GREENFIELD — For Michael Rumler, Lego is much more than just a toy; it’s therapy.
Connecting those colorful bricks together, especially with some music playing in the background, settles the teen’s nerves like nothing else can, his mother, Tammy Rumler, said.
Michael, 13, of Shirley, has Asperger’s Syndrome, and he sometimes suffers anxiety attacks so strong he feels sick to his stomach.
But hand him a set of Lego bricks, and all that tension goes out the window. Michael is suddenly able to calm down and focus.
So, when Rumler saw banners advertising the second annual Greenfield Brick Expo, she knew she had to take her son.
Michael was one of more than 2,100 attendees who flocked to the Hancock County Fairgrounds for the two-day event during the weekend to see towering displays of Lego creations. And he wasn’t disappointed.
“I’m a big fan of Legos,” Michael said excitedly, flitting from display to display, identifying all the pieces he recognized.
His little brother, Andrew, also tagged along. He was equally enthused by the vast sea of Lego creations, ranging from Star Wars worlds to the popular battling Lego robots.
“There’s just so much to see,” said Andrew, 11. “I like all the moving stuff.”
The brick expo is sponsored by Greenfield Lego User Education, a group co-founded by Greenfield residents Devon Woodburn and Billy McGill.
The expo’s goal is to spark kids’ interest in learning by providing a fun, creative environment that also promotes the educational process, said Woodburn, 32.
Lego users learn dedication and patience through building creations that take weeks, months – even years. They can also incorporate engineering concepts in their creations by creating simple machines that move.
McGill’s fascination with Lego as an adult started as an activity he could do with his two children.
McGill is a conductor for CSX, and while his children love trains, he can’t take them to the rail yards.
Lego trains became the next best bet.
“I was hooked,” said McGill, whose children are now 7 and 9. “I learned there’s a million things you can do with them.”
Heather Hassenplug is one enthusiast who has found a unusual Lego project. Hassenplug, of West Lafayette, makes and sells Lego-themed jewelry.
She and her husband, Steve, both had booths at last weekend’s expo.
“I actually grew up with Lego, and so did he, so it was a mutual love of the brick before we met,” Hassenplug said.
Steve Hassenplug operated “Monster Chess,” a 169-square-foot chess board with robotic pieces that traveled from square to square.
Monster Chess, one of the event’s most popular attractions, is made up of about 100,000 pieces. Lego agreed to donate the pieces after Steve Hassenplug contacted the Danish company with his plan.
The only stipulation was Lego wanted a copy of the chess board. That board is now on display at Lego’s headquarters in Denmark.
Steve Hassenplug said he was counting on Lego to donate the bricks.
“If we went out and bought the parts, it’s about $30,000 worth of parts,” he said.
A few familiar favorites joined the new displays at the weekend expo. Among them was a 35,000-brick replica of Lucas Oil Stadium, complete with a retractable roof.
Can you use a Lego set?
Greenfield Lego User Education is looking for teachers and other youth leaders/educators who could benefit from educational Lego sets. The group is specifically seeking educators who will incorporate Lego in the learning process. For more information, contact G.L.U.E. co-founder Devon Woodburn at firstname.lastname@example.org.