Wednesday 26 June 2013

UCS AT-AT : The Home Straight

So, not far short of one whole year after I published the first blog posting on my quest to build a copy of Cavegod's UCS AT-AT (you can read about how it all began here if you missed it) I finally find myself in clear sight of the finishing line, and with only one section left to build before I can finally put all the sections together.

A year, it seems, is a long time in the world of Star Wars MOCs; Cavegod (Pete) has teased me mercilessly about my slow rate of progress, and fellow AT-AT builder Morten has also recently started to wind me up about the time it's taking, while texting me pictures of his amazing UCS Nebulon B Frigate which he's also managed to finish in the time it's taken me to not-yet-finish the AT-AT....

The final remaining section is the right side of the body; I think I dragged my heels even more than usual recently because I struggled so much building the left side. Thing is, I do actually have a deadline for finishing the AT-AT - October of this year, of which more in a future posting - so I figured that I really needed to pull my finger out and get on with it. With this in mind, I booted up LDD and loaded up the last remaining LDD file (picture below - click to enlarge).

As discussed at length in my previous AT-AT posting, brick outlines are at last once again visible for me on LDD after an extended period of them being greyed out in the menu and inaccessible; it makes following the building guide one hell of a lot easier. As you can see in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture, the right side of the body consists of a total of 722 pieces, which is a dead giveaway that it isn't just a mirror image of the 720 piece left side.

As you might expect with something of this size, generating the building guide (which thankfully only requires a single click of the green and yellow button visible on the top right of the screengrab above) takes a couple of minutes. Interestingly, the building guide for the left side of the AT-AT body split the build into front, mid, rear and lower sections. The guide for the right side just dives straight in to the mid-section, however, and then literally continues the build into the rear and lower sections as you can see in the example page from the building guide below; only the front section is built separately and attached in the final step. There's really no good reason for this difference in approach, but then I've long since given up trying to understand the eccentricities of the LDD building guide generator - it's a law unto itself, and I suspect that any attempt to second guess anything it does would be futile.

As some of you will recall, I had massive problems with the left side of the AT-AT body, specifically attaching the front and rear sections to the larger mid-section. This was mainly because the sub-assemblies which join the sections together - basically a whole bunch of 2 x 3 slopes mounted on a couple of long plates - were warped and therefore struggled to bear any weight. Anyway, I think I figured out the cause of the warping.... Below (click to enlarge) you can see a picture of two 2 x 3 slopes placed upside down and side by side. The slope on the left is from the batch that I used to build the left side of the body; if you look closely at the two anti-studs on the underside you can see that their walls are thickened in some areas. The slope on the right is from a new batch that I bought when I got suspicious that there was a problem with the slopes I'd used for the left side; here the anti-studs don't have corresponding areas of thickening on their walls. I used the new batch of slopes to build the right side of the body and the warping issue was far less evident. I'm not sure if the slope on the left is from a faulty batch, or if it's a normal variant - if any readers can shed any light on this then please post a comment or drop me an e-mail. I'm pretty sure however that this 'feature' was at the root of my problems, and I'll swap out the faulty (?) slopes from the left side too when I get a chance.

Having identified the above problem in advance of getting started on the right side of the body, construction turned out to be reasonably straightforward, and was accomplished in just a few hours spread over 3 evenings. The front section was a bit unstable and needed some simple modification to stiffen it up a bit, but otherwise everything came together with relatively little fuss, and you can see the end result below (click to enlarge).

Taking a close look at the picture above, I can see that some of the joins between the various sections aren't as tight as they might be, but that should be fairly easily remedied with a bit of (carefully applied) pressure in appropriate areas; the fact that I was reluctant to apply much in the way of brute force to push all the sections together is a reflection of my bad previous experiences with the left side of the body when the application of just a little too much pressure in the wrong place was enough to break the blasted thing into many pieces....

As previously stated, the two sides of the AT-AT aren't symmetrical. Both the front and rear sections below (click to enlarge) are slightly diffferent from their counterparts on the left side of the body. Anyone out there with time on their hands can therefore feel free to play a game of "AT-AT spot the difference" should they so desire, although if that's you then you might want to consider getting out more.

One thing of note on the rear section above is the flash of blue visible in the upper left quadrant. This is down to a couple of blue Technic half pins. I really need to ask Pete whether this is intentional, or whether something's supposed to be attached to them; in the event that they're actually supposed to look that way I'll replace them with the equivalent parts in bley.

