Saturday, May 6, 2017

B2B Lab: LEGO eBooks...

We created eBook stories with Powerpoint®. First, we wrote the story. Next, to illustrated the stories we built scenes with LEGO elements and created backgrounds for the scenes. We took pictures of the builds and enhanced the photos with Photoshop Elements®. Finally, we typed our story and inserted pictures into the slides PowerPoint slides.

The Escape

Time Travel and War

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Book Review: The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide 2nd Ed....

If you have the 1st edition of The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide by Pawel “Sariel” Kmiec (No Starch Press), you know that it s an excellent book that  focused on LEGO technic building; an area that was not really covered in the old The Unofficial Builder’s Guide by Allan Bedford making this an excellent guide to building with Technic elements. The 2nd edition of The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide by Pawel “Sariel” Kmiec (No Starch Press) is now available with four new chapters and many updated chapters, which if you have the 1st edition you might want to add the 2nd edition, as well, to your LEGO® library. If you do not have the 1st edition, then The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide (2nd edition) is a must have book.

The first section covers the fundamental engineering concepts of speed, torque, power, friction, traction, efficiency, and vehicle concepts. Ever wonder what was the name of an element and ways that it can be use? Well, there is a summary of basic technic elements which illustrates how they can be combined. Beginner and seasoned builder will find this informative. Be sure to check out the Tricks with Bricks section.

Part 2 - Mechanics - “Why do we need gears? An intuitive answer is that we need them to transfer drive from a motor to a receiving mechanism. While true, this is not the complete picture.” (Kmiec , p. 55) The author then takes you into a through explanation of gears, pulleys, chains/tracks  (not one of my favorites elements), levers and linkages, with clear, beautiful illustrations and detail instructions for making various mechanisms.

LEGO® makes a differential element, this book shows you various ways it can be used and gives you instructions on how to make custom differentials, as well as instructions for making other types of mechanisms. According to the author, “While ready-made LEGO universal joints have a number of advantages, they are prone to failure when subjected to high torque. The author illustrates how to build a custom universal joint out of basic pieces that will act the same while being more robust,” (Kmiec. p. 115)


Also, under Mechanics - Custom Mechanical Solutions, there is a nice section on LEGO Flashing Lights; the 9-volt Brick Lights and Power Function lights.

If you are into building with or would like to learn how to use pneumatic elements, chapter 10 is a good resource on the topic. Finishing up Part 2 of the book are tips and examples for building sturdy models.
Part 3 of the book  covers all the different types of LEGO Mindstorms motors, Power Function motors, even the RC motor produced in 2005, and did you know there were watertight motors produced in 2003 and 2006? Not only do you learn how you can use the various Technic elements, but you learn a little history of the elements.

Today the Power Functions system is used by many builders, so there is a chapter on PF and tips in using it. If you happen to have a RC system, there is a chapter on that system too.

And if you are ready, there is Part 4 - Advanced Mechanism: Wheeled Steering systems - simple to complex, Wheeled Suspension systems, Tracked Vehicles, Transmissions, Advanced Gearing. Then Part 5 there are the author’s fantastic models.

If you are a Technic builder or even a Mindstorms robotics builder, The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide (2nd Edition) by Pawel “Sariel” Kmiec (No Starch Press) is a teaching and reference book you will want to have. It is also available at

My final word on this book - AWESOMENESS!


Monday, February 20, 2017

B2B Lab: LEGO & litttleBits Together..(Updated)

LEGO® and littleBits®, as two modular building systems they are awesome together. Some of the Brics~2~Bots engineers started working on projects that use LEGO elements with littleBits to learn electronics. 

We started off with a simple Power + Fan (output) to cool things off.

Luc added a button to control the fan: Power + Button (input) + fan (output).

We also made Telegraph devices. First we research telegraphs and the Morse Code on the Internet and printed out the code. 

In 1836, Samuel Morse, American inventor and painter, American physicist Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail created the single wire telegraph system to transmit information for long distances via radio waves. A coded system which became known as the Morse Code, sent as a series of electrical signals - short signals represented as dots and long signals are referred as dashes. Letters and numbers were assigned a combination of dots and/or dashes.The International Morse Code has been in use for more than 160 years longer than any other electrical coding system. The Morse Code was  use in aviation, amateur radio, the general public, and military personnel in the US Navy. The most common message is SOS and in Morse Code (… - - - …). It is rarely used today, because of cell phone and Internet communication, but it is still pretty cool.

