Lee Magpili is a LEGO Education Designer who lives in Billund, Denmark. Lee was the lead model designer for the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 Core Set. He is also well-known for many large creations including EVan, SI3RRA, STRYD3R, Eagle and a MINDSTORMS pneumatic dress. He is also the designer for models that are part of the FIRST LEGO League game.
How did you get started building with LEGO bricks?
Mom brought LEGO to the Philippines when I was growing up. Never really stopped from there.
Which project (or projects) are you the most proud of? Why?
My favorite project is probably the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 Core Set. It’s kind of a dream to have something with “your name” on it. The set reflects all the work and experience in my life that led up to it.
Where do you find inspiration for new projects?
I’m a big movie buff and also really into Cartoons, Comics, Anime and robots. So if I find anything like that, I’m inspired. You can add stuff that kids make, really awesome creations from LEGO Fans and that big beautiful world that we live in. Little appreciation for beauty and the arts never hurts to fill the mind with ideas.
How many iterations do you typically go through when you create your projects?
Depends on how long I have to build. It can go from one, to dozens depending on the project, you’ll know when you get it right.
Do you document your creative process? If so, how and why?
I try. I’ve recently been trying to do timelapse videos but it’s very hard to actually capture the creative process. When I sketch, it’s at least in a notebook of some sort, but for building, it’s very organic and sometimes something just comes out of nothing.
What role does failure have in your creative process?
It’s a way of learning what doesn’t work. And sometimes it tells you if you need to abandon a project. But you need to fail, to know what it feels like to succeed.
“You need to fail, to know what it feels like to succeed.”
How do you evaluate your success?
If something cool is just out there and being shown to people, it’s successful.
For students who are ready to go beyond the basics, what project would you recommend to get them motivated, without overwhelming them?
Maybe try something with multiple MINDSTORMS units, that’s always fun. But hey, we have the more advanced EV3 models, and maybe even some of the bigger Technic models to try.
Which projects and/or builders have most inspired you?
Back when I first started really getting into LEGO as an adult, I would browse the mecha sections in brickshelf.com and see some really amazing robots that got quite big, around 1m tall or so. Robots have always fascinated me and I always wanted to go big!
What’s your favourite LEGO piece?
Currently, it’s the 1 module new worm gear . It’s opened up a lot of possibilities in building smaller gearboxes for me. A lot of people might know me for using a lot of the 5×7 frames as well , it’s not my favorite piece, but I use it like it is.
How do you store all your pieces?
I like to have a bit of a mish mosh, as I believe it helps the creative process. It’s like discovering something new. But I do have some stuff sorted out, like Technic pins, axles, and gears. Creatively, I believe sorting by color then by piece works best, but for some parts, its by part category or type, then into colors.
See an interview with Lee about the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core Set models here and more of his creations on his Flikr page.
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