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10K Club Interview: Meet Aaron Fiskum of Star Wars UCS X34 Landspeeder
2017's first 10K Club member Aaron Fiskum, a.k.a. Psyence-, has a big passion for UCS scale sets, which motivated his first real attempt at a MOC from scratch. This was to become the Star Wars UCS X34 Landspeeder, a speeder that we're sure Luke would be proud of! Aaron, not content with his initial version, kept work and re-working his MOC to mimic the real deal as much as possible. The LEGO Ideas journey certainly also is a learning experience as Aaron shares tips about what he would do differently had he had the chance.
Help us congratulate Aaron on becoming a part of the LEGO Ideas 10K Club!
- Where are you from?
Des Moines IA area, United States.
- How old are you?
42 years of age.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I am employed at one of the leading information technology services companies in the United States, running our Client Engagement and Implementation areas within the IT Department.
- What hobbies do you have?
I've always been a gamer and very much into sports and fitness. I loved to draw when I was a child and was very much into music – vocal, played piano, trombone and still hack on the guitar here and there. Most recently (the last 2 years), I building/design seriously with LEGO bricks. Due to time constraints, I am hoping to build at least one large model a year based on my current pace. I already have the next one designed.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I started building around the age of 4 with a couple of small sets. On my 5th birthday my parents bought me, what I believe, would be a labeled as a “LEGO City” set. At the time, minifigures didn’t have moveable arms or legs. I acquired a few LEGO Space and Castle sets over the course of the 1980s (I still have them). I stopped building just after the age of 12 and picked it up again at age 39 after seeing the new Tie Fighter and Millennium Falcon sets. At that point, I started buying many sets and was most interested in the UCS versions. After building a number of the UCS sets, it was then when I started looking around online at what others were doing - I was introduced to a culture I had no idea existed. This piqued my interest in MOC-ing and my first shot at building anything with serious intention (planning and design) was the Landspeeder.
^ Aaron works on the display stand for his UCS sizes X34 Landspeeder
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
LEGO 497 Galaxy Explorer. I remember drooling over it in stores when I was young. I received it as a gift and still have it.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
Hinge plates – they allow me to make round structures from square bricks.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I was inspired by Pete Brookdale initially due to his AT-AT (another ideas project) and other Star Wars MOCs. In fact, I built a replica of his AT-AT just for the challenge due to it being such a beautiful model. This is what really inspired me to build something of my own, hence the Landspeeder.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
BrickNerd and The Brothers Brick mostly. I also frequent many Facebook Groups and now keep my eye out on Flickr.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
After seeing the UCS sets that had been released and researching MOCs from other builders out in the world, I wanted to do something no one had really tried before. I had acquired most of the new and historical UCS sets over 2014 and I wanted to take a chance at doing something that was well-known and at a UCS scale. The Landspeeder just made sense, as anyone that loves Star Wars knows what it is. Up until that point, most of the UCS sets that had been released by LEGO had been aerial/space vehicles, so this to me made it even more unique in my mind being it was land-based.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
This was my first real attempt at a MOC from scratch and I was a novice. I didn’t know the LEGO library of parts well when I set out to design the Landspeeder. Trying to stay true to the original vehicle in scale and shape (specifically round objects) made it a challenge for me. The most difficult part for me to create on the model was the windscreen due to the way it is shaped on the original vehicle. My first attempt was to use three separate windscreens but that option wasn’t good enough. I tried a number of variations to recreate the windscreen using all kinds of brick. The final revision you see on the model today seemed to mimic the original vehicle best.
- How long did it take to complete the model?
The model took about 2-3 months to design using LDD and about a month to acquire the pieces and build. There were a number of revisions after submission that are chronicled on the LEGO Ideas project page.
^ Aaron plans his designs in LDD before sourcing parts specifically for his MOC.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes?
Admittedly, it was a bit of a surreal moment. Understanding that my model is Star Wars (an existing property) and UCS (a rather exclusive line), I didn’t know how well the model would be received. There are builders out in the community that are very critical of such a project for LEGO Ideas and feel that UCS should only be designed and built by LEGO. Regardless, I think the LEGO public, as well as Star Wars fans, have spoken in seeing this project to 10K. I received a plethora of positive and supportive comments all over social media (“take my money”, “I want one”, “sell me the plans”, “LEGO needs to make this”). The model also won “Best Land Vehicle” at Brickworld Chicago 2015, was featured in Brick Journal November 2015 Star Wars edition, as well as being blogged by numerous LEGO Fan sites - BrickNerd, The Brothers Brick, Brick Fanatics, io9 on Gizmodo, The Awesomer Media, The Escapist Magazine, Eurobricks and others.
I published the model on the 14th January, 2015 and it hit 10,000 on the morning of the 21st August, 2016. Even with the initial landslide of votes and online media coverage the model received early on, it certainly took time to get there. I worked for it and took a grass roots approach to gaining support, ordering business cards featuring the model to hand out at events, attending Brickworld Chicago twice (2015 and 2016), attending KC ComiCon (thanks to the KC LUG for inviting me) and working with my local LUG (IA LUG) during events and showing the model. The extension of time for LEGO Ideas projects was obviously helpful.
^ Aaron brought his Star Wars UCS X34 Landspeeder to several LEGO events and even created business cards featuring his model to further market his project. Clever!
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
An idea should be something that no one has built before, it must be well-known or have a large fan base. If it isn’t something being reproduced in likeness to something that already exists, it must be completely original and able to acquire popularity on its own. The latter is far more difficult being it is most likely not mainstream.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
Of those I know about (because there are so many), Voltron by len_d69 is beautifully done and hit 10K it what seemed to be record time. To me, this is a no brainer assuming The LEGO Group can acquire license to make it.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
What attracts me:
The base concept of Ideas. I don’t know of another business that allows their consumers the ability to help create a new product in their line-up.
- If you truly believe in your idea, take the time and invest in excellent photography – present those pictures on your project page.
- Make certain your model is as finished as it can possibly be.
I have two regrets:
- Not having foresight in knowing how many updates I may make – meaning completely finishing the model before publishing it. Although I was building this as a personal goal, I hadn’t intended to share it with the world, however I submitted it based on initial interest I received.
- Not having formal photos of the idea on the project page as you can’t change them. Formal photos after the fact with updates to the model drew a lot of attention.
Exposure is everything:
- If you build and submit a model as an idea, take it to LEGO conventions and shows if they allow it.
- Post the idea on as many social media platforms as you can (Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc.).
- Repost any articles, blogs, etc. that have written about or hae found interest in your idea.
- Join a LUG near you and attend LUG events/shows with your idea.
- While attending events, talk to the public about LEGO Ideas and spread the word about your project for more support