So that's it, then - all sections completed, and 6215 pieces used by my best estimate (plus a few extras to provide a little additional stability in places). Which means that all that should be left for me to do is the small matter of joining all the completed sections together into the finished AT-AT - not long to wait now !

 < -- Building the AT-AT : Part 9                              Building the AT-AT : Part 11 -- >

Monday 17 June 2013

LEGO Inside Tour 2013 part 2

Last time I wrote (click here for details), Day 1 of the LEGO Inside Tour was over and I was on my way to bed. Day 2 started with a rushed breakfast as I raced to get to the hotel lobby for our 08.50 rendez-vous.

Billund was bathed in glorious sunshine, and we all declined the offer of a coach transfer so we could take a short walk in the sun to our first destination of the day, Factory Astvej, the deceptively unassuming building (above) where loose elements become LEGO sets and minifigures are assembled. The reception area at Astvej featured the fantastic 3+ meter high rendition of the LEGO logo below; a closer look revealed that this is made of minifigures, and if the receptionist is to be believed, there's one minifigure for every LEGO employee. Also on display in the reception area were number of Summer 2013 releases spanning various different themes including Friends, Galaxy Squad and Creator.

Our guides for the morning were Aksel and Jan. They split us into two groups and kitted us out with high visibility vests and wireless earpieces so that they could be heard above the noise of the factory. The area beyond the reception was strictly "no photographs", and just to ensure that nobody would be tempted to grab a few cheeky snaps, all cameras and camera phones were collected with the promise that they'd be put straight on eBay as soon as we were out of sight....

The two groups started their tours at different points along the proscribed route. My group, expertly hosted by Aksel, started out with a demonstration of how designs are printed onto LEGO elements, using an old hand-operated printing press to illustrate the process. During the demonstration my eyes were drawn to a nearby display of pristine old sets dating back to the 1970's and 1980's. We were then taken to the automated production lines where we followed the progress of loose LEGO elements from bulk crates to finished sets. Elements are carried along conveyer belts and are counted, sorted and dropped into bags; the bags are then sealed and dropped into boxes which have themselves just been formed from printed sheets of cardboard which are mechanically folded into shape and glued. Once the correct bags have been dropped into their corresponding boxes, a sensor checks that the bags are lying sufficiently flat prior to gluing the boxes shut; this is just one of a number of checks that are conducted before the finished sets are finally packed away in their shipping boxes - they're also weighed to a high level of accuracy during the process to ensure that all elements are present and correct, and pictures of individual sealed sets are taken from multiple angles, the pictures being electronically compared with pictures of a 'perfect' box. Any sigificant deviation from what's expected results in the set being rejected and later inspected by an actual person rather than a machine. Finally, shipping boxes full of pristine sets are stacked on pallets and then shrink-wrapped by a truly fearsome-looking machine which flails around the pallets at high speed wrapping the stacks of boxes in the LEGO equivalent of cling film.

Next we were taken to the minifigure assembly area. Again, minifigure assembly is an entirely automated process - minifigure torsos travel along a conveyer belt, arms are snapped on and designs are then printed on to the torsos in what is often a multi-stage process of layering one part of the design on top of another. Before any of this happens, however, a black rectangle is printed on to the front of the peg at the top of the torso where the head will eventually attach; this printed mark is detected by a sensor and acts as a double check that the torso is facing in the right direction prior to assembly and printing. The precision and speed of the operation was highly impressive, churning out huge numbers of perfect, identical minifigure torsos in the short time we were there.

LEGO branded bicycles - the next bestseller ?
Our tour of Astvej concluded, we headed back to the reception area where a waiting coach whisked us off to our next destination, Kornmarken. It's here that tonnes of ABS granulate arrive every day and are turned into the LEGO elements that we know and love. The Kornmarken facility is absolutely huge, stretching for half a kilometer from end to end. We started out with a look at the storage area; thousands of crates containing literally billions of LEGO elements are stacked to a height of up to 20 meters in astonishing LEGO cathedrals. These are serviced by fully automated robots which can apparently locate and fetch a specified crate within 2 minutes. The scale is literally staggering, and the only shame was that the system was being serviced on the day we visited so we didn't get to see it in action. We then walked a couple of hundred meters along the main corridor to a concrete-fortified bunker in the heart of the building which houses the most precious items in the building - the element moulds. These cost anything from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each to buy depending on the complexity of the element that they produce, which explains why they're stored in a room which would likely survive the apocalypse....

