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Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic

12th Annual Brick by Brick: LEGO Shipbuilding event at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum

by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Porsha Thompson Navy Public Affairs Support Element
10 February 2023

As droves of families poured into the Decker Half Moone Cruise Center in the heart of downtown Norfolk they were greeted with historically-accurate Lego ship displays that were accompanied by volunteers to explain the histories of each ship.

Notably, there was an accurate model of the currently operational Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) commissioned by the museum and created by Jett Starcher. The ship took him 2 weeks and 40,000 Lego pieces to build for the event.

“I have been building for the museum for 10 years,” said Starcher. “I am a carpenter by trade so building and creating is my life.”

As guests made their way into the event space, they were able to build at their skill level and beyond. The space featured easy, medium, hard and expert tables complete with instructions and Lego pieces for building both historical and currently operational U.S. Navy ships.

Parents joined in to help their children at each level and many were excited to build their own ships alongside them. There were volunteers stationed at each table to assist, many of them service members using their day off to give back to the community that supports their efforts at home and out to sea.

Arguably the highlight of the day was the shipbuilding competition. It featured categories for all age groups and competitors had the option to either build their entry at the event or at home and bring it in to be judged.

The ships were judged based on their originality, creativity, historical accuracy and of course the use of Lego figurines to give a sense of action aboard the vessel.

“Building with Legos gives kids their first experiences with the math and science of engineering,” said competition judge LS2(SW) Charles Fowler, who is assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). “This event motivates kids to be creative by giving them a chance to see what other kids their ages and older are capable of.”

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students representing Greenbriar Middle Schools robotics program, showcased autonomous robotic Lego vehicles while guests were given the opportunity to try their hands at programming their own.

“I got a Lego robotic set for Christmas in 1st grade and I have loved them ever since,” said Greenbriar Middle School STEM student Emily Jimenez. “Lego building is so much fun and a great way to meet people and make friends.”

As the day wrapped up, the winners for each age group were announced and awarded Lego gift cards to buy more Legos and encourage them to keep building.

“Events like these introduce our Navy community to our civilian community,” said Museum Director John Pentangelo of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. “Children have the opportunity to learn the history of our Navy while building with their families”


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