Friday, May 1, 2015

B2B Academy: NASA & LEGO...

In October 1957, the world’s first man-made orbital satellite, Sputnik, was launched by Soviet Russia. This amazing event marked the beginning of the Space Age. By 1958 the United States officially entered the space race when President Eisenhower established NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Nov. 2. 2010 it was announced that NASA would enter in partnership, with the signing of a Space Act Agreement, with The LEGO® Group to conduct education and public outreach activities aimed at increasing participation in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Since then LEGO Education models were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on board the Space Shuttle Endeavor on April 29, 2011. Videos of crew members of the ISS, as part of the LEGO® Education Bricks in Space - NASA Activities, have been made showing the building of LEGO models of ISS instruments that they use on the International Space Station. These videos can be seen at: 

On May 18, 2011 the final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavor was made carrying on board a model of the LEGO representation of the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

Below is a model and video made by Brandon,



Sunday, March 22, 2015

FLL Global Innovation Award...


Dalton School
New York City, NY, USA

They are Semi-Finalist

in the 

2015 - World Class: Learning Unleashed
FLL Global Innovation Award, presented by XPRIZE


Friday, February 20, 2015

B2B Academy: Leftover FLL Models...

As the FLL (FIRST LEGO League) robotics season nears its end, the question might arise as to what to do with the that season’s Robot Performance Field Set-up Models?

Well, here is some possibilities:

  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. Find another use for them, such as delivering candy or something - cargo plane zip line from Nature's Fury.

5. Or disassemble then and add them to your growing collection of LEGO(R) parts.

Just a few suggestions…

Monday, February 16, 2015

FLL - World Class: NYC FLL Finalists...

WORLD CLASS: Learning Unleashed 
FIRST LEGO League NYC Finalists


Programming 2nd Place 7080 LREI 5th/6th
Robot Performance 1st Place 7079 LREI 7th/8th
Rising Star 11486 SOF Alpha
Teamwork 10053 The Little Warriors of East Harlem
Judges Award 7651 Grace Gremlins
Inspiration 7399 East Side Middle School 1
Strategy and Innovation 11916 East Side Middle School 2
Gracious Professionalism 5997 GatorBots
Champion's 1st Place / Robot Performance 2nd Place 6000 EduGators
Research 15308 CGPS Lions II
Innovative Solutions 2nd Place 356 Thunderbots
Advanced to Javits 2547 West Side Robsters
Mechanical Design 4647 Trinity Gold
Champion's 3rd Place 4648 Trinity Blue
Presentation 9841 Dwi Sci
Champion's 2nd Place / Robot Performance 3rd Place 4621 Team Ecmsi
Innovative Solutions 1st Place 9786 The Automators
Programming 1st Place 11337 Creative Champion Chefs
Against All Odds 10005 The ROCbotics
Advanced to Javits 8472 Work in Progress
Advanced to Javits 13309 MCS Robotics


Champion's 1st Place 5893 Blood, Sweat, & Gears
Champion's 2nd Place / Robot Performance 3rd Place 4427 Master Blasters
Champion's 3rd Place 10083 Flying Bison
Robot Performance 1st Place 5891 Lego Legacy 366
Robot Performance 2nd Place 4426 Dinobots
Presentation 7620 6 Robo Rebels
Innovative Solutions 1st Place 13435 Nanowolves
Innovative Solutions 2nd Place 1995 Mission Masters
Research 1st Place 14483 BlizzardBots
Teamwork 14482 Lightning Blades
Inspiration 11107 Marine Park Robotics 3
Gracious Professionalism 1st Place 9577 I.S. 318 Bytes
Gracious Professionalism 2nd Place 2642 SRCA Royal Sages
Mechanical Design 5892 FGPA Ladywolves
Programming 1st Place 8796 Neon Wolves
Programming 2nd Place 13716 Mission 11
Strategy and Innovation 2449 Lego Eruption
Judges Award 5896 Smartbots
Rising Star 15238 ROBO WARRIORS 
Against All Odds 12671 JHS 223
Advanced to Javits 14327 Robo Panthers
Advanced to Javits 14687 Masterminds 1


