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Joining the Academy – the LEGO MBA program

(Written by Sarah)

I know the new LEGO Master Builder Academy is aimed at young kids, but as a newer Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL), I also knew I needed to work on my LEGO building skills – which are pretty non-existent. So I went ahead and bought Kit 1 – Space Designer, even though I didn’t care much for the color scheme of lime-green and purple. 🙄

Reservations aside, I opened the box, sorted out the pieces and started reading the book. The LEGO MBA book is very nicely done. It has a lot of information, lots of pictures and is very user-friendly. The intro section was actually worth reading, in my opinion. Same with all the extra stuff at the end.

Without hesitation, I started building the different LEGO creations according to the instructions, being very careful to read all the tips and tricks. Throughout the instructions, there are tips that reinforce the two main techniques that this kit endeavors to teach. One is the technique of locking and the other is sideways building.

Locking is a very important and basic technique. Simply, it’s to overlap pieces to make a structurally sound and stable creation. Let’s say you have two wings that attach to the ship. To ensure that those wings stay on, you’ll want to overlay the attachments with additional pieces. This technique was one that I already knew and have used in my previous creations.

Sideways building is a trickier technique to learn, but can result in some very impressive LEGO creations. Using pieces that have studs on the side, you can build outwards from your creation, adding depth and texture. I understood this on a simple level of taking a plate and building out from it. But when the design showed the sideways build attaching to the ship at different depths, I was utterly confused as to how to figure that out. So lesson half-learned for me. 😐

After building those three and taking them apart, I felt ready to try my own free-build. I had lots of ideas for cool yet simple sideways builds and awesome back-end details. But I kept having trouble with attaching the canopy. I could not figure out how to properly align that thing with the front end of the ship, nor get the height right for the clip to attach to the back end. 😕

Completely frustrated, I took my cool elements apart and gave up… for the moment. I remembered then that there was some online stuff to do. I didn’t expect it to be anything cool, but I hoped that I’d find some inspiration to create my own LEGO ship.

When you go to the LEGO MBA website, click member access and register with the code from the book, you’re taken to a virtual work-desk with many interactive elements. For now, it’ll be customized for the LEGO MBA Space Designer kit. If you subscribe to kits 2-6, you’ll receive a code to enter online and it’ll change the work-desk to each kit as they are released.

The to-do list is one the best places to start, giving you a bunch of things to do to explore the website. It felt a little hokey at first, being an adult and exploring a kid’s site, but I ended up having a lot of fun. There were more tips and advice as well as videos, articles and quizzes.

The articles are really nice as the LEGO Master Builders go in-depth on how they design, and the process they go through to build something. You can earn badges and if you earn all of the badges, you unlock a certificate of completion that you can print out. I’m sure that will mean more to younger kids, but I still thought it was cool. 😛

The first really cool thing I found was an alternate design for the LEGO MBA Space Designer kit. It’s a Space Pod, smaller than the three designs in the book, but still really cool. Here are the PDF instructions to download: LEGO MBA Space Pod Instructions 

Also in there, I finished enough of the to-do list to unlock the first version of the LEGO brick-paper. This is handy paper to print out and design your creations on before building. This is different from normal graph-paper in that every line represents the height of a plate and every three lines represent the height of a brick.

Apparently, later on, there will be another version of the LEGO brick-paper because this one is intended to be used to build up and down, from a side view of your creation. Though it can be used very effectively for sideways building. Here’s the brick-paper version 1 to download: LEGO Brick-Paper 1

One of the last things I did on the LEGO MBA website was to look at other people’s designs and rate them. You have to rate 10 creations to earn a badge. While I didn’t care much about the badge, I did care about seeing what other people built to hopefully get some inspiration, which I did. The first creation I looked at did not use that blasted canopy!

