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10K Club Interview: Meet Sam Nelson of UCS Space Shuttle Atlantis

Time flies as we're back with our next round of 10K Club Interviews which will run for the next few months up in the lead up to the next review results.

Reaching for the stars, Sam Nelson (aka Snelson42 on LEGO Ideas) of UCS Space Shuttle Atlantis has in a way, reached the stars! After receiving 10K votes, we interviewed him about his journey and his incredible model! Be sure to congratulate him in the comments down below!

About Yourself

  1. Where are you from?
    I was born in Maryland, but moved to Trumansburg, New York when I was very young.
  2. How old are you?
    I am 17 years old.
  3. What do you study or do for a living?
    I am currently finishing my junior year of high school. 

  4. What hobbies do you have?
    I have become very interested in 3D printing and CAD design. I also play piano, and of course, build with LEGO.
  5. Do you have a personal portfolio website that you can share with us? 
    I have a Flickr account, although I have no pics of my more recent MOCs!
  6. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    I have been building LEGO since I was four or five. One of my first sets, or at least the one that got me hooked, was 7647 MX-41 Switch Fighter from the Mars Mission line.
  7. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    My favorite set is hands-down the LEGO Ideas Saturn V. It is nearly studless, so you can barely tell it’s LEGO, and it uses really smart techniques to achieve strength.
  8. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    I am a fan of any curved slopes. The 2x2 and 2x4 varieties is used extensively in my space shuttle (and the Saturn V). I think I’m drawn to them because they abolish the old school LEGO look both with their curvature and their lack of studs.

  9. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why
    That would be Eero Okkonen. He uses LEGO elements so creatively, and his models often have organic shapes that are very difficult to capture with LEGO, but he does it beautifully. It would be wrong of me to leave out Jason Alleman, known online as JK Brickworks. His steampunk walking machine inspired me to build a number of different Technic strandbeests, one of which I may put on LEGO Ideas sometime soon.
  10. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    I guess Flickr would count as LEGO related? I think it was meant more for photography, but us LEGO builders kind of hijacked it. This is where I find a lot of inspiration, maybe not so much for building these days, but just to stay connected while I am doing other things (school). 

About Your Project

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    As a space fan, a fig-scale shuttle was something I had always wanted to build. Also, I feel a little bit uncomfortable when TLG releases sets that are not minifig-scale, but still can fit minifigs inside. I understand that a lot of sets (like a space shuttle) are too big to release at fig-scale, and that including minifigs makes a set much more profitable, but it still bothers me, just a bit. I have a hunch that TLG won’t produce my project for the same logistical reasons previous LEGO space shuttle sets have been smaller. I figured it was worth a shot, and it would be a lot of fun either way. 

  2. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    I busted up my brains trying to make the nose cone. The method I finally went with was actually my least favorite: it was boxy, old-fashioned, and heavy. It's only pros were that it was strong and easy to build. I played with the idea of using leaf elements to make a somewhat flexi mesh, and then I thought I could cover that with tiles or panels, but that proved to be very challenging. After I submitted the Idea, I went back and rebuilt the nose with angled plates approximating the outsides of the curves, sort of like the Millenium Falcon sets, although I tried to have less gaps. The result was much better, and I’m happy with it. 
  3. How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time?
    I built this model two years ago so my recollection is not great, and I’ve been improving it intermittently since, so I can’t quite say how long it took.
  4. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    That was one of the happiest moments of my life! I took a picture when the count reached 9,999 supporters. I submitted the project the summer of 2017, so it took just under two years to reach 10,000.
  5. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    I think it is close to the 3,000 limit imposed by LEGO Ideas, but that is a rough estimate.


About LEGO Ideas

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    Make your pictures eye-catching! Don’t have messy backgrounds, and be mindful of which parts of your model are displayed in the cover image. For example, I had my cover image display the rear end of the space shuttle, because the nose looks chunky and old-fashioned.

  2. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)? 
    I really like JK Brickworks’ Pursuit of Flight. I like aircraft of all forms, and his biplane and triplane look amazing, not to mention they move!
  3. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    I think that the environment of the platform is very friendly, and it is very easy to get excited about potential LEGO sets. Anyone looking to submit an idea should take care to make the pictures look appealing, and to use social media to gain supporters. 
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