Inspiration 760 BoogieBots
Champions 3rd Place / Robot Performance 1st Place 1082 OptiBotz
Presentation 1551 Sonic Gears
Research 2445 Galactic Pandas
Advanced to Javits 2561 TopGearz
Champions 1st Place / Robot Performance 2nd Place 2571 SkyTekz
Advanced to Javits 3071 FLLASH
Mechanical Design / Robot Performance 2nd Place 3427 N3RDY B1RD13S
Teamwork 3429 GirlBot
Strategy and Innovation / Innovative Solution 11645 Bleeker All-Stars
Advanced to Javits 12478 Atom Smashers
Advanced to Javits 13641 Warbots
Programming 15070 Old Schoolers
Champions 2nd Place / Robot Performance 3rd Place 15245 Ryan Robo-Lions
Advanced to Javits 3430 NEUROBOTS

Staten Island

Champions Award 1st Place / Robot Performance 1st Place
St. Clare's Transformers 2
Innovation Award
St. Clare's Transformers 1
Research Award
Robot Performance 2nd Place
Mustangs 1
Mechanical Design
Mustangs 3
Gracious Professionalism
Knights of 24
Advanced to Javits
St. Clare's Transformers 3
Advanced to Javits
Rogue Knights


Robot Performance 2nd Place  5357 RoboTron2
Champions 1st Place / Robot Performance 1st Place 5355 RoboTron1
Mechanical Design  13452 Team Omega Ruby
Programming  12127 Bronx Task Force
Research 4518 Basement Cubs
Innovative Solutions 13453 Team Alpha
Inspiration 15201 C.S. 300 Spartans 
Teamwork 10885 The Millenium Falcons
Advanced to Javits 4843 Plasma Penguins
Advanced to Javits 15029 The Owl-Matics
Advanced to Javits 9666 The Bronxville Bookworms


See you @ Javits

Monday, January 26, 2015

FLL - World Class: Congratulations Optibotz...


to the 

 Queens FLL Qualifier

1st Place Robot Performance
3rd Place Champions Award

Javits NYC FLL Finals

4th Place Robot Performance

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Review: Beautiful LEGO® 2 DARK...

Whether you are a fan of LEGO® building, or are fascinated by the "dark side" of creepy, the bizarre, the whimsical, the futuristic, or Steampunk; you will like Beautiful LEGO® 2 Dark edited by Mike Doyle (No Starch Press) 2014.
The models or should I say works of art are intriguing and mind-blowing; having one say, "OMG, how did they build that,? And that's Awesome!" 
On my tablet device I found myself enlarging the images to try & figure out what LEGO elements the builder/artist used. Their choice of elements is what makes the works so interesting & in some cases almost realistic - when looking at the book, hold it (or your tablet device if you have the eBook) at arms length, it's amazing. I also liked the use of light on the translucent elements, it creates quite an effect.

One of my favorites is Lukasz Wiktorowicz Midnight Training 2014,  I like the way Wiktorowicz used a mosaic background to go with the model.

I also like the Shadow Play art of David Alexander Smith.
Like the first book Beautiful LEGO (2013), Beautiful LEGO 2 Dark, edited by Mike Doyle (No Starch Press) is awe inspiring to look at & a testimony to what can be created with little, plastic, building elements.


Thursday, December 18, 2014


I recently purchased STEAMPUNK LEGO® by  Guy Himber, (No Starch Press, 2014). It is a fascinating LEGO® & Steampunk book. Fans of Steampunk and/or LEGO® will really enjoy this book. Would make a great gift. too.