I jumped for joy at realizing that I did not have to use any particular piece if I did not want to. I know that sounds a little stupid, but I was stuck in a mindset that I had to create a LEGO space-ship that was like the ones in the book. It was a very freeing moment to realize that I could do what I wanted and it would be perfectly fine. 🙂

Thus I started my free-build creation with only the concept of using the large white arches in the back for guns and engines. I knew I wanted the front-end to be rounded and very detailed. I actually was getting over my distaste of the lime-green and purple and started using them effectively.  😮

I was much better at the locking technique than the sideways building, but I still used the latter technique, but just kept it simple. Where I got complex was the back end because I wanted the guns and engines to move.

The guns are attached with hinge-plates while the engines are a much simpler design. I used a 1×4 area, put the engines on the end studs, leaving the two studs in the middle open. I then put a 1×4 plate over the white arches, locking them in, but still allowing them to move side-to-side.

All in all, I am very proud of my LEGO Star Defender. I built it completely on my own, without my husband’s help. This is a first for me as an adult. Although I will give him credit for helping me come up with a name, he didn’t give me any building advice. I used everything I had learned from the LEGO MBA book, but without copying anything in there. 😉

And I’ll tell you, when I first saw this LEGO MBA Space Designer, I almost didn’t get it because I’m not all that interested in the space-theme and I didn’t like the colors. Now, I’m very glad I bought it and I have already subscribed to the rest of the LEGO MBA kits. This has helped me more than anything so far in developing my LEGO-building skills. It may have been designed for kids, but it can be helpful to adults who need it. I’m certainly one of those adults that needs all the help I can get!

Now some questions for you, dear readers. Do you plan to buy or have already bought the LEGO MBA Space Designer for yourself? If so, what do you expect to learn from it or what have you learned from it?

On another track, is there anything you’ve run across that has really helped you develop your LEGO building skills? If so, please share below what it was and if it’s available online, please post the link. 🙂

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Robb July 6, 2011, 9:00 PM

    My wife has looked at MBA before and is very intrigued by it. She is disappointed that our toddler is too young for it, but after reading your review, I might just need to buy her a subscription for Christmas 🙂

    • Sarah July 7, 2011, 3:08 PM

      I highly recommend it. I know it helped me a lot. It took a bit to get over the color scheme, but I think it’s a really good tool that I’m afraid most AFOLs will overlook since it’s marketed at kids.

      Plus, if you get it all now, you’ll have it ready for when your toddler grows up and wants to learn to build with LEGO.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • admin July 7, 2011, 3:20 PM

        I have seen on one of the pictures that it seems like Kit 1-3 has the same color-sceme, and also 4-6. I’m thinking that this might be an indiation that there will be combined for some larger creations in the program! 😀

        The more I look at the MBA program the more I like it! I’m seriously considering signing up! All your fault, Sarah! 😉

        • Sarah July 7, 2011, 3:28 PM

          Kits 1 through 3, I’m pretty sure, will build on each other. There is pointer in kit 1 book that says to dump the pieces from kit 2 into the sorting tray. So kit 2 will use all the pieces from 1 and 2. I’m assuming 3 will be the same.

          Now kit 4-6 are level 2 and a different color scheme. So I am not sure if they will combine with the first 3 or be kept separate. Time will tell.

          • admin July 7, 2011, 3:50 PM

            Oh, Sarah, I forgot to mention that I found it quite funny how you were talking about building guns and engines! LOL! I didn’t know it was in you! 😆

            • Sarah July 7, 2011, 4:17 PM

              Oh, I love weaponry! I’ve played various role-playing games (both pen & paper and video games) since high school. Nothing feels better than beating something (imaginarily, of course) to release some tension and stress. 😉

  • brickmaster July 6, 2011, 9:05 PM

    Excellent post! A lot of AFOLs tend to look at this kit as just the parts and consider it too expensive. But if you add the educational element into it, it is obviously worth the price! I’m very impressed by how it allowed you to progress! Keep it up and keep us posted!

