The Lego Master

    Idaho Nonprofit Center’s membership director Richard Mussler-Wright has an unusual passion.

    By Ken Levy
    Photography By Pete Grady

    He’s an advocate of teaching and loves to help people to help each other.Richard Mussler-Wright, membership director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center, loves his day job. “What makes it engaging and fun is working with some very passionate people. They’re excited, and that’s infectious,” he said. “But because they’re passionate, they might not always be thinking about the sustainability of what they’re doing or how to build their capacity.”

    INPC is a statewide association dedicated to helping nonprofits realize their goals and those of the causes they represent. “We help them to strategize. We help them to plan and think about how they’re going to effectively and efficiently approach their mission,” Mussler-Wright said.

    INPC represents the nonprofit sector, not individual causes. “It’s an interesting dance,” he said. “We have non-profits for wolf people; we have non-profits for sheep people.”

    But there are a number of issues that affect every nonprofit, such as caps on charitable donations and dealing with state contracts.

    “Every dollar I can save for a nonprofit organization is a dollar they can apply to their mission,” Mussler-Wright said. “If I can help them to run more efficiently and effectively, they’re going to do their mission better.”

    He’s been on a statewide tour, most recently visiting 15 nonprofits from Mountain Home to Idaho Falls. Nonprofits can range from human services such as shelters and food banks, to historical societies and art museums, to animal protection societies and more.

    “I really believe in helping the community. I started as a teacher and did a lot of work in the education arena,” he said. “Education is a theme in my life.”

    When Mussler-Wright is not working, he plays—with Legos. He’s been working on dinosaur Lego creations and teaches a series of engineering camps including robotics. “Lego is a wonderful thing to share with kids,” said Mussler-Wright.

    He designed curriculum that helped kids love science and helped install Lego labs and others, such as Erectors, in science and technology labs in schools and after-school environments such as Boys and Girls Clubs.

    “Legos are intuitive; kids understand them, and there’s the whole robotics aspect of them. We’re entering a whole new world, with a child-friendly robotic interface that kids can just plug into and program the robot.”

    He’s also involved with the Arduino community, which works with robotic controllers. They’re cheap, and the systems cost fractions compared with others. Thanks to that low price point, kids are developing robotics formerly only available for scientists and uber-electronics geeks, he said.His own children also benefit from his desire to teach and play.

    Mussler-Wright lives in Boise with his wife Marlene, his 12-year old daughter, and his 8-year old son. An avid bicyclist, he commutes about 10 miles a day to work, and created a “circus train” with his kids when they were younger. From work to play, Mussler-Wright has built a meaningful life that helps others.

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