Thursday, October 6, 2016

A 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. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: NYC Qualifiers...

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

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

Registration of Teams for Qualifiers

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


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!

B2B Lab: Star Wars Chess set...

And the Star Wars battle rages on between the Light and Dark forces, the Resistance against the First Order. 

This is Luc's project that he submitted to LEGO Ideas.

Check it out @   
and if you like it, vote for it!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

B2B Lab: Double-Sided Bricks...

Ever wish you had a double-sided, studs on opposite sides, of a brick? Perhaps, you needed to attach two plates with the studs facing out. 

Well, there is a solution, NO we are not going to glue to bricks undersides together! 

Use blue half pins (makes for tighter fit and less of a gap between the elements) to connect the bottom of a brick to a same size plate. Simply insert the pins into the “tubes” of the brick and plate and click them together! You can use the following bricks square/rectangle 1x1, 2x2, 1x2+, 2x3+; round 1x1; and their matching plates. The round 2x2 brick and plate can be connect with a #2 axle w/grooves. You can even connect two bricks together using blue half pins. 

And yep, it works with brick and beam elements. Use black pins (for a tighter fit) to connect the elements.
You could also use four 1x1 roof bricks wedged into the corners of the inside walls of the bricks and plates (see Pinterest), but I feel it doesn't connect the elements tight enough.

Walla, new elements! 


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

B2B Lab: Mini Amusement Park...

The current buzzword in education is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), but here is an example of project representing STEAM: 
  Science (physics)
  Technology (coding, digital photo editing, movie editing)
  Engineering (architectural, electrical, & mechanical)
  Art/Design (creative design of rides & display)
  Mathematical (numerical problem solving, forming math expressions through coding)

It is because of projects like this that Mindstorms or some sort of robotics curriculum should be available in all schools, as part of their STEM/STEAM initiative.

This mini amusement park was designed, built, and programmed by Beatrice, a student of Brics~2~Bots Lab (private organization) using various LEGO elements, the Mindstorms EV3 robotics system, and arts & crafts materials. There is a FreeFall ride, a Carousel, and a Ferris Wheel. First, she did research on the various rides and learned a little bit about the physics behind the ride. Each ride was designed after looking at pictures of real rides and then interpreted into LEGO building materials. Each ride was programmed separately and then combined into one program controlled by a touch sensor.

iMovie was used to enhance the video and add carnival music.

Read more about this project at Knights of Botsa blog by Brics~2~Bots Lab students.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: The Field Mat...Updated

If you haven't received your Animal Allies Field Set-Up yet, here is a sneak preview...

This year's challenge mat has a beautiful background. Last year, Trash Trek mat (introduced for the first time), a second line to the Base line it was called the Safety area which included the Base as well. This year as you can see there is a second line, but this year the whole area of the two lines to the Southwest corner is just considered Base.

The weight and texture of the mat seems to be the same as last year's mat, which is nice.

Notice the triangular shape in the lower southeast corner? I wonder what that is for? Update: that is where the referees will put the "penalty" discs (manure - poop!)

There are black lines for location detection and line following to the models, including a circular area. Hmmm, why and how can this be used? Notice the cow? The model with the cow probably will go there. Update: It's a milking center for the cows!

By the way, remember the chicken, cow, and pig from the Food Factor Challenge that were just there for decoration? Well, the chicken made its debut last year in Trash Trek and it seems the cow and the pig finally get their opportunity this year.

This looks like an interesting challenge this year...

Download the Challenge Guide and Updates


Thursday, July 28, 2016

B2B Lab: Musical Nite Lite...

Is your little one (or yourself :-) a little afraid of the dark or has trouble falling to sleep?

Perhaps a Musical Robotic Nite Lite will help relieve the fears and provide a soothing way to fall asleep.

The Musical Robotic Nite Lite uses a NXT or EV3 programmable controller brick. A NXT programmable controller brick was used here, a NXT touch sensor, a NXT ultrasonic sensor, NXT/RCX lamps, Mindsensors® cables or LEGO Mindstorms cables, a NXT conversion cable, and of course various LEGO elements. Although a NXT brick was used, it was programmed with EV3 software (I'm having trouble NXT software and Mac OS Yosemite on my computer-see post: B2B - Lab: NXT and EV3, they work together  

How it works:
The touch sensor triggers it to start, causing the light to come on and lullaby to play. The lullaby was recorded from a stuff windup toy and had to be saved as a couple of small sound files. The song repeats for three loops then stops and the light turns off. The loop control can be adjusted to however long it takes the child/you to fall asleep. 
If one wakes up in the middle of the night, just a wave of the hand in front of the ultrasonic starts it again.