So what is Steampunk? For those who are not familiar with the term the author of the book describes it as: Steampunk is a creative genre that imagines an alternate history of 19th-century technology. Its devotees employ a fanciful blend of fantasy, science fiction, and historical adventure to tell their stories. Electricity has just started to enter the realm of the common inventor, but steam-powered machines are the tools of the day. Clockwork gears and mechanisms are often exposed for ease of service and ease of appreciation. Daring inventors float through the skies and roam the countryside in their fantastic contraptions. 
The creations in the book are amazing! I like the way the Guy Himber, author/editor, presented the models. It is written as if it is a Victorian age style journal with illustrations reflective of the period; with the look of old parchment paper, calligraphy writing, accents of that age, and a dash of LEGO® gear elements (not that LEGO was invented back then), but a nice touch. The fantasy journal talks about new inventions of the Industrial Revolution - trains, cycles, horseless carriages, ships & sea creatures, robots, airships (including those that will take us into space), beasties, armamentss, sundriess & cabinet of curiosities (for lack of a real category), and of course the SteamPunk world of floating rocks.
This book takes LEGO® building to another art form. 

I bought the book in hardcover printed form and No Starch Press gives you a free eBook of it - sweet. STEAMPUNK LEGO by Guy Himber, (No Starch Press, 2014) is a full coloured, beautiful & interesting tabletop book; as a wonderful gift & inspiration to the LEGO® builder. It reveals "infinite possibilities of little plastic bricks."

It inspired me to build The SteamPunky Buggy, this robotized SteamPunk vehicle pays tribute to the book and the LEGO® Mindstorms ®robotic systems; with at least one element from its Mindstorms kits from the RCX to the EV3, plus a bit of Technic, Bionicle, & classic bricks.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Review: Lego Mindstorms EV3 Essentials...

There are several new LEGO(R) Mindstorms(R) EV3 books out now. Most of them cover the kit’s parts, some programming, and instructions on building models. One, The Art of LEGO(R) Mindstorms(R) EV3 Programming, covers (and very nicely) mostly EV3 programming. Another book was recently released, Lego Mindstorms EV3 Essentials by Abid H. Mujtaba, Packt Publishing (2014). This  one includes using leJOS programming.

The first three chapters: Introducing the EV3, Sensors and Motors, EV3 Brick Programming I felt were understandable particularly for the novice to the EV3 system. I did find it curious though that he used a picture of the NXT Ultrasonic sensor to explain how the EV3 Ultrasonic (they do work the same way, the EV3 is an improvement over the NXT). The author did make a note that it was not the EV3 Ultrasonic, but if he had the Retail kit, he should have just ordered from LEGO(R) an EV3 Ultrasonic to show in the book.

However, the remaining chapters are not for the novice, but for someone who has experience with possibly the NXT and the EV3 programming, because the book explains how to program in leJOs, the Java platform for EV3. Here the author covers what he feels are the advantages of using leJOs, how to install it on the EV3 brick, configuring your computer and the EV3, and writing your first program - "Hello, World!"on the EV3 brick's LCD. Next, the author shows how to program the large motor and the touch sensor. Finally, there is an extensive explanation of programming the robot to follow a line with the color sensor.

The eBoo is in color and the softcover book is in gray-tone, which I guess doesn’t matter much because there are not many pictures in the book where color would be essential, gray-tone is ok.
In summation, if you are new the Mindstorms(R) system and its programming, this is not the book for you, just yet. If you are interested in learning leJOs for the EV3, then Lego Mindstorms EV3 Essentials by Abid H. Mujtaba, Packt Publishing might be a good start for you. 

It is apparent that Mujtaba is very knowledgeable in programming, but I get the feeling he is new to the LEGO(R) Mindstorms(R) systems, because the robot he presents in the book are extremely simple (or perhaps it is because the focus of the book is on programming); and then, any true LEGO(R) fan knows you do not spell it Lego!

By the way, Packt Publishing is having a sale $5 on all eBooks until Jan. 15, 2015, go to:


Friday, November 21, 2014

Secrets of the EV3 Core set...

