I’ve gotten some questions about how to run your own virtual LEGO building competition. This post describes the approach I took to running the Bricks and Bikes competitions. It is not the only way to run a LEGO competition, but it certainly worked well for me!
I have run two virtual LEGO competitions, and plan to run another in the fall of 2021.
Spirit of the Competition
A LEGO Competition should be about having fun. To that end, you should make all efforts to reduce emphasis on judging and numerical scores and increase emphasis on creativity, humor, and storytelling. This is especially true when the competitors are young children.
The first thing you should do is decide on a schedule for your competition. I initially tried to do a daily event, but I found that was too taxing on me and on the competitors. Weekly rounds work much better.
I funded prizes for the winners by asking competitors for an entry fee. I made the fee optional. If you want to use a virtual LEGO competition as a fundraiser, you might make the fee mandatory. I found it easiest to not announce specific prizes in advance.
Before starting the competition, post your competition rules in a public place so that all competitors can see and reference the rules. Here is an example rules page from my web site. If you have to change or amend the rules, do so publicly and clearly note that you did so.
Determine your expected age distribution of competitors. If you expect to have a wide variation in ages (e.g., kids with ages spread across more than 4 years), I suggest creating divisions of competition based on age. An example distribution is included in the rules on my web page.
Conducting the Competition
I divided the competition into rounds. Each round consists of:
- Theme announcement
- Competitor submission
- Submission deadline
- Results announcement
I announced themes on Sundays, allowed submissions until Thursday night, and conducted judging on Friday or Saturday.
Selection of themes depends on your audience. I found it works best to choose something that is open to interpretation, like “mystery” than something specific like “race car.” You can see some examples of themes and submissions here.
I encouraged competitors to submit photos of their designs by interacting with my social media pages. This also encourages competitors to interact with one another. You can follow this approach, or you can accept submissions via email or other mechanism.
I enforced a submission deadline to give me time to assemble judging slides with all of the entries. I used a simple Google Slides template to quickly put together judging slides.
For every round of competition I had two judges (usually myself and a guest judge). I conducted judging remotely, using a Zoom meeting and Zoom's cloud recording feature. Each judging round consisted of a brief introduction of the guest judge, then approximately one minute of discussion per entry.
For every entry, I encouraged judges to find at least one positive thing to say about the design. Even if an entry is uninteresting or confusing, it's important to think of something clever, unexpected, or inspiring about the entry (again, the goal is to have fun!).
Here is an example judging:
After judging concluded, I downloaded the video from Zoom and shared it via YouTube.
I judged entries on by assigning three values between 1 and 10 for each entry:
- Originality - How clever and unexpected is this design?
- Style - How nicely are color, texture, and aesthetics used?
- Story - Is there a story inherent in the design?
Each entry received a score of the sum of each judges scores for each three categories.
I picked winners by selecting a number of top scores for each competitor. For example, if I had five rounds of competition, I used each competitors top three scores. This means that if a competitor missed a week, he or she would not necessarily be penalized in the final scoring.
I opted not to emphasize scores in my results announcements (to minimize any chance of argument about judging). I picked a top entry per round for an award, then at the end of the competition I picked a winner from each age category.