Today, Jan. 28, marks National LEGO Day in the United States, which makes it something very close to a national holiday among civil engineers.
“Although I did not connect it to civil engineering at the time, I loved playing with LEGOs as a little kid. I especially loved the Harry Potter sets since it connected to my love of reading while still letting me build random creations for my mini-figures,” said Danielle Schroeder, EIT, A.M.ASCE, associate bridge engineer, Pennoni, in a discussion about the toys that inspired civil engineering careers on ASCE Collaborate.
She was not alone.
Clearly, not every child who enjoyed playing with LEGOs grew to become a civil engineer. But is it fair to say that every civil engineer was once a child who enjoyed playing with LEGOs?
Here are some highlights from the ASCE Collaborate discussion (and be sure to log in and contribute your own memories):
Daniel Taylor, P.E., M.ASCE
Project engineer, Ambler, Pennsylvania
Funny little story – in an elementary school yearbook, I said that when I grew up I wanted to be a LEGO master. My wife jokes that I kind of did just that by becoming a structural engineer.
Mitch Winkler, P.E., M.ASCE
Retired engineer, Houston
I was really into Tonka trucks when I was young. I had a dedicated dirt patch where I could move earth. I also had a lot of broken trucks from pushing them to their limits. I also learned practical hydraulic engineering at an early age building waterways and retention basins.
Jose Castro, A.M.ASCE
Water resources assistant engineer, San Diego
I absolutely love LEGOs! For me LEGOs didn’t directly inspire me to be a civil engineer, but they directed my avenue for engineering, creativity, and imagination. In elementary school I joined a LEGO robotics club using the Mindstorms branch of LEGO. Although not civil-based, it was still taking engineering concepts and procedure to accomplish a common goal for our team.
Even now, I have several of the LEGO Skyline Architecture sets around my cubicle at work to remind me to be creative and to have fun.
Julian Valencia, EIT, A.M.ASCE
Project engineer, Houston
I didn’t have LEGOs back in Colombia where I grew up, but there was a toy that did inspire me to become a civil engineer. It took me a while to find the name since I wasn’t sure if it had one plus what would be the right translation to English? The toy name is Etch-a-Sketch!
I remember spending a lot of time drawing, which I later discovered was drafting – other toys and I even remembered trying to re-draw the continents. I can’t remember if I ever finished that amazing task!
Heidi Wallace, EI, P.E., M.ASCE
Professional engineer, Tulsa, Oklahoma
I loved playing with the LEGO set we had at my grandparents’ house, and I still enjoy building with LEGO. My favorite, though, were the colored wooden blocks we had at home.
My sister and I both loved telling stories and making them come to life. She was largely in charge of character creation and dialogue. I was the director of the construction of the environment. She found suitable outfits for the Barbies to go with her theme, and I used our blocks and other supplies from around the house to make the roads and buildings.
After a while I would get bored with whatever the Barbie crew was doing for the day and wanted to go outside. (Once the building part was over it wasn’t of much interest to me.) My sister insisted that all narratives come to a logical conclusion. If I wanted to do something else, I had to find a way to end the story sooner.
One of the most memorable was when her Barbie convertible was going over my bridge. I kicked out the supporting structure and said, “Oh no, structural failure. They all fell in the river and can’t go to the ball now with wet dresses. Let’s go play outside.” I was around 9 years old at the time.
I didn’t really seriously think about being an engineer until high school. I decided on civil engineering my junior year of high school. Looking back over the story above and many others, it’s no surprise this is where my career has taken me.
Join the conversation on ASCE Collaborate.