EV3 fans, in case you didn’t know Lee Magpili (one of the designers) has a fun series on LEGO Education’s website: LEGO Mindstorms Education Tips & Tricks called “Secrets of the 45544” (EV3 Core set) - it is pretty cool with trivia and great info too. 

For example, starting with the NXT kit and continuing with the EV3 elements color coded - “all the cross beams, 3m cross beams, double cross beams and much of the others in that
category...” so you can find a particular element easily. Unfortunately, it kind of limits creative style - suppose I wanted a red or orange double cross beam for my design (they do exist, red axle jointers perpendicular are in the 31313 home Mindstorms set, just not in the 45544 educational set).

Funny coincidence, I read the post of 8.12.14 about the color 3m beams - That’s the way I label and name my EV3 Intelligent bricks. Only problem is I’ve run out of 3m beam colors for the amount of EV3 bricks I have! Hey LEGO, add a few more 3m beam colors - orange, pink, purple maybe :-D

Here’s some trivia - I discovered that the track elements, with or without the track rubber elements,  make awesome looking  bracelets! 

Anyway, be sure to check out Lee Magpili’s “Secrets of the 45544.” I am sure it will challenge students and LEGO robotics fans to discover their own “Secrets of the 45544.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Review: The Art of LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Programming...

If you had the opportunity to to read Terry Griffin’s The Art of LEGO Mindstorms NXT-G Programming, then you know it is a great NXT programming book. Well, he has done the same for the new EV3 Mindstorms, The Art of LEGO®  Mindstorms®  Ev3 Programming, (No Starch Press), 2014. The new book follows the same format as the NXT book, sharing similar topics and information. However, the two Mindstorms systems are different, so the details are specific to the new EV3. For example
the “teaching” robots (which are simple, easy builds ) for the books are basically the same, but due to the new design of the EV3 Programming brick and motors the robots are slightly different. By the way, Griffin gives instructions for the robot for both the Educational and the Retail (Home) Mindstorms EV3 kits. Nice!

The big plus is, this book is in COLOR and COLOR makes it POP! It gives you clear, easy to read, in living COLOR diagrams that example and explain. If you are working with data wires, you will definitely appreciate being able to easily differentiate between the different types of wiring. After all, the software is in color on our computer screen!

The book starts off with a brief and concise overview of the LEGO EV3 Mindstorms kit and software. Then the book goes into an in-depth coverage of the software with lots of excellent diagrams, graphics, and examples of programming, of course. There is also a section on NXT and EV3 compatibility for those of you who have NXT experience. For those who have the Educational kits, there is a good chapter on data logging programming too.

To help you understand developing a program, Griffin takes you through several programs: from basic
(ThereandBack, AroundtheBlock, RedorBlue, IsItBlue, LineFind,) to intermediate (BumperBotwithButtons, DoorChime, GyroTurn, BumperBot, Line Follower, WallFollower, GenericStop. SoundMachine, SpiralLineFollower,) to brick display programs and games (DisplayTimer,  MemoryGame) to advanced programming
 (PowerSetting, ArrayTest) to data collecting programs (SteeringTest, VerifyingLight-Pointer) and there’s more…

I like the layout of the chapters; not a lot of reading to do - concise and to the point with supporting graphics and diagrams. There are notes and tips referring to the different software versions. He also includes some pseudocode to describe how the programs will work. To practice what you are learning
Griffin includes some Challenges for you to try. At the end of the chapters there are a few activities you explore, Further Exploration, and a Conclusion (short) summarizing what was covered in the chapter.

The Art of LEGO Mindstorms Ev3 Programming by Terry Griffin (No Starch Press) is definitely a good teaching and resource book on EV3 programming to have in your library and eBook for your tablet. 

By the way, one of the Technical Reviewers for the book is Daniele Benedettelli, LEGO robotics extraordinaire, who also has a new book out: The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Laboratory - No Starch Press (see review).


