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10K Club Interview: Meet Valerie Roche of NASA Saturn-V Launch Umbilical Tower

With a passion for everything space, 10K Club members Valerie Roche a.k.a. whatsuptoday and Emmanuel Urquieta a.k.a. Eurquieta, set out on a mission to build a replica of the NASA Saturn-V Launch Umbilical Tower. With a height of 1.14 metres they certainly succeeded in mesmerising LEGO Ideas members with the scale of the construction.

Help us congratulate Valerie and Emmanuel on joining the exclusive LEGO Ideas 10K Club.

We heard from Valerie about how this project came about!


About Yourself

  1. Where are you from?
    Paris, France.
  2. How old are you?
    49 years old.
  3. What do you study or do for a living?
    I am a professional within the French TV field.
  4. What hobbies do you have?
    My hobbies are very diverse. I love everything about nature, sea, mountains, science, space, photography and general culture. I like to create and invent. I love to travel and discover new horizons. I have become a fan of building with LEGO bricks since I discovered this wonderful software: Lego Digital Designer.
  5. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    Everything started about eight years when my husband found a trunk containing his old LEGO bricks from the 70s, which has given us a family passion for LEGO.
  6. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    I do not have a preferred official LEGO set because I prefer to create my own original designs than assemble the bricks of an existing design.

    Nevertheless, I like the LEGO Ideas set: WALL • E.
  7. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    If I had to choose a LEGO element that I preferred, it would be: The 1X1 W, 4 KNOBS #4733 because, to create a new design, this brick is the center and also the ideal starting point. Also, it opens, in 3D vision, the creative space towards the maximum of directions, and it allows you to be able to assemble elements together with their female sides, and one can then have studs on several sides!
  8. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    Yes, I have enormously appreciated the work of the 3 official LEGO designers: Carl Thomas Merriam, Michael Psiaki & Austin William Carlson, regarding the improvement and optimization of the NASA Apollo Saturn-V final design. They have done a remarkable job - pure genius.
  9. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    I find the Bricklink website very practical to acquire old or rare LEGO bricks and also, during the creation of a real LEGO brick model, it offers us the possibility of knowing if these bricks will be available and at what price, in the contrary case, to be able to change these bricks for others that are available.


About Your Project

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    When Felix Stiessen and I finished building the Saturn-V rocket it seemed obvious to us that the best stand for this rocket would be its Launch Tower. As time passed, I collaborated with Dr. Emmanuel Urquieta on two other LEGO Ideas NASA projects that we decided to build together in real LEGO bricks, which included the launch tower at 1/110 scale. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to build this Launch tower in real LEGO bricks, because this design reached the 10,000 supporters too quickly.
  2. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    The challenge when creating this model was to design the launch tower with less than 3000 Lego bricks, while keeping the maximum detail, and developing a solid construction. The most difficult part to recreate on this model was the structure of the diagonal reinforcements on each floor, because we had to create, after a lot of tests, a solid structure with three fixing points and with very few bricks.
  3. How long did it take to complete the model?
    During the creation of this model which lasted approximately 4 months, we proceeded in several phases:
    - First of all, we did a big documenting job (photos and original blueprints).
    - Then it was necessary to put all the data of the measures to scale 1/110 then to convert them into LEGO studs. On this occasion we created a fairly advanced table conversion, with Excel (.xls), to automatically convert feet, inches or meters to the number of studs (horizontal calculation), or in height of plates or bricks (vertical calculation) at any scale! If you are interested, you can download this converter here.
    - After that, we designed the first "Deluxe" model, with around 4915 Lego bricks.
    - Then, we designed the "Basic" model with less than 3000 bricks, and we were able to present this design on LEGO Ideas. But with less detail, and functionality and with a different structure.
    - Thanks to the participation of the fans by commenting positively on this project and submitting ideas to improve the launch tower, we were able to present you the "Prestige" model with 3000 bricks while retaining the details of our first model and adding some new features and modifications, and also with another different tower structure
  4. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    Of course, we were overjoyed, this is a great time after long days of work and promotion devoted to this project :-) To get 10,000 votes, it took about two months.
  5. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    2999 LEGO bricks.

About LEGO Ideas

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    If I were to give any advice to LEGO Ideas project designers, it would be to only to build what you like! At first, with rather simple assemblies, document as much as possible about the subject. Try not to find inspiration in existing similar designs and believe in original ideas. I would also suggest building your models digitally as well as with real LEGO bricks. That way you can take cool shots of the digital version and also show that it would be possible in real life, and check the solidity of your construction, of course.
  2. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
    I really like a LEGO Ideas project from my friend Saabfan which is: Fiat 500 F
  3. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    What is attractive about this platform is the possibility for anyone to present their LEGO design to a large number of fans, and have the chance to, perhaps, turn that idea into an official LEGO set.

    The advice I could give someone who would like to put an idea on this platform would be: go, go, even if it does not get a lot of votes, it will always be positive and will help you to do better and better every time.
  • lego ideas
  • 10k club
  • valerie roche
  • emmanuel urquieta
  • nasa saturn-v launch umbilical tower

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