Q & A with “Lego Boy” Brynjar Karl
What is your full name?
“Brynjar Karl Birgisson.”
What is your mother’s full name?
“Bjarney Sigrun Ludviksdottir.”
What is your grandfather’s full name?
“Ludvik Baldur Ögmundsson.”
Why do you have a different last name than your mother or grandfather?
“In Iceland they follow the traditional Scandinavian naming system. Children’s last names are the first names of one of their parents (usually the father), followed by a gender-specific suffix, “-son” or “-dottir”. So having the last name of Birgir or Birgisson means that Brynjar is the son of Birgir. Bjarney Ludviksdottir means that Bjarney is the daughter of Ludvik.”
Where do you live?
“In Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland.”
What grade are you in?
“Here in Iceland I’m in the 9th grade and when I’m finished with the 10th I will go to High school & to College.”
When did you become interested in LEGO building?
“When I was around 5 years old I remember sitting and playing with LEGO.”
When did you start learning about the Titanic?
“By the time I was turning 10 I knew everything there was to know about the TITANIC.”
How old were you when you built the Titanic model?
“When I travel with my mom to LEGO-land in Denmark and saw for the first time all the amazing big models of famous houses and planes, locations and ships I probably then started to think about making my own LEGO model. By the time I was 10 I started to think about building the LEGO Titanic model in a LEGO man size.”
How old are you TODAY? When is your birthday?
“Today I’m 14 years old, but turning 15 years old on the 20th of January.”
Who were the key people to help you with your Titanic Lego project?
“My grandfather “Lulli” helped me make the instructions by scaling down the original blueprint of the Titanic down to LEGO man size. He also helped me figure out the number of bricks we needed to buy for the model. My mother was my coach and mentor. She helped me to find ways to make this dream become a reality. She helped me with communication and make sure I was on track with my journey. Other key people where all my family and friends that donated money to the project, so I could buy all the LEGO bricks.”
How did your grandfather contribute to the project?
“He calculated how big the model would be to fit the scale of a 4cm LEGO man was equivalent to a 1.75m real person. He also calculated how many Lego Bricks it would take to build it, Plus, he helped me with the blueprints and built a platform for the model.”
How many Lego Bricks did the model need?
“56,000 Lego bricks. But after the front part broke and we rebuild it in Hamburg, Germany we had to buy more, taking it to a total of around 65,000 LEGO Bricks.”
How did your mom contribute to the project?
“My mom had diverse roles in my projects. If she had not supported my dream project it would never have been a reality, because there were so many obstacles that I as a kid could not tackle. Like hosting a crowdfunding online. Ordering the LEGO Bricks from Denmark, finding a location for the building process, buying the tools I needed to work on the model. Teaching me how to communicate to the press and guests that came to visit. And pushing me and comfort me when I was almost ready to give up.”
What was the projected (estimated) cost, based on your mother’s calculations? What was the actual cost when it was finished?
“The estimated cost for the 56.000 LEGO bricks I needed to start the project was $ 8,000 and then other costs (platform, tools, glue,) was around $ 2,000. We managed to raise $3000 with crowdfunding and $3000 with book sales and sponsors. The LEGO group in Denmark gave me 30% discount on the LEGO Bricks I bought from them and some people donated their old LEGO bricks.”
Where did you build the Titanic with LEGO BRICKS ?
“We sent a letter to all kinds of companies to ask if they had some space to spare for x amount of time. The main LEGO wholesaler in Iceland (DIPLO) offered us a space in their warehouse.”
How long did it take to build the model?
“11 months – about 700 hours total.”
Were the pieces glued together? How much glue was used?
“Yes. 120 tubes of crazy glue were used.”
Were you ever tempted to give up?
“Yes – 3 times I became frustrated and wanted to quit. Especially when the stern collapsed not once, but twice, then I seriously made an attempt to just stop this crazy project.”
What is the size of the LEGO model?
“26 ft L x 4ft. W x 5ft H”
Where has this Titanic LEGO MODEL been on display?
1. First in the biggest shopping Mall in Iceland called SMÁRALIND.
2. Then it went to a LEGO event in Sweden
3. Then to Kids Expo in Lillestrom in Norway
4. Then to the TECNISK MUSEUM in Oslo
5. Then to Hamburg for rebuilding and Floating Bricks exhibition
6. Finally to the Titanic Museum / Pigeon Forge, TN in USA
Is this your first trip to the USA. How did you feel when you found out you were going to have your model moved to the United States?