    • Sarah July 7, 2011, 3:11 PM

      I think that is the mainl problem facing AFOLs with the MBA series. They look at it for the parts, which is quite uninteresting. But it’s really the book and the online resources that you’re paying for. It’s really worth it and I didn’t even cover all the cool stuff in the book that I wanted to. There’s a really neat article at the end about a Master Builder who builds large space ships – and I mean really large. Not quite life-size, but if he built them right, I think a small child could sit in the cockpits.

      I am definitely going to do a blog about each kit.

      I’m really glad you enjoyed reading this. It’s certainly a journey I didn’t expect to make, but I am so glad I did.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Robb July 6, 2011, 9:07 PM

    Also, how much does it cost (USD) to subscribe to the other kits? I know that Kit 1 is 30 USD, but what about Kit 2?

    • admin July 7, 2011, 12:12 PM

      Robb, Kit 1 is $29.99 and available here: LEGO MBA Kit 1

      Kit 2-6 is $69.99 and available here: LEGO MBA Kit 2-6

      I can’t say this for sure, but I belive Kits 2-6 will not be sold separately as they all build on each other and there is a reason they are in order; the student is building on previous skills and adding new ones. So basically you can get all 6 Kits for a 100 bucks. That is $17/kit. Not bad! 😉

      • Sarah July 7, 2011, 3:14 PM

        It’s a very good price, if you take it as whole. I’m afraid too many people are getting hung up on the $30 for kit one, but it’s because of the packaging and sorting tray that’s included and brick separator. All 6 kits should be seen as whole package.

        Also, As far as I’ve seen, you buy 2-6 together. They will not be sold separately.

  • Tito July 6, 2011, 9:16 PM

    Actually, this kit seems to contain some very advanced building techniques! I’m surpzised that this is what they start with! But obviously they are very succesful in their teaching methods if you were able to free-build your MOC! Congrats on your Star Defender! 🙂

    • Sarah July 7, 2011, 3:17 PM

      Locking is a basic technique that everyone should learn first, but I agree that sideways building is quite challenging, but it’s also one of the most-used techniques.

      I think this will be very challenging to some, but if they can persevere like I did, then it will be well worth the struggle to learn the techniques.

      Thank you very much! I’m quite proud of my Star Defender. 😀

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • akiva jackson July 7, 2011, 10:19 AM

    If you want more grids here are some:

    The The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide is a really good book for developing your technique and building abilities.
    Congratulations on your first
    free build MOC!

    • admin July 7, 2011, 1:13 PM

      Thanks for the grids! Great resource!
      The Unoffical LEGO Builder’s Guide is available on Amazon here: The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide
      There is also a sample chapter here to view: Chapter 6 of The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide
      Akiva, would you like to write a review on this book for our readers? 😉

    • Sarah July 7, 2011, 3:19 PM

      Thanks for the additional resources. I’ve seen the builder’s guide and I’ve asked for it for my birthday coming up next month. Hope I get it, ot some money so I can get it.

      Thanks for the congrats. It’s quite an achievement for me.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Sarah July 7, 2011, 3:51 PM

    Good news! I just got an email from LEGO that kit 2 has shipped and that I should get it in 7-10 days. The email also included the code for the next online stuff. I’m so excited and can’t wait!

  • LegoMom July 7, 2011, 5:23 PM

    Sarah, nice post! I’m just wondering, how does the shipping work? As far as I understand you can only get the first kit from a Lego store or from the online Lego store. So, it will be $30 + shipping, right? If I get it online?

    If I buy the six more kits for $70, I will pay that at one time and they will ship them to me as the sets come out? When you buy these remaining sets do you have to pay shipping? And if yes, how much? Is that separate for each kit? Or do you pay shipping at one time?

    I’m just trying to see how much it would add up to if I don’t have a Lego store near me? What is your experience as you have already signed up?

    Could I buy both the first kit and the 2-6 kits at the same time and qualify for free shipping? Would that work? I thought I read on the sales and deals section here that there is something like that going on. Would these kits qualify for the deal?

