Master Model Builder has a career that stacks up

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine
Megan Amaral builds with bricks daily. But in her job, they are small, plastic, multicolored bricks and require no heavy lifting or massive construction equipment on site. That’s because Amaral is the Master Model Builder at Legoland Discovery Center Boston. And, clearly, she enjoys it — as evidenced by the smile on her face as she rounds the corner to her office, carrying bright bags of discarded Legos recently acquired from the gift shop downstairs.

“We get leftovers from the sets that are damaged,” she explained. “It’s like Christmas every day!”

As Master Model Builder, Amaral, 27, is responsible for all Lego builds through LDC Boston, an indoor attraction in Somerville that features rides, a “4-D” theater showing Lego movies, and a massive Lego reproduction of Boston, featuring many local landmarks and attractions, known as Miniland. That’s where the discards from the sets come in.

“I love the creativity of putting in the details,” Amaral said. “Right now, we are adding Halloween details in Miniland, so there are vampires over by Fenway and skeletons riding bikes by MIT. There’s always something new to see!”

Amaral, who grew up in Sturbridge, first developed a love of building with Legos in high school and had an aunt who would buy her many of the complicated kits that can often take hours, or even days, to assemble.

Her first set was a pizzeria that featured a delivery car and a mini chef. After putting it together, she was hooked.

“My mom said, ‘Maybe you should consider architecture,’” she explained.

And that’s exactly what Amaral did. Setting out for a degree in architecture from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, she found Legos useful for her studies, as well.

“In college, I would have to draw out plans on the computer, and it was so much easier to just create it with Legos and see it in 3-D that way.”

While in college, naturally she followed her passion to a part-time job at the Lego store in the Burlington Mall, and it was there that she learned about the Model Master Builder competition when Legoland Discovery Center Boston first opened in 2014. While she didn’t win the job, she did land a position as a duty manager with the attraction. In 2015, she tried her hand again when the Master Model Builder job became open. This time, she came out on top among the contestants, building models that included Bugs Bunny, which secured her win.

Amaral is the third female Master Model Builder in the history of the 13 Legoland Discovery Centers around the world — and the first at LDC Boston. There is currently only one other female Master Model Builder, and she is located at the Legoland Discovery Center in Osaka, Japan.

Despite being solidly in the minority as a female Master Model Builder, Amaral does not think Legos are perceived as a toy for males only.

“Growing up, I had friends of both genders who would play with Lego bricks. Now working at Legoland Discovery Center Boston, we see kids of all ages, genders, races, and backgrounds who enjoy playing and creating with the colorful bricks,” she says. “I don’t think it’s a ‘boy’s toy’ at all. I think since its development in 1932, it’s one of the few toys that has endured through the changes in our society, and a big factor is that it appeals to everyone.”

Amaral notes that Lego, mindful of appealing to all audiences, has worked to get people of all genders and ages interested with sets that take their inspiration from popular shows and movies.

“If a kid loves the movie Frozen and goes to the store and sees a Frozen Lego set, that’s going to get them interested in building; whether that’s a little boy or girl,” she notes. “Lego also has sets that appeal to older builders, like The Simpsons house and the Volkswagen bug, so I think they do a good job coming up with sets that are going to appeal to various audiences, with the goal to ultimately get them involved with the creative process of building.”

Now that Amaral is paid to build with Legos daily, she spends her days in an office lined with drawers containing thousands of Legos, categorized by size, color, and shape, which she organizes herself.

“That part some might find tedious, but I actually don’t mind it. I am super organized myself,” she said.

Her passion for Legos doesn’t end when Amaral leaves her job at the end of the day. She confides that she and her husband often enjoy building Lego kits at home together for date nights.

“My favorite sets are the sets in the Creator theme because they have sets that build three different things from the same pieces, and larger sets that use pieces in ways that you would not think of,” she said. “I learn something new each time I build one of the Creator sets. I also love the Disney Princess sets. I love that they made my favorite characters out of my favorite toy. I definitely have a kid inside me that never grew up.”

And there is little doubt that her job is the envy of every Lego enthusiast out there. What advice does she have for aspiring future Master Model Builders?

“Keep building and being creative,” she said. “I love sharing my passion for the different themes with kids. I find that they are excited to have an adult who can discuss all the characters and details with them; it’s one of the reasons I love this job.”