Souvenirs from Kornmarken
A further short walk along the main corridor took us to a long hall full of injection moulding machines. Above our heads we could hear a swishing sound. This was coming from pipes suspended below the ceiling, and was the sound of ABS granulate being piped from the storage silos to the moulding machines. There was something really special about walking past rows and rows of these machines while they were giving birth to brand spanking new LEGO bricks and plates. Not only that, but these elements would still have been warm to the touch had we been allowed to get our eager hands on them.... Bright light yellow 1 x 2 x 5 bricks, black 2 x 6 plates, tan 2 x 4 bricks, every machine we passed was pumping out a different element in a different colour, and the temptation to plunge my arms into the crates full of brand new elements right up to my elbows was almost irresistable; for the sake of my continued participation on the Tour I'm glad I didn't succumb to the urge, however. Too soon we were back at the front entrance of the factory, boarding the coach, and on to our next destination - LEGO's Havremarken facility. Here we were once again split into two groups, with my group initially whisked off to the warehouse where parts orders placed via LEGO Customer Service are fulfilled by an efficient team of parts pickers. Bins of elements were lined up row after row; interestingly, these bins are arranged at random, with like elements and like colours kept apart from each other to reduce the chances of errors in the picking process. My group were then taken to a conference room where we were met by Mark and Jeanette from LEGO's Community and Moderation team. Over coffee and nibbles we heard about their efforts to keep the LEGO forums safe for kids, and then we participated in an exercise to see if we would make suitable moderators ourselves.

A buffet lunch followed, after which we were whisked off to LEGO's Employee Store at Klovermarken and let loose. I have to say that the 50 minutes that followed were arguably the shortest 50 minutes that I have ever experienced... The store is huge, selling an impressive variety of branded LEGO clothing and other merchandise in addition to most currently available sets, and all items are available at a considerable discount from the Danish RRP. Even though LEGO products are generally more expensive in Denmark than the UK, the available discounts were such that prices still worked out cheaper than UK prices, and cheaper still when compared with prices in Australia, to the delight of fellow attendee Kristel who was visiting from Down Under. The clearance section, which included a number of sets from retiring themes such as Alien Conquest, Cars and Harry Potter, featured particularly tempting prices.... The store was predictably plundered by the Inside Tourists who stacked up an impressive haul of items; amongst other things, I couldn't resist grabbing a bunch of Galaxy Squad sets, which up to that point had yet to appear in the UK. We'd been told prior to our shopping spree that LEGO would ship up to two large boxes of purchased sets back to our homes anywhere in the world free of charge; it's exactly that sort of thing which illiustrates just how much care and thought the organisers had put in to making the Inside Tour experience really special for attendees.
Galaxy Squad - part of my Employee Store haul....
From the Employee Store we were taken by coach to the LEGO's Innovation House where many of the LEGO designers are based. Truth be told it was a little frustrating to be marched straight into one of the meeting rooms and not to have the opportunity of taking a look around and getting a sneak peek at what the designers were working on, although given LEGO's ever-present concerns about confidentiality it wasn't exactly surprising. What was surprising was the mention of some of the Inside Tour attendees in the presentation that followed. Yun Mi from LEGO's Community Events and Engagement (CEE) Team gave a talk on the subject of AFOLs, during which she put up slides highlighting some of the activities of Huw, Tim and myself within the AFOL community; it was most unexpected to see my real name and online username up on the screen together with photographs I'd taken and posted on this very blog. It certainly left me in no doubt that the LEGO company is well aware of what the AFOL community is up to and the contributions that AFOLs make in promoting the LEGO brand worldwide.

We returned by coach to the hotel late afternoon for a couple of hours of rest and relaxation prior to reconvening for dinner at 6.30 pm in a Western-themed restaurant on the LEGOLAND site. We were once again joined for dinner by a large group of designers, after which we all walked back to a conference room at the LEGOLAND hotel for the results of the previous day's design challenge, which was judged by the designers. You won't be surprised to learn that my entry (see previous post for details) didn't win. Still, what do the judges know - they're only LEGO designers...(!) We ended up chatting to some of the designers for ages; given that designing LEGO models is their day job, they could have been forgiven for wanting to shut up shop and forget all about it at the end of the working day, but not a bit of it - their enthusiasm shone through, and some of them hung around to chat late into the early hours.

