Mott’s ‘Lego Guy’ Helps Young Patients Focus on Fun, Not Illness

A U-M grad’s custom Lego robotics kits help keep young patients’ minds busy during hospital stays while teaching basic coding and educational skills.

Knocking on a young patient’s door, John McInerney peeks his head inside with a question that prompts a big grin.
“Hey, want to make a Lego robot?”

It’s become a familiar scene at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where McInerney — or “Lego guy,” as the kids call him — has become a new regular. Recognized by his rolling cart topped with a giant, bright-yellow Lego man head, the 24-year-old spends his days lifting young spirits with one of the most timeless toys. Right from their hospital beds, Mott patients can choose from more than a dozen kits in the cart to assemble colorful Lego robots.

There’s a frog whose motion sensor-activated tongue flicks out to catch a fly and a dump truck that empties its bed of Lego items into messy piles. Other options include a race car, submarine, airplane and dolphins.

With McInerney nearby to offer assistance, patients follow iPad instructions to build and program their Lego creations. The kits are designed for children as young as kindergarten so the experience can be “purely fun and stress-free,” he says.

“For me, the best part is watching something I made come to life through the kids and see it bring smiles to their faces,” says McInerney, who graduated from U-M’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design in 2016.

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University of Michigan Health