Brandon’s telegraph includes a Buzzer and LED to make  the Morse Code signals. Power + Button (input) + Buzzer (output) + Long LED (output).

Spooky Box

Luc's Spooky Box Surprise includes Power + Sound sensor (input) + Pulse (input) + Split (wire) + 2 Bright LED (output).
The Sound sensor picks up the sound of someone entering a room (it is adjustable to sensitivity) causing the LEDs to flash (Pulse). You can make it an alarm by adding a Buzzer.

Olivia made a Night Light that responds to sound.

It has Power + Toggle Switch (input) + Sound sensor (input) + Slider (input) + Wire + Bright LED (output).

Learn more about littleBits®


Monday, January 23, 2017

B2B Lab: All Aboard for TrainVille...

The history of trains goes back to a simple “wagonway” train system dates all the way back to 2nd and 1st millennia BC, where Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians build roads with specific wheel-ruts deliberately cut into rock. This road configuration enabled them to more easily transport wagons that were pulled by horses or bulls, without any need for steering or controlling the trajectory of the wagon and allowing the journey in only two directions. The Greeks especially adopted this type of transport, even managing to build very impressive “wagonway" called Diolkos in ancient Corinth around 600BC, which may be called the first railway in history.


Steam Engine train going over a Trestle Bridge

Controls for Crossing Gates, 9-Volt Trans, PF  Trains,
Sound Effects

This was another collaborative effect by the 
Brics~2~Bots Engineers!


Friday, January 6, 2017



LIVE: Expedition 50 Spacewalk: Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA on the first of two spacewalks to perform a complex upgrade to the International Space Station's power system.

Check it out:

Saturday, December 24, 2016

B2B Lab: Holiday Displaay 2016...

Season’s Greetings!
from the
Brics~2~Bots Engineers

A majestic church with carolers singing Christmas songs.
See more about the church @

A Menorah - Happy Hanukkah!

Waiting for the train at the station. The train is powered by RC Power Function System.

The Gingerbread man waves from outside his house.

Kids frolic in the snow.

The Toy store will be open late with Mrs. Claus.

Santa is lead by Rudolph the Red-nose reindeer. 
Thank you Jason from JKBricks for the PF motorized idea of Santa and his deer. We, however, “robotized” our sleigh with EV3 robotics. Sounds were added through the EV3 brick.

A train tunnel with a waterfall that leads to an underground stream under the town.

This was a collaboration of all the Brics~2~Bots  students. Various elements were used in making this display along with elements mixed and matched from the following kits:  Santa’s Workshop 10245, Gingerbread House 40139, Gingerbread Man 5005156, Winter Top Shop 10249, an earlier version of Winter Toy Shop 10199, Anna’s Sleigh Adventure 41066, Power Functions System, and LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kits (Programmable Brick & Medium Motor)with NXT Lamp components (which are hard to see in the video).


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: Volunteers are needed for the NYC FLL tournaments...

A Call for Volunteers!

     We are about to begin our tournament season in which we are planning for 200 NYC schools/teams to participate in tournaments across the 5 boroughs.  Throughout the months of January- March NYC FIRST will be hosting NYC First Lego League Robotics Tournaments.  To learn more about FIRST please go here:   We would love to get the schools and communities of NYC more involved with judging and continue the amazing work we do with our kids outside of the traditional classroom setting.  So, this is my official call for volunteers!  If you or anyone you can think of would be willing to give up just 1 Saturday or Sunday to come and be a judge for an event, it would be greatly appreciated.  Please share this with your staff, friends or anyone you think would be interested in helping.  I've attached the link for with the descriptions of the volunteering roles.  Please peruse the "Judge" roles here:  We will provide breakfast, lunch and a stylish NYC FIRST T-Shirt for your efforts.  Judges are asked to arrive at 8am and will be done around 2:00-2:30 at which point you may leave or join in the rest of the festivities.

Please follow this link to register for an event:
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.  If you are not interested, please do not neglect to pass this along far and wide to anyone you know it will be greatly appreciated by NYC FIRST and by the nearly 1,000 students participating in NYC FIRST.

