongly encourage you to check out the BrickJournal website and subscribe to the magazine, which includes builder interviews, events and conventions, reviews, building instructions, and much more. Joe offers both print and electronic versions at a very reasonable price.
Eljay and I talked for almost two hours on all sorts of topics related to LEGO, but mostly about the STEM Moon Shot event and how I go about making kits. Someday, he and I are going to do a series on how to make your own kits… hopefully sooner than later!
Eljay Johnson, creator and host of The Eljay Johnsen Show, is a recognized expert in Bionicle building. He lives in Boise, Idaho (as do I), and we met when he saw and purchased one of my Brick Idaho kits. Eljay is a member of our IdahoLUG, so you’ll often see him and his fantastic MOCs at our meetings and events!
Subscribe to his YouTube channel and listen in when you get a chance. He is also on Twitter as @TheEljayJohnson where he normally announces his guests a few days before they appear.
One of the activities on February 3 will be helping to build a mosaic out of LEGO elements.
Every digital photograph, screen, monitor, or other electronic display uses pixels to make an image. LEGO can become the pixels in a fun way to reproduce or create artwork.
What will you make at STEM Moon Shot? You won’t know until the whole thing is made and revealed in the afternoon. I will give you a hint… it is NOT a picture of a moon rocket!
This is a small example that I made: a map of Denmark, with the Danish flag superimposed over the country. The pixels are rather large in this version, so it gets pretty blocky. Note that tile is used to give a different texture and depth.
At the STEM Moon Shot event, kids will help build the mosaic. There are 36 plates, and teams will make each plate. They will be in random order with weird names ...so it is going to be almost impossible to guess the bigger picture based on just one plate.
Here is another, and as you can tell, all of the plates are on a 16x16 plate. The pixels in this case are pretty small with the overall mosaic quite large.
Well, you can tell that this project will be colorful! As with the tile of Denmark, I am using LEGO tiles to give depth and a different texture to the art.
The mosaic is designed to hang on a wall. Toward the middle of the afternoon, volunteers will assemble the mosaic and we will have a big reveal. Technic bricks, pins, plates, and brick will lock everything together.
You can do some incredible things with this form of building. Here is artist Nathan Sawaya's reproduction of Starry Night by Van Gogh. Notice the use of depth and brick type to make this jump out at you!
Here is a segment of a proposal I made to a local organization to do an event where kids would help build their logo.
In 2015, I did a team building activity for a large group of Simplot employees and we had a blast. As a team, I had the people build portions of this and made a large monument. In this case, the bricks are in profile (side) and you get a different texture.
This is a mosaic by Sean Kenny, similar to the work just on display at the Boise Art Museum. Here the building technique is basic, but the patterns made are kind of hypnotic, aren't they?
As you come to STEM Moon Shot area, you will get your Flight Plan to begin your exploration of the event and BSU’s Engineering & Science Festival. Well, this has a basis in the Apollo program AND every spaceflight since NASA started sending rockets into space.
A flight plan is an incredibly detailed and “engineered” document that allows all members of both the ground crew and spacecraft astronauts to complete their mission. Every aspect of the mission is planned down to the minute–even down to the second at certain points.
Look at these pages and you will see some of the significant milestones of the Apollo 11 Mission that landed humans on the moon!
Last year, I funded a project on Kickstarter to do a master reprint of the Apollo 11 Flight Plan. They only had a poorly scanned copy to start from. They digitized, cleaned, sharpened, and printed on a sturdy archive grade paper. They did NOT correct the 11 typos (or some other very small number) that they found, since they were in the original.
Deke Slayton was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts who, due to a health concern, did not fly in that part of the program, but became the first Chief of the Astronaut Office - in charge of selection who goes on each mission. Ultimately he did go to space after the Apollo program was done. Chris Kraft literally wrote the book on the Flight Director role and was key to the success of the whole program.
So a flight plan is a detailed listing of all activity over the course of a mission.
At launch, the plan is in minutes and seconds. Here you see liftoff and 2 minutes and 42 seconds later, the second stage ignites!
After liftoff and in orbit, the plan shifts to one hour pages. On this page, you see that if there was a problem, the plan had a branch that would eject the lunar module and burn to prepare for an abort. Certainly glad this was never used in the program.
