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Published September 13 2013

Teenager enjoys ‘infinite puzzle’ of Lego building

BECKER COUNTY, Minn. - Tyler Tollefson describes the Lego situation in his room as “organized chaos.”

A pathway in his room leads by a mass of colorful, plastic, interlocking building blocks.

“The bad thing about this is I can’t get his room clean. I mean, this is clean,” his mother, LeAnn, said with a laugh.

But, mostly, she’s just proud of what her son can create from the chaos.

“It’s impressive, very impressive,” she said.

Tollefson, 15, has earned a fistful of blue and purple ribbons at the county and state levels thanks to his skills with Legos. He recently showed some of his work at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, including models of a steam shovel and a threshing machine. That show has inspired a number of his works, including a 7-foot model of a locomotive at the Threshers Reunion, a project for which he received a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair this year.

He enjoys the flexibility that Lego building offers. It allows him to create what he wants. But he also enjoys the challenge of having to use the fixed shapes to do so.

“It’s an infinite puzzle,” said Tollefson, a student at Detroit Lakes High School.

Because you’re working with fixed shapes, Tollefson says, “you have to think outside the box to achieve your goal – problem solving, think ahead as to how you want things to work out and stack up.”

LeAnn is impressed with what her son creates and says others are as well.

“When you see what he’s done, it’s not playing with Legos,” LeAnn said. “It’s creating and building.”

With his propensity for constructing things, you might think that Tollefson is headed for a career in engineering. But Tollefson is looking in a different direction. He wants to be a pilot.

“I want to fly,” said Tollefson, who also enjoys trapshooting with the high school team and showing horses.

Tollefson doesn’t expect to give up Lego building. He says there are “full-grown adults” who build.

“There are people who build aircraft carriers that are, like, 20 feet long, literally, with different planes and hundreds of mini-figures, thousands of blocks,” he said.

The train that Tollefson displayed at the Minnesota State Fair was a sizable project in its own right. It has passengers, the train wheels drive the pistons and the cars have magnetic car couplers.

“My train took, off and on, about a year to build,” he said.

But building is a labor of love for Tollefson.

“I do enjoy it. You start out with just a single block and a pile of bricks and then it turns out to be a pound-and-a-half plastic plane that’s 2 feet long or a train that’s 7,” he said. “It just all starts out with a little picture and a brick at a time.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734