Be sure the sleep control on the programmable controller brick is set to  NEVER and the battery is fully charged or is plugged into the charger and electrical outlet.

Another version of a robotic Nite Lite was developed by Antonio, a Brics~2~Bots  Lab student, is posted at:


Sleep tight and don’t let the boogie monsters under the bed keep you awake…


Thursday, July 7, 2016

B2B Lab: Doggie Treater...

I have a cute, but not so little, Beagle-Dachshund dog that happens to suffer from a little “separation anxiety” every time I have to leave her alone for a while. “Calming treats” didn’t seem to work, so I tried to come up with a way to ease the anxiety a bit by hiding a couple of treats around the apartment, but she became so good at finding them by the time I was out the door.  What to do for my poor dog????

LEGO to the rescue!

A Doggie Treat Dispenser…

It is a NXT robot that was programmed with EV3 software. The recorded voice calling my dog sounds pretty close to my voice (I think). It is timed to call her after 90 minutes and toss her a treat. Due to memory constraints, timing had to be done in 3 (1800 seconds) blocks. The voice recording also had to be done in separate one-word blocks, instead of a sentence. The sleep feature on the controller brick is set to “Never” to prevent shutting down before the 90 minutes. It didn’t take many practices for her to get the idea – she’s a smart dog!




Monday, July 4, 2016

A Review: LEGO Power Functions Idea Books...

     Back in 2010, Yoshihito Isogawa came out with a series of three amazing books The LEGO® Technic Idea Book Simple Machines, The LEGO® Technic Idea Book Wheeled Wonders, and The LEGO® Technic Idea Book Fantastic Contraptions, that shows you model ideas that can apply to LEGO® Technic building. The books focused on mechanical mechanisms with some Mindstorms® applications and use of Power Functions®.

Since them he has come out with two more books: The LEGO Power Functions Idea Book  - Machines and Mechanisms and The LEGO Power Functions Idea Book  - Cars and Contraptions, published by No Starch Press 2016. The focus, of course, is on models using LEGO Power Functions, but many of the ideas can be applied to mechanical and robotic devices.

For the teacher teaching a STEM or STEAM curriculum, the models can be used to teach various science concepts such as, gearing, Newton's Laws, Potential & Kinetic energy, etc. Also, for the teacher who has limited equipment, because these are small models using only a few elements, 2 or 3  models can be made from one Mindstorms® Resource set and a few Power Functions® sets; allowing more students to have the hands-on experience. No doubt, these little models will inspire students to create their own.

The books are all picture directions of the models with a list of the building elements you would need to build it, so having the eBooks (which is free with the printed book from No Starch Press) where you can enlarge the pictures for details is wonderful.

Check out his websites for videos of some of the models:  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

B2B Lab: LEGO Digital Design and Mac OS...

If you are having trouble opening and/or saving your models on a Mac with version 10.10.5 (Yosemite+), don’t trash the LDD software, just yet! Here are a couple of solutions.

For some unknown reason sometimes certain LDD files will not ope from the software. The solution: open  the file directly from LEGO Creations folder - Models.

Sometimes a file might not save (that’s frustrating). If you are experiencing this try saving the file first, before designing.

By the way, has removed LDD for their website. However, I Googled it and it appeared @

Could this mean LEGO plans to do away with LDD? OMG, I hope not! I find it a useful tool for my own models and as an instructor of LEGO Tech & Robotics Engineering it is excellent for teaching. 

Perhaps they are working on a new version…


Monday, June 27, 2016

FLL - Trash Trek: Trash Trek Leftovers...

The Trash Trek FLL (FIRST LEGO League) season has long ended, now what to do with the Robot Performance field set-up models?