Thank you so much for your anticipated support,

Peter Xanthus
MS 216 Science/Technology

Monday, November 14, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: Qualifiers, Semi-Finals , Finals - Update...

New York City Qualifiers

Saturday January 21, 2017 – CCNY - Manhattan
Saturday January 21, 2017 – Xaverian High School – Brooklyn

Saturday January 28, 2017 – I.S. 51 – Staten Island

Sunday January 29, 2017 – LREI – Manhattan

Saturday February 4, 2017 – MS  216 - Queens
Saturday February 4, 2017 – Amity School – Brooklyn
Saturday February 4, 2017 – Horace Mann School – Bronx
Saturday February 4, 2017 – Salve Regina Catholic Academy – Brooklyn

Saturday February 11, 2017 – Dalton School – Manhattan
Saturday February 11, 2017 – Williamsburg Community Center – Brooklyn

Saturday February 18, 2017 – Van Siclen Community School – Brooklyn


Saturday March 4, 2017 - IS 192Q - Queens
Saturday March 4, 2017 - Xaverian HS - Brooklyn
Sunday March 12, 2017 City Polytechnic HS - Brooklyn

Sunday March 19th - City College of New York - Manhattan

Registration of Teams for Qualifiers

(Coaches check your e-mails for Eventbrite ticket links)
Only one ticket is needed for the team.

Borough Priority Registration - Monday November 7, 2016  @ 8pm to Monday November 14, 2016 @ 7am

Open Registration - any qualifier - Monday November 14, 2016 @ 8pm to Monday November 21, 2016 @ 8pm 

FLL Qualifier Registration CLOSED - Billing begins 

     Tuesday November 22, 2016 @ 8pm


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: Geeky LEGO Crafts...

     Here is a fun book with simple to a bit more challenging models to build with LEGO® elements. Geek LEGO Crafts: 21 Fun and Quirky Projects by David Scarfe, No Starch Press, 2016 offers some interesting, many practical models for the home or office. 

The author says in the introduction, “We all loved building with LEGO bricks when we were young, so why stop? This book is for everyone wants a little inspiration to keep on building!” And I second that. From this statement one would get the feeling that the book is being directed toward the AFOL, but having worked with kids I feel most of the models are easy and interesting for youngsters; they just might not be familiar with floppy disks, cassette tapes, and space invaders :-)

Each model is presented with a building difficulty rating - easy, medium, hard. There is a color and number list of the elements you will need (not that you have to stick to the color scheme). The building steps are in color and gray tone. The current building row is in color and the previous steps are in gray tome, so that you can keep track of where you are in the building process.

My favorites are the Sword-in-the-Stone Paperweight, Space Invader Space Saver (yes, you can guess my age), the Cursor Bookends are nice for my computer books, the Zombie Pencil/Pen Holder is awesomely gruesome, the Hanging Ghost and Christmas Tree Decorations are nice builds for child and parent to do together, perhaps I would build the Planter, but I don’t think it will be a Grenade, maybe a pineapple, and Tetris Fridge Magnets would be fun to play with while waiting for dinner to cook. Note to parents, there is a Wine Bottle Holder model, otherwise, there are nice builds for kids in this book.

If you have a LEGO collection of books, this is a cute book of ideas that might just inspire you to create your own LEGO crafts. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: Scoring Apps...

There are now 3 FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer Apps available at the App Store, however I would only recommend two of them:

FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer - Raymond Pang
FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer - Asha Seshan

Both scoring Apps are free and easy to use on your iPhone and/or iPad. They both have Timers, a place to store the results of the runs, which can also be displayed as a graph. 

One,  FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer by Raymond Pang, includes a video game, “Poop Pluck,” I really don’t know why?! 

I prefer the FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer by Asha Seshan, but you take a look at both and decide…


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

B2B Lab: Juno Spacecraft...

This past July 4, 2016, the spacecraft Juno, after a 5 year journey, entered Jupiter's orbit. To commemorate this historic event, Brandon ,from the Bircs~2~Bots Lab, built a Juno LEGO model and submitted it to LEGO Ideas.

Look for it @ 

and please vote if you like it!