Skip to main content

Data for kids, or how Walter and Vernon met with LEGO

Headshot of article author Jessica Cook

Most of us work with data and business intelligence as part of our day-to-day profession, but here at Microsoft the pursuit of insight can also become a memorable family project.

When Principal Program Manager Jeff Lumpkin told his family that he would be presenting Power BI to executives from LEGO, his boys were thrilled. Like many children their age, Walter, 8, and Vernon, 11, are huge fans of LEGO’s building blocks and kits, and they begged their father to let them attend the meeting.

Jeff explained to the boys that only people who were taking part in the presentation could attend, but instead of getting discouraged Vernon and Walter just got creative.

With the help of their father, the boys put together a survey for the kids in their school. The survey covered demographic information, general hobbies, and of course LEGO preferences, including asking about favorite building sets. Over a short period of time, Walter and Vernon collected over 280 paper surveys from their fellow students, and then painstakingly entered all of the information into an Excel spreadsheet.


After that, it was dad’s turn: Jeff took the spreadsheet and imported it into Power BI, where he could visualize and analyze the data that his sons had collected. Along with being a good first lesson in business intelligence, in Jeff’s knowledgeable hands Vernon and Walter’s survey also unearthed some interesting and actionable insights for LEGO!

For example, the boys discovered that children who could identify a favorite LEGO set, as opposed to just playing with general blocks, were three times more likely to maintain their interest in the toy brand over the following year. Additionally, Vernon and Walter’s data showed that while in most cases interest in LEGO dropped 3-4% each year after the age of seven, girls showed a 25% drop at age 11.


Thanks to their hard work, in March, 2016 Walter and Vernon, along with dad Jeff, presented their findings to LEGO executives at the Microsoft offices in Redmond, Washington. Everyone in attendance reported greatly enjoying the presentation, and representatives from LEGO were fascinated by how Vernon and Walter’s unique approach to research unearthed some different findings from their own efforts.

As for the boys themselves, they were each given a printed name badge for the presentation, and Jeff reports that Walter wore his to bed with him every night for the following week.

For those of us who routinely work with business intelligence, Walter and Vernon’s presentation is a wonderful reminder that you’re never too young to learn the value of good data.