Archive for the ‘LEGO’ Category


My favorite building platform is LEGO. I have boxes of LEGO Technic. I frequently build robots and then take them apart. To make finding the right part easier, I sort most of my LEGO. The image above is a small stash of my sorted LEGO Technic parts.

There are three stages to my sorting scheme. First is what you see in the picture, little bins holding small quantities of parts. I typically use these bins to build a model as they are handy and portable.

Bins work well for small amounts of parts, but if your addicted to LEGO like I am, you probably have way more parts than you can fit in bins. Inside the cardboard box you see in the photo (and several others around my apartment) is a similar assortment of parts, but in bags. Each type of part gets its own bag and these bags hold the overflow of parts. For larger projects where I need a lot of one part, I will usually pull the bags and keep them handy. Some parts, like LEGO Technic pins, I keep in soda bottles. I find it is easier to fill up a 2 liter bottle with black friction pins and pour from that. Bags have a nasty habit of friction pins all over my work area.

My last level or sorting is something I affectionately call MUL or Miscellaneous Unsorted LEGO. MUL is typically a box (or now 3) of past projects or sets I have parted out to get sorted. A few times a year (and I am in the middle of one right now), I take all my MUL parts and sort them. Most of the time parts go directly to a bag as I like to keep my bins stocked.

While I sort parts by type, I do not sort by color. While I would love to have that much organization, it simply isn’t practical for me to spend the time parting things out that far. I also do not have that many parts on hand (although I’m sure my brother, parents, girlfriend, and apartment maintenance manager would disagree).

I enjoy keeping my LEGO parts sorted and organized. It lets me build without having to dig for a part. This is just one method of organization and I know many other AFOLs sort their bricks as well. It is software a work in progress as it has evolved over time. I am always open to new sorting ideas!

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The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide by Pawel Kmiec is a great technical manual for building mechanical models. Unlike some of the previous books I have reviewed, Kmiec’s designs are for the advanced Technic builder. Kmiec does cover some basics, as you can seen in the sample pages below, but this quickly gives way to complex gearboxes and suspension systems. Join me after the break for more of my thoughts on this great LEGO reference!

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If you have launched EV3-G recently, you probably discovered that there is a new update! LEGO has released version 1.2.2 to address the “VM Program Instruction Break” bug. Be sure to update your software to the latest version. The bug did not affect the firmware on your EV3, just the compiler in EV3-G.

The Seshan Brothers, over at EV3Lessons.com, have an excellent overview of the bug.

You can download the latest versions of the LEGO MINDSTORMS programming software here!


LEGO was all over World Maker Faire! Besides FIRST LEGO League, LEGO was a common sight. LEGO provides a flexible building platform and Makers love LEGO. While it might not ship in a final project, the iconic, modular bricks provides an unmatched ease of use for prototyping. This has been one of my favorite posts to write, showing off all the awesome creations of the community! Follow me after the break to check out more of the LEGO sights of World Maker Faire 2016!

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As I mentioned last week, I want to share a really fun robot. Sorry for the delay in this post, but I needed to make a quick video of the footage for Youtube. The Maker movement is all about fusing different mediums to create something unique. For this ROBOT MAK3R, that means mixing 3D Printing, LEGO MINDSTORMS, Spider Wire, and a GoPro action camera.

Capturing events is always a challenge for me. While I am displaying, I am typically very busy answering questions and meeting everyone. I really wanted a way to document these awesome events that still allowed me to be social. Sounds like a robot to me! With some on-site programming I was able to achieve this goal! While the bot needed a bit of tuning, movement along its wire was smooth and pan and tilt controls worked as designed! Not bad for a quick build! Check out the footage from World Maker Faire 2016 and learn about this awesome bot after the break!

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These came in a while ago, but with all the travel this fall, I have been behind in my posting. I wanted to get share my review before the holiday season started as these are certainly must-haves for any LEGO Technic builder!

Before we dig into the books, let’s talk about the author, Yoshihito Isogawa. Yoshihito is one of the best Technic/MINDSTORMS builders out there. He hosts countless workshops in Japan and is always creating! What is so cool is that his creations can be used in so many different projects! They really are a great starting point. I highly recommend his LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book.

Now let’s talk about the LEGO Power Functions Idea Book Volume 1: Machines and Mechanisms. The first volume’s focus on machines is spot on! Many of the modules, for lack of a better term, are innovative ways to mount LEGO Power Functions motors and transfer power in a useful way.