Monday, October 27, 2014

B2B Academy: Happy Halloween...

Just in time for Halloween...

The Krypts of the Roaster


In the deserted part of town a skull points you to the Krypts of the Roaster. It is there zombies, witches, skeletons, ghosts, spiders, scorpions, and other creepy creatures rule the world of horror.


One of my students, Luc, at Brics~2~Bots Academy built this graveyard scene for this video. He programmed a LEGO Mindstorms NXT brick to control the flying ghosts & the blinking light from in back of the graveyard. Alumnum foil was used to make the light from the LEGO lamps visible from behind the walls. Luc merged two sound clips in iMovie with the video. 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Be a FIRST Volunteer...

NYC FIRST Robotics Volunteers
(No experience necessary, just your time)

During January - February - March the NYC FIRST Champions will be taking place with over a thousand young people competing. Be a part of this exciting experience that will help influence a young person future; volunteer as a judge, referee, crowd management, assistant; there is a job waiting for YOU!

January 10, 2015 - Jr. FLL Expo @ NYU PolyTechnic School of Engineering, Brooklyn 
Jan. 17, 2015 Fll Manhattan Qualifier - City College in Manhattan
Jan. 24, 2015 FLL Queens Qualifier - George Ryan JHS in Queens
Jan. 25, 2015 FLL Brooklyn Qualifier - NYU PolyTechnic in Brooklyn
Feb. 7, 2015 FLL Bronx Qualifier - Horace Mann School in Bronx
Feb. 7, 2015 FLL Staten Island Qualifier - New Dorp HS Staten Island
Queens Qualifier - TBA
February 21, 2015 - NYC/LI FTC - Dalton School Qualifier - Manhattan
March 1, 2015 - NYC/LI  FTC Championship NYU Poly School of Engineering
March 14, 2015 - FLL Citywide Championship - Jacob Javits Convention Center
March 13-15, 2015 - FRC Championships - Jacob Javits Convention Center 

Please be advised, under the new volunteer registration & the Youth Protection Program, every volunteer needs to register on VMS and be screened before they can volunteer for any of our upcoming FIRST events this season, from Jr.FLL to FRC.

Go to the links below to find out more info & to sign-up:

Youth Protection Program Info: 

VIMS User Guide can be found here:

VIMS can be accessed here:

Be a FIRST Volunteer & Witness the Excitement of Learning!


Monday, October 20, 2014

B2B Academy: LEGO Record & Play Set...

Stepping back in time... 

While rummaging through my LEGO collection in search of some part, I came across a LEGO Record and Play Set # 4095 (dated 2003). This was a Creator set which contained some very rather unique elements. It had a brick (Electric Technic Motor) that could record motion using two built-in rotation sensors, so that when you attached wheels to the brick, turn it on to record, and move the brick in pattern, it would record the movement. Upon pressing the playback button the motors would move the brick in the pattern it just recorded - Cool!  It also had a nice 90 degreesTechnic Gear Box (one of my FIRST LEGO League teams actually used it in a FLL tournament). So I thought if would be fun to use it in a project with a couple of my students at he Brics~2~Bots Academy

The project was called Weird Cars; after looking at some really weird cars on a YouTube video my students designed their own weird cars using the Electric Technic Motor brick as the chassis of the car. After putting the final touches on their car, they recorded the desired car movement, then let it rip! It was great fun and they learned a little about robotics What is a robot? - A mechanical device, electrically powered, that is programmed (Record movement), from a sensor (rotation sensor), to perform a task (Play).

Here are their robots and what they wrote about them:

Jonas - age 8: “This is Bob. He has a crazy car. He has a helmet so when he crashes, he won’t die.”He also has a Laser to shoot anything in sight. The light makes him see, so he can shoot (the target). He has a ‘springy thingy’ so he can fly and touch the clouds to be his friends.”

