By Henry Studebaker, 16, Hamilton HS
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Henry wants to start posting pictures of his creations online so he can connect with other teenage fans of LEGOs.

I wake up the Saturday after my AP European history exam, and as soon as I open my eyes, the first thing that pops into my head is, “I have to build.” I walk into the den, turn on the light and open my large plastic box of Bionicles (a kind of LEGOs). I see a jumble of colorful plastic parts and immediately I feel excited that I have time to return to my oldest and favorite hobby.

I start making piles of gold and black pieces to use for my dragon. I pick up two black pieces and start connecting them to make the wings. During the next few hours my hands move faster and faster, the piles shrink and the dragon grows. Five hours later, I feel like a proud parent as I examine the football-sized gold and black dragon standing in front of me.

Although some people might think I’m too old for LEGOs, I love them. To me, they’re a form of self expression, just like painting. I get to create whatever I want from dragons to sword-wielding heroes to evil magicians. If my head feels ready to explode with ideas, I know that I have to build. It’s my creative outlet and it lets me make whatever I want.

I started building with LEGOs in elementary school. One of my first sets was a pit stop and race car. My dad helped me build the small roof and the red, white and yellow car. The pit stop looked so real that I could almost hear the car pull in. I wanted to build as many spaceships, trains, planes and buildings as I could.

Henry used a type of LEGO called Bionicles to build his warriors and dragon. Photo by Victor Beteta, 18, University HS

Soon, following the out-of-the-box instructions became boring so I started making my own creations. If I wanted to make a spaceship rainbow-colored by using bricks from other kits, I could and did. I created spaceships and military vehicles, like a flatbed trailer that was for a smaller car, or a car that had a small body, but a really high gun turret. I spent days building LEGOs with my friend Alex; the ideas just kept coming out of our heads.

Was I too old for LEGOs?

One day at the beginning of middle school, I asked Alex if he wanted to build and he replied, without looking up from the TV, that almost all of his parts were gone. That was the first time that I felt too old to be  into LEGOs. But I loved LEGOs and I wouldn’t give up my hobby just because my friends did.

In middle school, I moved almost exclusively to the Bionicle kind of LEGOs, which are mechanical warriors that do battle in the name of good or evil. Traditional LEGO bricks were childish, the Bionicle parts were “manly.” I created knights, fighting off evil dragons in the name of their kingdoms.

One day, I was bored and searched YouTube for Bionicle creations and found a whole community of people who loved Bionicles as much as I did. I started following YouTube users who dedicated their channels to their Bionicles and I immediately felt like these strangers were some of my closest friends.

About a year later, I finished watching a video by my favorite Bionicle creator and storyteller, Scotttjt, when a note popped up. It said that the full biographies of the characters could be viewed on (MOC stands for “My Own Creations”). I fell in love with the website soon after. It has everything from Halo to Pokémon, all in LEGO form. I’ve seen a creation that looks like a mechanical pegasus that can actually move, thanks to the power of LEGO Mindstorms (LEGOs that can move independently by small battery-powered motors).

As I was looking at a creation on earlier this year, I saw the word “TFOL.” Since I already knew AFOL meant “Adult Fan of LEGO,” it wasn’t hard to figure out that TFOL stood for “Teenage Fan of LEGO.” Then I noticed the messages on some of the homepages of builders: “Add this [message] to your page if you’re a TFOL!” Seeing other teens with a passion like mine made me proud to be called a TFOL.

I love LEGOs, but I don’t build as much as I used to. Even though school and video games have filled most of the time I used to devote to LEGOs, they will always be a part of me.