Did you know that the astronauts actually confirmed their flight path using the stars? They did this as a backup to the navigational computers of the day, which were not as powerful as a programmable calculator, and way less capable than your phone today (smart or not)!
They even had little sketches of the spaceships. Here was the burn required to stay in orbit around the moon. Otherwise, they would swing around the moon and return to earth.
Heat is a major problem in any space craft, as is cold. One side of the spaceship will be hot because of the sun, and the other super cold. Here is show how they want the ship oriented to keep antennas pointed at the earth. They would then also rotate to even out the temperature.
Well, after 103 hours, the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) has landed on the moon. Seems kind of a simple thing when you see it in the plan, but can you imagine how excited everyone was? I was watching this live, as were millions of millions of people all over the world.
Before anyone could celebrate (or breathe, probably) they had to decide if they could stay on the moon's surface. Stay they did, and for all mankind, they walked on another world.
On this page, the LEM (just a portion of it) returns to orbit, and the two astronauts and a bunch of rocks transfer to the Command Module for the return home. The ascent portion of the LEM was left behind.
I wonder, is that ascent portion still in orbit? I am going to have to look that up!
The last page of the plan is the Command Module splashing down into the Pacific ocean. The work of the flight director and the hundreds of engineers guiding and monitoring the space ship are done... until the next mission!
There were consumables on the space ship, with no resupply along the way. Here is the budget of propellant and everything that was required to be done in the mission. This was tracked carefully for the whole time in space.
As a child of the 60s, space exploration was my life. I watched when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. I followed every mission and dreamed of being an astronaut.
Around the STEM Moon Shot main build, I am going to be displaying artifacts that I collected over the years, including stuff that I wrote NASA (no email or internet, remember) and what they mailed back to me! Also a couple of books and interesting stuff related to the Apollo program.
I have lots of stuff to show. On the right is a reproduction of the Apollo 11 Flight Plan. To the left is a new book (a Kickstarter campaign) that has incredible pictures from all the moon landing missions. Toward the bottom is a book my Aunt got me when she worked for a CBS affiliate... a very exclusive book about all their coverage of the moon landing. Just peaking out is a picture of the Apollo 11 crew. Do you know that astronaut's name?
Answer: astronaut Michael Collins, who often isn't remembered, as he did not set foot on the moon. He was the pilot of the Command Module and stayed in orbit while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were leaving foot prints in the moon dust that are still there today!
Not nearly as important to history, but I will be showing all the sketches and drawings I made as I planned and designed the event. See into the mind of an engineer as he develops a LEGO Moon Rocket!
This is perhaps my favorite photo ever. This is Earthrise as a photo taken by Apollo 8 in December 1968. This is the a picture that many said launched the environmental movement, showing the Tiny Blue Dot that is earth in the vast ocean of night that is space.
We have stickers! Signs Now on Orchard did a great job printing the wonderful work of Jonny Smith (the project’s Graphic Designer). These will make the Micro Saturn Vs look like they can fly! More about the Micros in a future post.
What would be appropriate awards and prizes for STEM Moon Shot… let me think… LEGO, that’s it, LEGO! Here are the prizes for the event that will be distributed throughout the day. Most are related to the Design within Constraint activities, but there will be some other opportunities to win. Yes, there is a Saturn V peeking out from the back!
What would you do with 20,000 LEGO bricks? What could you build? Over the next few days before the STEM Moon Shot event, I am going to give a little background on what activities will be available. Something we have at most of our events is the free build table. Kids are invited and encouraged to… FREE BUILD! The creativity is astounding.
Come and join the making and use brick to make a spaceship, an astronaut, a planet, or something no one has imagined. You can’t take your build with you (we need the brick for other events for more kids), but you can display your creation at the Best of Free Build table. We really do not want to have to judge the wonderful things kids do so all entrants will be entered into a raffle to win a LEGO prize!
These pictures are from various events over the past couple of years, but I think you will agree…there is creativity and fun outside of the directions!
Check out my home LEGO office and hear more about the upcoming STEM Moon Shot event. As you can see from this video, I am passionate about building and creating with LEGO and getting kids excited about STEM! Thanks to Abigail Taylor of KBOI2 for the great live discussion.