Thursday, May 31, 2012
Keeneland comes alive LEGO-style
with Henry Clay architecture project
By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
Architecture students at Henry Clay High School played with LEGOs during this past semester – assembling thousands of pieces and parts into a model of Keeneland, complete with plastic horses in the starting gate and grandstands filled with tiny spectators.
“The challenging part was coming up with proportions and how everything would tie together,” said freshman Michael Garrett. “We went out there a couple of times to take pictures and got other photos online.”
Classmate Josafat Hernandez, who has an eye for color schemes and structural soundness, took the lead in building a particularly tricky portion. He also noted that the hunter green of Keeneland isn’t available, so students will improvise by painting some blocks as they continue working on the project in the fall. They also will spray-paint the turf tan to save money on colored LEGOs, but they’ll buy additional slate pieces to finish the realistic clubhouse roof.
The project has progressed with fits and starts as LEGO had trouble filling the school’s orders. Undaunted, students brought in sets of LEGOs from childhood toy boxes, and churches and other community supporters donated blocks to the effort. Engineering technology teacher Suzanne Weaver also went online to find certain discontinued but essential elements such as black horses.
The students – mostly freshmen and sophomores – still have work to do on the paddock area and plan to extend the grandstand seating and add a roof. The goal is to finish the model in early fall and eventually pass it along to Keeneland, the Kentucky Horse Park or The Explorium children’s museum.
Weaver’s “Keeneland Comes Alive in LEGO Style” proposal garnered a $1,000 minigrant from the Blue Grass Community Foundation; it was one of 16 grants awarded to FCPS teachers this school year. Keeneland matched it, so the class had $2,000 in hand.
Weaver’s son, a junior at Henry Clay, prompted the idea.
“He’s been my inspiration for this whole thing. He’s been infatuated with LEGOs since he was 5, and we’ve got them strung all over the house,” she said.
Early in the semester, Weaver divided her students into small teams for various tasks. Some, for instance, drafted the base floor plan while others tinkered with the LEGO design software.
“It works with problem-solving, structures and scale. It fits in with what I do in class,” she said of the overall project.
“I’m used to doing models out of wood. I had to step back and realize this is LEGO – it’s not going to look like the real thing,” she added. “Ninety-nine percent of it is all LEGOs, but there are a few pieces we’re trying to customize as Keeneland.”
Among those specifics are box seats and uniformed ushers, thumb-size security cameras focused on the starting line and jockey silks representing area horse farms.
While learning more about Keeneland and hustling to meet their deadlines, the students found ways to appreciate the big picture as well as the small details. Josafat also realized he developed patience in working alongside others.
“We were able to bring our talents together to build something like this,” Michael added with more than a hint of pride.