Olivia - age 10: “This car has a outdoor garden (with
a pond). I made the little boy (the) driver, because it is weird for a boy to drive. I like the pond the best. There are four lights on it. The hatch (to the buttons to control the car) is right in front of the boy, so sometimes he can’t see anything (that could be a problem). The woman (passenger) is relaxing in the garden.”

P.S. Say LEGO, why don’t you bring the Record and Play Set back, it is a great introduction to robotics!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Gift of Education - A Noble Prize Winner...

"I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way," are the words from a song recorded by Whitney Houston. These words ring true...

Two years ago I posted an article about a remarkable 15 year old girl, Malala Yousafzai, form Pakistan,

who was outspoken activist for girls' right to education. After surviving a near fatal terrorist attempt on her life, she bravely continued her fight for girls' rights and most recently went to Nigeria to campaign for the release of girls kidnapped by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram.
Now 17 years old, she has become the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner for her courageous work. Read about her in the  New York Times article dated Oct. 10, 2014.

P.S. What does this have to do with LEGO robotics?  Give a girl a LEGO Mindstorms Robotic kit and maybe one day she will win the Noble Prize in Physics for robotic engineering.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Review: The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book...Updated

If you have had an opportunity to read Laurens Valk’s LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Discovery Book, then you know it is a good intermediate/advanced book for the NXT robotics enthusiast. Well, with the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit out, Valk has published an excellent “learning manual” for the EV3 kit – The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery BooK, No Starch Press, 2014. What makes this book stand out from Valk’s other great books is COLOR – lots of color pictures, drawings, and diagrams makes reading this book visually better to understand.

The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book is a complete, “beginner-friendly” and introductory guide and reference book to the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit (Retail version - #31313), however, if you have the Educational version of the kit, the book can be used as an additional reference guide as well, because the programming language is the basically the same (except: Retail has programming for the IR Sensor & IR Remote/Beacon and the Educational has the Gyro Sensor).

In this book, Valk shows you how to build a very simple robot, Explor3r, and with it you will learn the basics of motors, sensors, and beginning EV3 programming. He begins with a color diagram of the list of building elements that you will need and because it is in color, you can clearly tell which pins, and axle pins to use. All the diagrams are excellent; they show you step-by- step what to 
do. The Figure 4-7 diagram of the Move Steering block and how the robot and its wheels are moving is great, particularly for explaining the action to youngsters (and some adults ).
The EV3 has a new file management system where you save Projects, which can have related Programs saved with the Project. This is a nice organizational tool for FIRST LEGO League teams – all mission programs in order, in one folder, Nice! With Valk’s explanation of the EV3’s file management system it is easy to understand. Also, along with instructions on how to use the programming blocks, Valk includes practice challenges and tasks called Discovery. These are a nice practice activities for FLL teams who are just learning the software. These Discovery experiments challenge you to enhance the example program that was just explained in the book or even possibly create a new similar program. 

An easy and fun robot presented in the book is ANTY, a robotic
ant. Not only does he show you how to build it, Valk explains the walking mechanism of the robot (an excellent lesson for students). This robot also makes use of the IR Sensor, Color sensor, and Touch Sensor. He then presents increasing sophisticated robots, such as The SNATCH3R autonomous robotic arm, LAVA R3X - a humanoid robot that walks and talks, and even a game playing robot - SK3TCHBOT. All of these will help you learn building techniques which you will be able to apply to your own creations. With the increasing complexity of the robots you will be learning immediate and advanced EV3 programming. In all, there are about 150 building and programming challenges in the book to inspire you think creatively in designing and programming your own awesome robots.
The book is loaded with clear explanations of operating the EV3 Brick and programming, robot-building techniques, and troubleshooting. I highly recommend this The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book, No Starch Press, 2014 for LEGO robotics fans who are just getting into the Mindstorms EV3, teachers planning to use the EV3 in their classrooms, and FIRST LEGO League teams planning to use the EV3 in the tournaments.