Thursday, July 20, 2017

FLL - Animal Allies: Animal Allies Leftovers...

The  Animal Allies FLL season has long ended, now what to do with the leftover Robot Performance field set-up models?

Well, you could disassemble then and add them to your growing collection of LEGO(R) parts. But before you do that, why not try to “remix” the models into something else.

Here are a few “remixed” field models created by the Brics~2~Bots engineers (Luc & Brandon).

Shark Tank to Fish Tank

And you don't have to feed them!

Beehive to Cat Treater

What's this???

I smell a treat!

Should I push the button that smells of catnip?

Mmmm, that was good!

Refrigerator to Candy Dispenser

Sometimes if you are lucky you get two!


Monday, July 17, 2017

B2B Lab: NXT & EV3 Working Together - Update...

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 programmed on the NXT Controller using the Large Motor block and a LOOP block of the EV3 software. 

An of course, the EV3 Medium and EV3 Large motors can be used on the NXT and programmed 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. If you use Parallel Sequencing in the program you can run up to 3 motors simultaneously. 

So, what EV3 programming blocks will work with NXT?

Action Blocks:

 Flow Blocks:

 Sensor Blocks:

 Data Blocks:

 Advanced Blocks:

And of course,  MyBlocks  can be made.

Q-Tip: FLL teams, consider the possibilities....

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

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

P.S. If you  have working NXT software, the EV3 Medium Motor and Large Motor can be programmed on the NXT.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

FLL - Hydrodynamics: Field Mat...

The 2017-18 FRIST LEGO League season, HYDRODYNAMICS,  is underway…

The Field Mat and model building elements kits are being shipped and here is a sneak peek of the mats…

Again, the mats are beautifully illustrated and seem to be made of the same material as last year.

The Base area is basically the same size as last year’s Base plus Safety area, however without the Safety line. This will allow a little more room for the robot and its attachments.

There are, of course, black lines for line following and positioning stops.

August 29, 2017 - Hydrodynamics Challenge release...


Sunday, June 25, 2017

B2B Lab: Racing Pull-back Motor Bugs...

Every so often LEGO® comes out with a couple of Technic sets that include a pull-back motor. The sets are usually vehicles. 

So, the Brics~2~Bot engineers decided to create new models for the pull-back motor and designed “Racing Bugs”. We did a little picture researching on bugs first, then designed LEGO bugs using the pull-back motor.

Here are a couple of the results….

And they're off....

Luc made a smaller bug with a small puul-back motor that was produced in 2002-3


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Girls & Robotics...

     The Chapin School is a girls’ school in New York City. They have developed an outstanding robotics program with an after-school robotics program of about 100 girls. They have now expanded their program by establishing a nonprofit organization,  The Community Bots (, that is providing FREE Mindstorms robotics equipment and training for middle school girls and their teachers in underserved communities both in NYC and Latin America.

     If you have used and functioning Mindstorms NXT kit equipment or would like to donate money, please contact Jack Cooley at or go to

Transform the life of a middle school girl through robotics engineering!

Give a girl an opportunity to learn how to build & program her own Wyldstyle (LEGO movie) robot!

Monday, June 12, 2017

B2B Lab: Exploring with WeDo 2.0...

The original WeDo Resource Set introduced 1st-3rd grade kids to the world of robotics. The one thing I did not like about it, is that the robot had to stay connected, by wire, to the computer. With the introduction of WeDo 2.0 Core Set, bluetooth frees the robot from the computer. It is also more versatile with the use of tablets, as well as computers; so from one device you can learn about WeDo, build from, program, execute from, and record observations about your WeDo model.

For those of you would might be considering LEGO's WeDo 2.0 Core Set, you will find that it is a good platform for Grades 1-5 and a good introduction to robotics for the older students who are starting to explore the world of robotics. It is a natural lead in to LEGO Mindstorms robotics. 
So, the Brics~2~Bots engineers have been tinkering with the WeDo 2.0 set and have made some interesting discoveries.

If you haven’t seen the Smart Hub yet, it does not have a display screen or speakers like the NXT or EV3 Controllers. However, it does have programming blocks foe both sound and display; the sound is played and the display is seen through your tablet/computer.

As you may or may not know, the Smart Hub has only 2 Input/Outs for motors and/or sensors. So it really doesn’t matter which Input/Output you use.

When 2 motors are connected to the Smart Hub, both motors are programmed by the same motor block, they cannot be controlled separately. Also, when 2 of the same sensors are connected, both sensors are programmed by the same sensor block and either one will respond.

Two or more Smart Hubs can be paired with (connected) and programmed by one program from one device (tablet/computer). Any sensor from any of the Smart Hubs can receive input and all motors respond. So tablet/computer 1 can be paired with Smart Hub A and Smart hHub B at the same time. This is a handy titbit when testing the effectiveness of a design model to another using the exact same program - a side by side comparison, which we did when we compared a Pulley driven vehicle to a Differential Gearing driven vehicle.

In order to control two or more WeDo models separately, you will need two or more devices (tablets/computers). Each model will be paired to one device and the programs on that device will only effect the model paired to that device.

When inputing the power of a motor, the maximum power is about 9-10, even though you can input a larger number.

Since the motor blocks only control forward and backward movement, it is hard to control a vehicle’s turn. An example is given of a turn using a coupling element between the drive wheels and follower wheels. However, it will only turn in one direction going forward and the opposite direction going backward. 
Good news, with the new Boost Creative Toolbox set, coming out in August 2017, new program blocks have been added, including turning blocks.

We wanted to know the relationship between the number (seconds) input for motors to actual motor rotations, so we did some tests:

How does the number (seconds) input relate to actual motor rotation with motor using a Power of 1?
We built two cars, a pulley driven care and a gearing driven car.

Pulley driven car - 1:1 ratio of Wedge Belt Wheel to Wedge Belt Wheel
     0 seconds = .65 rotation
     1 second = 1.75 rotations
Gearing driven car - 1:1 ration of 20 Bevel to 20 Double Bevel
     0 seconds = .75 rotation
     1 second = 2.25 rotations
(Some useful info & you would think that at 0 seconds it would not move at all!)

Next, we did a test comparison on the performance of the same pulley driven car to the gearing car, comparing the distance travelled using two extreme Power settings of 1 and 9. The cars were tested for various durations (seconds) inputs. Our hypothesis was that the gearing driven car would perform better.

And the results are in….

As you can see from the data, the pulley driven car did not travel as far as the gearing driven car. 

Our conclusion: the gearing driven car, based on the observations, performances better by going faster, further, and straighter that the pulley driven car. We believe the gearing has more clutch/grip so its performance is more accurate and consistent; whereas the pulley driven system might tend to slip, particular with wear the rubber band will stretch slightly resulting in slippage. Also, with the pulley driven system, one has to make sure the car/vehicle is balanced from side to side, otherwise it will have a tendency to drift to the weighted side of the vehicle.


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!