“This will be my third visit to the US. I was invited to speak at the TEXx kids in San Diego when I was 13 years old and again a year later in front of 1200 teachers in San Diego. I managed to explore the San Diego marine area and also to visit the Queen Mary in LA. When my mom told me that you had connected with her and offered to host the model I was so so so happy it was my big dream. I have been exploring Branson on the internet and learning about its history. I cant wait to visit the Titanic Museum and meet all the people.”
How did you connect with our Titanic Museum Attraction?
“The last stop for my Titanic Model was Technik Museum in Oslo. We had to find a new resting place for my model, so my mom helped me send letters to companies and organizations. I didn’t know about the Titanic Museum before, but when I was exploring the internet in search for good destinations for the model I came across the Titanic Museum and asked mom to send a letter.”
When you built the LEGO ship did you have any idea it would receive such publicity?
“I never imagined my project would make such impact. Things just evolved and we followed the flow. But I’m very honored and happy that my project was an inspiration to so many others – also motivation to follow your own dreams. Also, I understand much better today, that it’s not only the model that was the attraction, it was my story and how the whole process helped me out of the fog.”
You did many interviews, but how did you feel when you did the TEDx TALK?
“TEXx was an amazing experience and I must admit that my heart beat faster when I stood on the stage and looked out and saw all the crowd. It was my first time standing on stage and performing to an English speaking crowd in San Diego, California.”
Reflecting on this experience, how do you feel about the project today?
“This whole journey has helped me out of my autistic fog. Although I’m still autistic and will always be, I have trained my self to be “as normal as possible”. Whatever normal means I was totally unable to communicate when I started the project and now I’m standing on stage and giving interviews. It has given me confidence. When I started the building process I had a person helping me in school in every step that I took, but today, I’m studying without any support. My grades have risen and my classmates consider me as their peer. I have had the opportunity to travel and explore and meet wonderful people.”
Did you make any new friends because of this project?
“In every city, I made some good friends that I try to follow on instagram and also I have been active feeding some news about my project on Facebook where 6000 people follow my story.”
Do people still connect with you?
“Yes, everyday someone connects with me and shares their point of view about my projects.”
Are you still interested in LEGO Bricks? Have you built anything this big since you built Titanic?
“I have to admit that my LEGO days are over, I never build anything after the Titanic. I turned more towards exploring ships and their stories because I’m interested in becoming a captain when I grow up.”
You and your mother, Bjarney, wrote a book about your AUTISM. During the process of writing the book did you realize you would make an impact with your story?
“My mother and I started to write the book when the model was almost finished, it was a way for us finance the project and also to share my story. I never knew that my project would have this impact.”
Titanic Museum Attraction is excited you will travel to the United States to share your story with people throughout the USA. Did you realize you would inspire so many important discussions about Autism?
“Today I understand much more and understand how this project has helped me and given others hope. Autistic kids are able to train their weaknesses and become stronger just like athletes – but the key is to have the team to support you and I had my family. Being Autistic can sound a bit scary because there is no cure or pill to fix it, but there are ways to become more functional and I’m a real-time store. My story has given parents of autistic kids hope, that this diagnosis is not that terrible.”
What would you like people to know about you?
“I would like people to know that I’m a happy young man with dreams and goals just like every other kid.”
As Brynjar’s mother, how do you feel about his accomplishments?
“The lessons learned are the most important gift. When parents of autistic kids start their upbringing, they are often totally blind on what the future looks like. There are so many hindrances that their kids will have to overcome to become functional citizens. It’s a really good feeling to be able to share with other parents that it’s more than possible to train autistic kids to the overcome these hindrances.”
And lessons you learned from this experience?
“When your child comes to you with an interesting “BIG / Crazy” dream/mission or goal, he or she would like to reach and need your help. Listen carefully and make an attempt to find ways to support the child to reach that goal. It might be the best investment you ever make for your kid. – That’s my personal experience and not only the LEGO Titanic project has molded him in a very positive way – I supported Brynjar in other projects that I didn’t believe he could handle and he proved me so wrong and that’s the big lesson.”