Wednesday, August 3, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: The Field Mat...

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. As on last year's Trash Trek mat (introduced for the first time) there is a BASE and Safety area.

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?

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. 

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...


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).


Sunday, May 1, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: Coming soon...


2016-17 season is all about our furry, feathered, & finned friends.
What can we learn from them ?

Team registration in May 10, 2016

Challenge release -  August 30, 2016


Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Review: The LEGO Adventure Book: Robots, Planes, Cities, & More...

     The LEGO Adventure Book: Robots, Planes, Cities, & More. by Megan H. Rothrock, is the third book in the series. When volume 2 left off, The Destructor had been caught and was off to jail leaving the world’s AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) safe to continue to create…

Oh no, he’s escaped!

     Once again Megan Rothrock, Meg, takes us on another adventure with the storyline written in text bubbles with cartoon LEGO characters as she is in pursuit of
“The Destructor” and along the way she introduces the reader to some of the world’s amazing LEGO builders. The featured builders are seriously talented AFOLs from all walks of life - a Postman, a Science teacher, Aircraft Parts Manager, IT Developers, Police Constable, and a Historic Preservation Advisor. A mini profile, with a custom minifigure, is given for each builder with web links showcasing their models.
     As in the previous books, Rothrock features some awesome models with amazing details. There are 40 step-by-step breakdowns on how to build the models such as a classic movie theater, an ice cream truck, and even sushi, plus nearly 150 example models in full color. Also, included are building tips from the builders themselves.
     The LEGO Adventure Book: Robots, Planes, Cities, & More. (Vol. 3) by Megan H. Rothrock, No Starch Press 2015, is another great read to add to your LEGO book collection. With the purchase of a printed book , come a free eBook. It may also be purchased at Amazon

     Of course, our heroine catches up with Destructor and he is captured, again… but wait, what is this???


A Review: LeGology Technology: Brics~2~Electronics...

          If you are looking for ideas for a STEM or STEAM curriculum, LeGology Technology: Brics~2~Electronics is a book of lesson plans and ideas for teachers/instructors who want to use LEGO(R) elements as another tool in teaching a variety of subjects. The flexible lessons cover Pre-K to Middle School. For teachers of students with Special Needs, you will find that many of the lessons are doable & adaptable to meet their students’ special needs. 

Using an outline-narrative form; the lessons cover the concepts being taught, suffused LEGO elements, materials needed, info and worksheets, and brief instructions with sample pictures for the projects. The lessons can be incorporated into various subject areas: science, math, literacy, social studies, technology, art, & music, or the lessons can be taught as a separate discipline that touches on several subject areas. The lessons encourage the creative use of LEGO elements while teaching various concepts. For the electronics LEGO Power Functions(R) are used and other products such as littleBits(R) are suggested.

LeGology Technology: Brics~2~Electronics by V.Greene Brics~2~Bots. 2016 is available in eBook form for Kindle on


Monday, March 14, 2016

FLL - Trash TreK: NYC FLL Finals - Winners...

NYC FIRST LEGO League Finals

Congratulations to all the Winners!

1st Place Champions Award
CN: Rogue - IS 192Q,
Invited to the FIRST (World) Championship in St. Louis, Missouri

2nd Place Champions Award
Chapin Bots Team 1 - Chapin School

3rd Place Champions Award
Chapin Bots Team 2 - Chapin School

1st Place Robot Performance
Sonic Gears - Neighborhood Group

2nd Place Robot Performance
CN: Rouge - IS 192Q

3rd Place Robot Performance
TopGearz - IS 119Q

1st Place Mechanical Design
Sonic Gears - Neighborhood Group

2nd Place Mechanical Design
Transformation Master Builders - Transformation School

3rd Place Mechanical Design
7 LEGO All Star Builders - Transformation School

1st Place Programming Award
AfterPop - Dalton School

2nd Place Programming Award
FLASH - Sacred Heart School

3rd Place Programming Award
New Schoolers - IS 227Q

1st Place Robot Strategy & Innovation Award
Ryan Lions - JHS 216Q

2nd Place Robot Strategy & Innovation Award
LEGOMINDS - Neighborhood Group

3rd Place Robot Strategy & Innovation Award
Genesis Incinerators - Xaverian HS

1st Place Research Award
Genesis Oscars - Xaverian HS

2nd Place Research Award
TopGearz - IS 119Q

3rd Place Research Award
Brooklyn Bots - PS 161B

1st Place Research Presentation Award
St. Clare Transformers 2 - St. Clare School

2nd Place Research Presentation Award
Robotics Squad - IS 51S

3rd Place Research Presentation Award
Flying Bison - Neighborhood Group

1st Place Innovative Solution
Trinity Gold - Trinity School

2nd Place Innovative Solution
Future - School of the Future HS

3rd Place Innovative Solution
Agents of T.R.A.S.H. - Forest Hill Robotics League

1st Place Global Innovation Award
The Anderson Dragons - PS 9M

2nd Place Global Innovation Award
Robotics Squad - IS 51S

3rd Place Global Innovation Award
Brooklyn Bots - PS 161B

1st Place Core - Gracious Professionalism
Robo-Panthers - Michael Petrides School

2nd Place Core - Gracious Professionalism
St. Clare Transformers 1 - St. Clare School

3rd Place Core - Gracious Professionalism
The Dorkables - Girl Scouts

1st Place Core - Teamwork
Cadette Supergirls - Girl Scouts

2nd Place Core - Teamwork
Grace Gremlins 1 - Grace Church School

3rd  Place Core - Teamwork
Chelsea FLL 2 - PS 33M Chelsea Prep

1st Place Core - Inspiration

2nd Place Core - Inspiration
SRCA Royal Sages - Salve Regional Catholic Academy

3rd Place Core - Inspiration
PS 11 Team 2 - PS 11M

Judges Award
RoboRebels - PS 9B