The slightly later start on Friday morning was extremely welcome after Thursday's packed itinerary and late night. We once again convened in a conference room in the LEGOLAND Hotel where were were met by Claus, events manager for LEGOLAND Billund. Claus gave us a brief history lesson on the subject of the LEGOLAND parks, including the sale of the parks to the current owners, Merlin Entertainments, and their plans for the 'Billund Resort'. We were then treated to a backstage tour of LEGOLAND Billund, the highlight of which was a visit to the model shop. It's here that Miniland models are built and maintained, and also where LEGO exhibits destined for other LEGOLAND parks and Discovery Centers around the globe are constructed by a team of model makers. Tim and I immediately dived into the drawers of elements used by the model makers, jealously coveting the rare elements in colours not available to us lesser mortals. I'd have taken some pictures, were it not for the fact that our cameras and camera phones were once again sequestered prior to entering the building. Other backstage areas we got to see included the maintenance facility where the LEGOLAND rides are serviced, and the walkways above the secret caves which form part of the Pirate Boat ride.

The youngsters then departed for the Toyota Traffic School, leaving the rest of us to enjoy an hour or two wandering around LEGOLAND. Having already spent time in the park on both the previous days I assumed I'd seen most of it; turns out that it's quite a lot bigger than I realised, and I kept discovering areas I'd not previously stumbled upon, notably Polar Land featuring the 65 km/h Polar X-plorer rollercoaster and real live penguins (I have a thing about penguins so this was a real thrill for me !). Lunch was a delicious hot buffet eaten in the castle which forms the focal point of the Knight's Kingdom area of the park, after which we made our way back to the LEGOLAND hotel for the official farewell and the end of the Inside Tour.

LEGO Senior Vice President Jesper Vilstrup wrapped things up, thanking us for coming on the tour and wishing us well. Prior to sending us on our way he had one last treat for us, however - a numbered copy of the 2013 LEGO Inside Tour set. Every year LEGO produces a set exclusively for Inside Tour attendees so we knew it was coming; most however didn't know the identity of the set as LEGO try to keep it a surprise, although a few of us had seen pictures because the instructions for the set had been accidentally leaked into the public domain a month or two back. I won't reveal what the set is as there are still two Inside Tours to go this year and I don't want to ruin the surprise for attendees; suffice to say it's very nice, and Henrik, the designer of the set, was on hand to sign the front of the box with his silver pen. After that we all said our goodbyes and it was off to the airport for the flight back to the UK. Incredibly, the experience still wasn't quite over even then as there's a LEGO store in the airport terminal to tempt folks while they're waiting for flights back home. For once I was restrained, however, and kept my wallet firmly in my pocket.....

So what's the verdict, then ? Well, there's absolutely no doubt that the LEGO Inside Tour is a wonderful experience for AFOLs and I can wholeheartedly recommended it. While the younger attendees also clearly enjoyed it, some of the childen struggled to stay engaged during the talks and presentations, and I wonder whether the lower age limit of 7 might be a little too low. People will I suppose inevitably focus on the DKK 13.000 (approx. £1,500 GBP or $2,300 USD) cost per person, and it certainly seems expensive for a 3-day trip, particularly when you need to add flights on top of that. Thing is, the cost of living is high in Denmark, and I'd wager that an appreciable proportion of the cost is eaten up by 3 nights in the LEGOLAND hotel plus meals etc.. It's also fair to say that no expense was spared by LEGO in making the Inside Tour an unforgettable experience for attendees. All things considered, therefore, the cost is high but it's justified I think.

To finish off, I'd like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to Sanne, Lene and Camilla for their superb organisation of the event and to Sanne and Lene for looking after us so well during our time in Billund. Thanks also to the LEGO employees, particularly the designers, who gave their time, energy and enthusiasm to make the Inside Tour experience so special. And finally, I wanted to say what a pleasure it was to meet, get to know and spend time with my 24 fellow Inside Tour attendees - you guys were great !

< -- Inside Tour report, part 1

Wednesday 5 June 2013

LEGO Inside Tour 2013

Short of being offered the LEGO equivalent of a supermarket sweep and the opportunity to grab armfuls of free LEGO sets during a rush through a LEGO brand store, can there possibly be a more enticing prospect for a fan than a trip to the LEGO mothership in Billund, Denmark where the magic is made ? I can't speak for the rest of you, but ever since I was a kid I've dreamed of visiting LEGO Mecca.

