March 11, 2010

Lego may snap up Maine 7-year-old's idea

RAY ROUTHIER

— By

Quaid Guarino, 7, holds his latest Lego creation, a spaceship, at his home in Falmouth on Thursday. Quaid has 32 bins of the toys filling two rooms and can build a 400-piece set very quickly.

Doug Jones/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

This Star Wars TIE Fighter spaceship is one of Quaid Guarino’s favorites. The first-grader also built a realistic replica of Anakin Skywalker’s spacecraft by watching “Star Wars” films.

Doug Jones/Staff Photographer

Staff Writer

Quaid Guarino was playing with some Legos at the dining room table in March when an idea hit him.

The 7-year-old -- who has 32 bins of Lego products filling two rooms of his family's Falmouth home -- was sure he had discovered something the Lego company would want to know about.

''He called me over and said, 'I want to tell Lego what I did. They need to know about this and they need to do this,' '' said his mom, Elizabeth Guarino. ''My first inclination was to blow it off, but then I looked at what he did and thought, 'Wow.' I called my husband over to look at it, and by that time Quaid had 'Googled' Lego and sent them an e-mail about it. ''

Turns out, the president of Lego Systems Inc. in Billund, Denmark, was indeed interested.

Lego President Soren Torp Laursen sent the boy and his family a certified letter in April that included a release form for Quaid to sign before he and Lego could talk more about his idea. (If you're dying to know what Quaid's idea is -- well, sorry. The release doesn't allow him to tell anyone else about it.)

''I knew it was a good idea,'' Quaid, a first-grade student at Lunt Elementary School, said Thursday. ''That's why I wanted to tell them.''

Quaid's mom calls his idea ''a new way of playing with Legos.''

Julie Stern of Lego's Brand Relations division confirmed Thursday that Lego is seeking to hear more about Quaid's idea, but said she couldn't comment further.

In his letter, Laursen told the Guarinos that it was ''very rare'' for Lego to arrange for product development discussions with a 7-year-old.

Not every first-grader looks up corporate addresses and zings off product development pitch letters, either. But it's not surprising behavior for Quaid, his parents say.

This is a kid who orders his own Lego sets on eBay. He uses his school's directory and makes his own play dates. He built a small nine-hole golf course in his yard.

He even built a realistic replica of Anakin Skywalker's spacecraft by watching ''Star Wars'' films.

And although Quaid loves Legos, existing sets don't challenge him. ''He can take a 400-piece kit and build it (very quickly),'' his mother said. ''He has to challenge himself.''

The Guarino family got an e-mail Thursday from Paal Smith-Meyer, senior director for Lego's New Business Group, saying that he wanted to start discussions soon.

The parties will first exchange information via e-mail, and then probably over the phone between Falmouth and Billund in the coming weeks. Denmark time is six hours ahead of Maine time, so scheduling the phone calls will be challenging.

''Once school is out, I guess we can keep him up late for a phone call,'' said Elizabeth Guarino. ''Or maybe they'll stay up late.''

As part of his preparation, Quaid located Denmark on his globe. He wanted to know where to find the folks he'll be talking to.

What might come of the discussions is hard to say. But if there's any company that might take advice from a child, it's Lego. The written mission statement on Lego's Web site includes the sentence: ''Children are our role models.''

Lego also wants Quaid to do some drawings, or maybe a video, that would help illustrate his idea.

When asked whether he knew what he'd talk about in discussions with Lego, Quaid said simply:

''I'm prepared.''

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

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