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As you can see from the example page, there quick little projects provide lots of photos and a bill of materials. While the book does not give you step-by-step instructions, much of the design is easy to figure out. More on that later.

The various machines Yoshihito provide lots of attachment points. I spent a few hours building some of the mechanisms from his book. I learned some good building techniques and I can really see myself using them in upcoming projects.

LEGO Power Functions Idea Book Volume 2: Cars and Contraptions is probably the more useful book for me. Many of the robots I build move. Cars and Contraptions shows some really unique drivetrains. These ideas would be super useful for FIRST LEGO League teams.

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I rarely uses LEGO Power Functions in my drivetrains. These ideas will certainly change that. The beauty of LEGO Power Functions is that it super easy to integrate into a robot. While the motors are not encoded, they do provide a lot of power in a small package. These presents a unique design challenge and something that I am looking really forward to exploring.

My favorite part of this book is that it doesn’t give the entire design. So many of us are attached to building instructions. I love idea of just sharing pictures and letting others build off that idea. Yoshihito does exactly that. I found myself having to improvise when I couldn’t quite figure out how to make something or lacking a part. This was great fun and just added to the enjoyment from these books. The various models are simple enough that you get by with just photos, but yet also open ended so that is room to make your own take on everything! I would highly suggest this approach for anyone who feels that step-by-step instructions are too simple, but not quite ready to create from scratch.

Long story short, I would highly suggest both of these books and they should make it on to any holiday shopping list! Yoshihito is an amazing LEGO builder and it is truly a gift that he is sharing these ideas with the global LEGO community!

Remember that LEGO GoPro Gyro Stabilizer I showed in my Make Faires post? If not, check out the picture below!

Now you can 3D print that same GoPro to Technic Mount! I have posted it on Thingiverse. Go Check it out! All you need is 1 EV3, 3 Gyros, 3 Motors and an afternoon to make your own! Have fun!

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September was a busy month for me! The highlights were both Maker Faire Orlando at the Orlando Science Center and World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. You might have noticed a hint of what I have been up to over the past weeks. This post will be pretty heavy when it comes to pictures to help share the AWESOME that is the maker movement.

Never heard of Maker Faire? A Maker Faire is an event put on in conjunction with Make: magazine to celebrate “makers”. What is a maker? Well that is a little more difficult to understand. At its core a maker is someone who makes things. There is no age requirement to be a maker. There are lots of different types of makers. Some are ROBOT MAK3RS or people that make with LEGO MINDSTORMS. However that is hardly an official category. You might make robots, cars, giant flaming robot sculptures, paper models, apps, clothes. Making can use a range of materials from 3D printing to LEGO to metal/wood to fabric. Making is a form of expression and hands-on learning.

You can checkout coverage of the LEGO MINDSTORMS Booth, including some of my bots at The NXT Step!

Follow me after the break for more.

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About 9 months ago, FATCATLAB posted a Kickstarter for an EV3 cape for the BeagleBone Black, an open source embedded Linux computer created by Texas Instruments. Their product was called the EVB. It was successfully funded and kits shipped out a few months ago. I received mine  a little while back. Generally I prefer using an EV3 brick, but I have loaned a bunch of my EV3s out to a local school district for training for FIRST LEGO League as they were awaiting their shipment of EV3s from LEGO Education.

See my thoughts (that didn’t make the video) after the break. (more…)

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LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Essentials by Abid H. Mujtaba in a new offering from PACKT Publishing. I was able to review the ebook over the last couple weeks.

PACKT did a good job in publishing the book in color. The book presents the EV3 in great details. It goes over each sensor and motor and includes comments on using NXT electronics with EV3. However, some of the images used were out of focus or looked cropped. The screen captures of the EV3 screen were good quality, which is key to understanding what is going one. That said, if you want a summary of EV3 hardware, there are better books out there. You might consider another option.

Where this book really shined (albeit a bit unusual approach, by not actually talking about some of the really cool tools of leJOS) is that it provided an overview of Java leJOS on EV3. It goes over some basic Linux settings (wifi among other things) on the brick. It goes over IDEs and Makefiles. The book provides some good sample programs to get you started. It sort of assumes you have some exposure to Java and Linux, but not much on MINDSTORMS.

Overall I would recommend this book if you want to do Java on EV3 and have some Linux exposure. However, there is some room for improvement. Naturally, it is LEGO and MINDSTORMS, not Lego nor Mindstorms. Lastly, leJOS has some impressive tools out of the box that seem to be ignored.