Well, unlike some dreams, this one is potentially within reach. LEGO runs three Inside Tours a year during May and June during which lucky attendees get to visit LEGO HQ in Billund, meet the set designers, and immerse themselves in LEGO culture for a few days. The catch ? Well, there are a couple. Firstly, the tours are limited to just 25 people each, or 75 in total per year. This means that you need to sign up the moment that registration opens. And secondly, they cost a king's ransom, so you'd better start saving....

And so it was that one miserable rainy morning at the end of May, almost 8 months after signing up for one of the tours, I found myself at London City Airport waiting for a flight to Billund. Having witnessed my beloved Watford Football Club's painful Championship play-off defeat at Wembley Stadium the previous day, the prospect of a 3-day full-on LEGO-fest was probably the best possible antidote, although it didn't particularly feel that way as I trudged wearily through airport security. My mood lifted significantly when fellow Inside Tour attendee, AFOL and all-round decent guy Tim (caperberry) arrived at the airport, and we set about trying to guess what LEGO would have in store for us.

"You came in that thing ? You're braver than I thought..."
The one hour and 40 minute flight to Billund in a small prop-driven Dornier (above) was uneventful; despite Billund having Denmark's second biggest airport, all I could see on final approach was green fields and countryside. We were off the plane and into a cab within 10 minutes, and being greeted by Ollie (below) in the foyer of the LEGOLAND Hotel less than 10 minutes after that. We were provided with our Inside Tour registration packs on arrival; in addition to a mouth-watering agenda, the packs contained our Inside Tour passes which granted us VIP access to LEGOLAND Billund for the duration of our stay. Since the tour wasn't due to start until the next day, and our rooms weren't yet ready for us to check in to, we took the opportunity to spend the afternoon wandering around LEGOLAND which was less than a minute's walk from the hotel.

I've visited LEGOLAND Windsor (LLW) quite a few times but I've never previously been to LEGOLAND Billund so it was interesting to compare and contrast. For starters, the Billund site has a more spacious, laid back, feel to it - the place just feels less "in your face" than LLW. Another observation was that the Billund Miniland, which features LEGO-built renditions of various towns, cities and architectural landmarks against a landscaped backdrop, seemed substantially larger than Miniland at LLW. While a few of the Miniland models looked a bit tired and and faded by the elements, overall Billund Miniland seemed better maintained than the LLW version, with more evidence of the models being renewed and refreshed, not to mention some beautiful landscaping and lots of cool dwarf shrubs in scale with the models.

The main shop at LEGOLAND Billund is absolutely huge, with a mind-boggling selection of sets, keychains (below), magnets, clothing and general tat. There's also a large Pick a Brick wall there. The downside is the eye-watering prices which are on average 25-30% higher than UK RRP. As an aside, I was told that four Mr. Gold minifigures had already been found by visitors to the LEGOLAND Billund site, with one of my fellow Inside Tour attendees finding a fifth there a couple of days later - so much for random distribution....

After a few hours meandering around LEGOLAND Billund our rooms were thankfully ready for us so I was able to chill out in my room for an hour or so prior to dinner. The room was full of LEGOLAND-branded items - a first aid kit, shoe shine kit and sewing kit for starters - not to mention a glass-topped coffee table containing a bunch of LEGO bricks and plates, and two tubs of LEGO for me to play with in case I got withdrawal symptoms. I also found a few little presents from the Inside Tour team including the treats below - check out the chocolate brick !

After chilling out for an hour or so in my room I met up with Tim plus fellow Inside Tour attendees Huw from Brickset and his wife Maria for dinner in downtown Billund. Apparently the restaurant we chose is a favourite haunt of some of the LEGO designers, and true to form I could see at least one person I recognised from a LEGO designer video eating at a nearby table. After the long day I'd had I didn't last long after dinner, taking to my bed unusually early.

With the Tour not due to start until lunchtime on the Wednesday I enjoyed a rare lie-in, which was only curtailed by the need to grab some breakfast; on opening my curtains I was greeted by the sight below (click to enlarge); as a massive Star Wars fan it beggars belief that it took until Wednesday morning for my ringside view of Star Wars Miniland to register....

The view from my hotel room....
At 12.30 the twenty five Inside Tour attendees duly congregated in the reception of the LEGOLAND Hotel where we were met by our lovely hostesses Sanne and Lene who would look after us for the duration of the Tour. The attendees were a decidedly varied bunch - AFOLs like Tim, Huw and myself, LEGO-obsessed kids as young as 7 or 8 with one or more long-suffering parents in tow, and even retirees who hadn't touched a LEGO brick for decades or indeed ever. As we took our seats for the welcome speech the excitement was palpable.