Well, you can:
     1. Keep the models and mat, so that you might revisit those exciting moments of the tournament by running a mock tournament.
     2. Keep certain models that seem to reappear in a similar form each year (loops), so that you may practice during the off-season.
      3.  Keep them and invent your own scenario of an obstacle course.
      4. Dissemble them and add them to your growing collection of elements (there is sometimes a new element that is not found in the LEGO kits).
     5. Find another use for them, such as:

Converting the Bar Sorter to a Coin Sorter!

With a few modifications, a Power Functions® L-Motor, and Battery Box you can make a coin sorter for dimes, nickels/pennies, and quarters (that works accurately 95% of the time).

This is what students from Brics~2~Bots Academy came up with:

Monday, June 20, 2016

B2B Lab: Thinking Out of 2 Boxes...

Thinking out of the box...

Why not use two boxes!?

Luc's creation using two LEGO NINJAGO(R) # 70747 sets.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

B2B Lab: NXT and EV3, they work together...

If you own a Mac and are using LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0, you might have noticed that starting with Snow Leopard if you have Adobe Flash Player installed, NXT-G 2.1 software will not load. Now, with all the NXT kits that I have, that caused a bit of a panic. Ok, so you uninstall Flash Player!

I am now using Yosemite on my new main computer and guess what?? Flash Player still prevents Mindstorms NXT 2.1 Education version from loading. Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Home version cannot even be  installed. So, now I have to use NXT-G 2.1 without  Flash Player on my computer or I use my Windows 10 PC (sorry not that crazy about Windows). Looking into the near future of not having a Mac that will run NXT-G is a little scary; particularly with all the Mindstorms NXT controllers I have in excellent working condition, that might not be able to be programmed. Plus, LEGO is no longer supporting the NXT, as of 2016. Yes, I can use the NXT motors, touch sensors, ultrasonic and color sensors to some degree with the EV3 kits, but the future looked grim for the NXT Controllers, but wait…

Could it be??? Yes, I found a couple of articles from LEGO(R) ENGINEERING blog site - the NXT Controller CAN BE programmed with EV3 software! Of course, not all the sensors and blocks work with it. The NXT Touch sensor, Ultrasonic sensor, Sound sensor, and Motor can be programmed on the NXT with Ev3 software. Even the RCX motor, Power Function Motors (except the Servo Motor), and RCX/NXT Lamp with a NXT conversion cable can be directly programmed on the NXT Controller using the Large Motor block of the EV3 software (otherwise they would need a little “trick” program to work directly with the EV3 Controller) - see Gary Garber’s book, Learning LEGO Mindstorms EV3 p. 124. (See Review of thee book @

An of course, the EV3 Medium and EV3 Large motors can also be programmed on the NXT with EV3 software using the Move Steering block or Move Tank block to operate them simultaneously, or the Move Tank with one motor set to zero or using the Large Motor block to operate one Medium or Large EV3 motor.

Check out the articles on LEGO(R) ENGINEERING blog site:

Life with the LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit has been extended...


Saturday, May 14, 2016

B2B Lab: London Bridge...

The Brics~2~Bots Engineers have been busy learning about Double-Leaf Bascule (Draw) Bridges. Probably the most famous one is the London Bridge in England.

A little history about the rhyme and the London bridge; the rhyme was from a song in a play (1659), then later published as an English nursery rhyme about 1744. The 1st. bridge across the Thames River was around AD 55. In 1176, after a number of wooden bridges were destroyed by fire, a permanent stone crossing was built. It took 33 years to build.  It was a drawbridge for the passage of tall ships up-river, and defensive gatehouses at both ends. In addition to shops and houses there were multi-seated public latrines; guess where the poop went! By the end of the 18th century, the old London Bridge, now over 600 years old, needed to be replaced. The New London Bridge also known as the Rennie's bridge was opened in 1831. However, by 1896 they discovered the bridge was slowly sinking. Finally, in 1967-73 a Modern London Bridge was built. So what happened to the New London Bridge of 1831? Where is it now? We’ll let you find out; you will be surprised!

So here is our LEGO(R)   Double-Leaf Bascule (Draw) Bridge..

As you can see my students, Olivia and Jonas, have an interesting imagination.

The bridge was “robotized” with an EV3 Controller brick, three EV3 Touch Sensors (to control the toll barriers and the draw bridge), two EV3 Medium Motors, and two NXT Motors (simply because they fit better).