    • Sarah July 7, 2011, 8:03 PM

      Your last paragraph is it exactly. Buy Kit 1 and Kit 2-6 before the 15th and you’ll get free shipping plus the free Kingdoms Target Practice set for spending over $75. So the only thing you pay extra is tax for your state.

      Since I had bought kit 1 in the store near me, I bought an extra baseplate with kits 2-6 and got the free shipping and free set. I have not been charged any additional shipping. I just got an email that kit 2 is on its way.

      So basically, you pay for kit 2-6 once, either with normal shipping charges (which LEGO does by the cost of your total order, not weight) or if you can get the free shipping deal by spending over $75.

      And if you wait till the sale is over, for whatever reason, LEGO usually has free shipping on orders over $100. So you’d just need to spend two pennies over kit 1 and kits 2-6, if ordered together. Just don’t combine this with the Pick-A-Brick online because it’s separate shipping and does not qualify for any sales/promotions.

      Hope that makes sense. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      • admin July 7, 2011, 8:32 PM

        For your convenience, here is the link to the free shipping offer! 😉

  • Jacob Morris July 8, 2011, 1:43 PM

    I’m almost 7 and love legos.

    • Sarah July 8, 2011, 1:45 PM

      That’s great Jacob! I hope your love for LEGO continues forever. 🙂

  • darkdragon July 8, 2011, 5:39 PM

    Excellent review. I’ve been teetering on the brink of ordering this set and the subscription. I think you have pushed me over the edge, now I just need to sell some of the stuff in my bricklink shop to fund this thing. 🙂

    • Sarah July 9, 2011, 1:53 PM

      Thanks! I’m glad my blog helped you make a decision and I hope you won’t be disappointed.

      What’s your BL shop? Maybe I or someone else reading here can buy something and help you towards your goal. 😉

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Inger July 14, 2011, 8:10 PM

    Hi Sarah
    I’ve been working through this as well (I’m 36) and just received the second kit in the mail.
    Though there aren’t many pieces, they kits all have very substantial instruction books that are so much more than regular instructions.
    I’d recommend it for all Lego fans and even parents who want to share the Lego experience with their kids.

    • Sarah July 17, 2011, 12:00 PM

      Thanks for the feedback Inger!

      I agree that the books in these kits are far superior to anything I’ve seen from LEGO so far. They are full of information, tips and advice.

      I also think it’ll be a great experience for parents to share with their kids as both will probably learn a lot and grow closer in the process.

      I’ve highly advocated that this can be useful for any LEGO fan, child or adult, as long as they keep an open mind about.

      I also got kit 2 in the mail and I’m working through it as well. I’m very impressed by it, even though I do have some disappointments. But I’ll share all that in a new blog about kit 2.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • E March 4, 2012, 5:05 PM

    I like this thing, but two downsides; 1, its a bit expensive for my liking, 2, im in UK, and its not availabe here…

  • christopher dininger March 9, 2012, 4:13 PM

    legomba rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • James edward Hawkins March 14, 2012, 1:45 AM

    i love lego builder acadamy but i dont have even one set and i cant become a member

  • Dylon Martinez June 10, 2012, 2:07 PM

    Ive heard it,seen it……….CANT GET IT!!!!!!!!!!!Mom and dad say no even though i love legos!ANY ADVICE!?

  • K August 29, 2013, 10:23 PM

    Hi guys! I’ve been very busy the last weeks. work overload and my father passed away last week after a week of hospital =\. It is nice to be back! We (my son and myself) had a blast opening his b-day presents (pic:https://www.dropbox.com/s/u7zno4o35lf39d6/2013-08-03%2015.04.36.jpg)

    I just got this set also and had a lot of fun with it. Mostly because I was selling him the idea that this is a special set, as he noted for the special book and box.

    cheers Sarah and Will!

    • admin August 30, 2013, 9:28 AM

      I was wondering where you have gone. So sorry to hear about your Dad. I hope he had a peaceful passing. Great picture, BTW! 🙂

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