Before I go on, some ground rules. I want to provide a flavour of the Inside Tour experience so that those people who are unlikely to ever attend in person can get an idea of what it's like. I don't however want to spoil the experience for anybody who is booked to go on the other two Inside Tours this year, or indeed anybody who plans to try and attend in future. I will therefore leave out certain details which, although I'd love to share them because they're totally awesome, I really think should stay secret until discovered by attendees - what goes on Tour stays on Tour.... In fact, even though I'll be missing out some key stuff, I'd still advise anyone attending the other two 2013 Inside Tours to stop reading now unless they want a sneak peek of what to expect when they get to Billund.....last chance to look away....OK, so now I'll continue....

First off we were welcomed by the head of the LEGO Idea House who provided us with a potted history of the LEGO group including a matinee showing of "The LEGO Story" to set the scene. Introduction over we were whisked over to the LEGO Idea House by coach. The Idea House is basically a private museum where LEGO employees and official visitors can learn about LEGO's history and products. It's also the house where LEGO's founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, once lived and indeed the inspiration for both the 2009 LEGO Inside Tour exclusive set and the 2012 employee gift set. We were offered refreshments on arrival, and while we were taking on board some caffeine and biscuits, LEGO owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the grandson of Ole Kirk Christiansen, walked in to the room. He greeted each of us in turn, posed for photos and chatted with us all for about half an hour.

After coffee and Kjeld, we were let loose in the Idea House and had a chance to check out the various exhibits there. As I wandered through the building it felt like I was going back in time, past a small side room showcasing the LEGO Star Wars theme (panoramic photo above - click to enlarge), then past displays of ever older sets in pristine condition, and then to a series of progressively older LEGO Town layouts. I was literally engulfed by waves of nostalgia seeing the sets from my youth built and laid out in front of me (below - click to enlarge).

Then it was onwards past the original 1960's Town Plan set, and into a room with walls covered in what looked like blueprints for Ole Kirk's house and containing a LEGO model of the house (below) for good measure.

Finally there was an area full of glass-fronted cabinets containing the wooden toys that marked the transition between Ole Kirk's former life as a carpenter and the toymaker that he became, including the wooden duck (below) that started it all.

And when you think you're done there's a further fantastic treat in store. An unmarked door opens on to some narrow stairs, and you descend into a subterranean paradise - the fabled Vault, repository of a mint, sealed copy of pretty much every single set that LEGO have ever made. A number of us congregated in the 1970's aisle seeking out our personal childhood favourites.......the first Classic Space sets, the yellow Castle and many others were carefully lifted off the shelves, the old-style hinged lids opened so we could see the sealed contents within, and then reverently replaced. I had to be literally dragged out of that place by the ever-patient Lene, and I wasn't the only one.....

Tim having a religious experience....
From the Idea House we were (somewhat reluctantly) transported back to a conference room at the LEGOLAND Hotel to be met by twelve of LEGO's finest - the set designers. I'd met a couple of them before at LEGO fan events, including Space, Ninjago and Chima designer extraordinaire Mark Stafford, and some of the others I recognised from LEGO designer videos. After a round of intros (both the designers and attendees) we dived into an icebreaker which involved splitting into 4 teams each of which had to build a free-standing bridge out of DUPLO bricks and then run a battery-powered train over it without the bridge collapsing. Go Blue Team - master bridge builders, and I have a medal to prove it.... Then we broke for dinner with the designers, but not before we'd been given our brief for the rest of the evening - design a small LEGO set with the WOW factor -  cool, robust and with plenty of play features. After dinner, the 25 budding amateur set designers were let loose on a row of cabinets full of LEGO and told to get building. It was a real treat to have access to drawers full of elements sorted by colour and type, and although it undoubtedly sped up the building process, many of us were nevertheless still there long into the night working on our designs. I think I finally got done around 1.30 a.m., and you can see the fruits of my labours below. A few intrepid attendees were still feverishly working on their designs when I eventually headed off to bed.

In my next posting I'll finish off my round-up of the Inside Tour, including our visit to the LEGO factory, so stay tuned ! And while you're waiting, you might want to get another perspective on the 2013 Inside Tour by reading Huw's trip report here.

                                                                                      Inside Tour report part 2 -->