Archive for October, 2011

I love coaching FIRST LEGO League. It is a ton of fun and it is always interesting to see all the different robot ideas. One major challenge for my FLL team was building a strong motor base. While there are many good ideas out on the internet, I wanted to share one that my team really likes. Using 2 Technic frames and 1 1×13 beam, they were able to build a strong base. I have used this design before and I have been very pleased with the results. As you can see from the image, it is just a few parts and you are ready to go.

Actually, I used this design for a small robot I built last month. This robot uses the NXShield from Mindsensors. The video is on YouTube, though it wont let me make it public. I will work to get that sorted out and post again with the video in place. This is an early picture, but you can see the frames and base in the photo. I added a few more sensors for the video, but you can see how small and compact the robot is. In fact the entire robot is about 25 cm long and 20 cm wide. The robot is strong, and while I don’t recommend dropping your design, this one has survived a few falls.

The NXShield uses an Arduino and can easily be programmed in C. It has 4 motor ports and 4 sensor ports. My completed bot used a few touch sensors, a Mindsensors LineLeader, and a MindSensors Sumo Eyes. If you would like to learn more about Mindsensors and the NXShield, SumoEyes or LineLeader, check out

Got an idea on how to make a motor base? Post below! What is your best design?

I’m on a Boat!

Posted: October 28, 2011 in LEGO, News, Robotics
Tags: , , , , ,

Well not really, but I made a robotic one. I have been working on a robotic board to hopefully compete in Brickworld Chicago Boat Race in June. I am on my third revision and I think I finally have something successful. The first 2 boats had a special unique feature that when they turned, they also flipped over. NXT + water != good. I added vertical and horizontal stabilizers to the rear of the boat, as well as lowered the center of gravity. While the boat does rock a bit, it is much more stable. I also wanted to reduce the mass of the boat. As you can see, it is quite simple to build.

I decided to do some simple NXT-G programming and link it to my controller I use for the segway. (I also used MindDroid on my Android phone. That worked well, though less precise than the segway controller.) Getting in touch with my inner 8 year old, I filled my bath tub and put the boat in a couple of nights ago. Much to my surprise, it was stable and controllable and fast! (Watch out other AFOLs!) I did discover one issue with it kicking up a lot of water. I need to add some splash guards to keep the boat from filling with water. I plan to add a sensor mast as well and attach a GPS, IMU, and compass to allow it to drive around on its own. My next testing grounds: Rose-Hulman’s Speed Lake!

Miss Brickworld Fort Wayne? Want to see what you missed? Check out this video on all the different robots, models, and artwork on display!

Many have asked me if I had a video of the shuttle in action. During some down time at Brickworld Fort Wayne, I decided to take a quick video of the shuttle in action. Check it out! This is also the first video I have posted from my phone. Not too bad of quality. Shout out to Marc-Andre and John for helping build the shuttle!


Also, another interesting video from NI on the LEGO MINDSTORMS Space Shuttle. One of the Application Engineers explains the shuttle in Spanish at NIWeek. (I dont speak spanish, so I have no idea what it actually says.)



As promised, I have a bunch of pictures from the event. This post has a few, but I also have a public album on facebook if you want to see more. If you are in the area, stop by!


Today is off to a great start here in Fort Wayne. Lots of people and lots of LEGO! I am doing some live demos of the NXShield and DI IMU. Be sure to stop by if you are in the area! Check back later for more pics!