Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review: The Cult of LEGO...

Just in time for the holidays!

The Cult of LEGO by John Baichtal and Joe Meno - No Starch Press, 2011 gives us a peek into the world of AFOLs, Adult Fans Of LEGO(R) ; yes, they do exist and are growing in number. The book is copiously illustrated with color photographs of amazing models built by some of the most renowned AFOL fans and professionals. For the AFOL it is a must have book for their LEGO book collection and for the non-AFOLs this book beautifully explains what this LEGO world is about.

The book starts off with a brief History of LEGO Group; where it all started. The second chapter answers the questions: who are AFOLs, how do they evolve, and where are they found? One of the things I like about the book is that it also showcases the women AFOLs as well; there are a few of us.

The chapter Minifig Mania is all about those little LEGO people, minifigures, from controversy to famous people – minisized.

(Re)creating Icons shows how LEGO builders are using the brick to represent objects, buildings, people, even classic art as brick art. The next few chapters take the reader into the fascinating world of AFOLs building styles: Building with Imagination, LEGO Art, Telling Stories, Micro/Macro, and Digital Brickage; where science fiction, fantasy, art, and expression reveal the creative and remarkable talent of AFOLs.

As a LEGO Mindstorms robotics instructor and builder, I especially appreciate the chapter on LEGO Robotics: Building Smart Models. This chapter shows how LEGO robotics has taken LEGO building into a new realm with its biggest influence on education and future careers.

The final chapter, Serious LEGO, reveals how a  toy  of fantasy has become a tool in the real world to solve problems of human design and machines.

Check out the video @

Give this book to a LEGO(R) fan (or suspected closeted fan), they will love you for it!

Note: To see other book reviews on this blog, type in "A Review" in the Search This Blog.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

FLL - Food Factor: What to Bring to the Competition...

So what should you bring to a FIRST LEGO League competition event???

•     Robot and attachments
•     Signed Consent and Release forms - English/ Spanish
•     Parts kit
•     Print out of programs and robot specification page
•     Materials, props, and equipment needed for Project presentation
•     Laptop computer with batteries and/or AC adaptor, extra batteries,
extension cords
•     Team scrapbook
•     Team banner, posters, or other  decorations for pit space
•     Snacks and drinks
•     Storage box for personal items
•     USB cable (NXT) or IR tower (RCX)
•     Programming garage (only for RCX)
•     Team introduction page
•     Fun, inexpensive gifts to share with other teams (pins, hats,
personalized, team playing cards)

and don't forget,

Enthusiasm & Team Spirit!


Monday, November 14, 2011

FLL - Food Factor: NYC Queens Qualifier...

NYC FIRST LEGO League Queens Qualifier
Saturday January 28th, 2011 8:30am-3:30pm 

JHS 216:   64-20 175th Street, Fresh Meadows, NY 11365

All teams must register in advance by filling out the Registration form and mailing in payment.

You must participate in this event to be eligible for the citywide at the Jacob Javits Center

Registration dates: Nov. 9 - January 10.  $40 Per Team Payable to: George J Ryan MS 216, please mail check with team number to: above address ATTN: Peter Xanthus.

Team capacity: 40.

You will be registered in the order in which your forms are received.

Registration is not complete until the attached form AND the check is received at Ryan Middle School.  
Tournament Contacts: Peter Xanthus:, (718) 358-2005

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FLL - Food Factor: NYC Brooklyn Qualifier...

The 2012 FLL Brooklyn Qualifier will be held:

Saturday January 14th, 2012 8:00am-4:00pm

Polytechnic Institute of NYU, Brooklyn Campus.


You must participate in this event to be eligible for the citywide competition at the Jacob Javits Center in March

Registration Date: Nov. 8th -Dec 22nd

Registration is not complete until the form and payment has been received.

Registration Fee: $40 Per Team

You will be registered in the order in which your payment has been received.

Checks are payable to: Polytechnic Institute of NYU/FIRST

Please mail check(s) or Money Order(s) with team number(s) to:

Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Attn: Susan Hermon Room JB257A

6 MetroTech Center Brooklyn, NY 11201

You can also make payments by credit card at the registration link below

*The team capacity is 45 we have 53 registered teams, if you would like to participate at another borough qualifier please send me an email indicating which borough qualifier:*

Manhattan and Bronx Saturday, Jan. 21st (limited availability)

Staten Island Sunday, Feb. 5th

*Once capacity has been filled and/or you have not registered by the deadline you will automatically be assigned to an available qualifier.*


Tournament Contact: Susan Hermon:, (718) 260-3524 please contact me with any questions and/or concerns.

Please register at the link below:


Monday, September 26, 2011

FLL - Food Factor: NXT Robot & Software Resource...

V. “LeGo-Bots Lady” Greene
2011 - Free online FLL Programming Training - Purchasing kits & parts

Building & Programming ideas - 100s of models & program ideas - Free designer software for LEGO models & NXT - Models, building instructions, & programs - Building instructions & programs

FLL Tournament:

Kelly, James Floyd. LEGO Mindstorms NXT-G Programming Guide.2nd edition Berkley, CA: Apress, 2010. $24.95
Griffin, Terry. The Art of LEGO Mindstorms NXT-G Programming. San Francisco, CA: No Starch Press, 2010. $29.95.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Kelly, James & Daudelin, Jonathan. FIRST LEGO League: The Unofficial Guide. San Francisco, CA: No Starch Press, 2008. $25.
Trrobaugh, James J. Winning Design! LEGO Mindstorms NXT: Design Patterns for Fun & Competition. Berkley, CA: Apress, 2010. $29.99


Saturday, September 24, 2011

FLL - Food Factor: Missions Scorer App...

Last year a great App for "iDevices" was made available to score the missions in the Game Performance of the FIRST LEGO League Competition.

The new App for this year's competition "Food Factor" is now available. Looking at this year's, somewhat complex, scoring rules & conditions, this App is going to be a very valuable tool! It lets you score, time, save & e-mail your missions score, links to the FIRST website for info, rules, Game updates & Project page. Price for this wonderful tool... 99 cents.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

FLL - Food Factor: LEGO Digital Robot Design...

One of the objectives of FIRST is to expose young people to the possibilities of engineering and technology. The LEGO® Digital Designer is an excellent way to introduce kids to the world of Computer Aided Design. FLL and FTC teams can design attachments made with the Mindstorms NXT kit, print out pictures of it, and view or print out the steps for the best way of building the attachment. It is a
free download-able program from, so team members who happen to have a brain-storm at home, can download it to their computer, design their idea, and bring in the results to the team at the next meeting.

It is a great tool for designing attachments, or even an entire NXT robot, while teaching young people another technological skill.


FLL - Food Factor: Color Sensor...

It's official...

The HiTechnic/LEGO color sensor MAY NOT be used in the FIRST LEGO League competition!

The LEGO RGB color sensor is the one that is allowed to be used:


Friday, September 16, 2011

Omni-Wheels forn NXT - Update...

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Omni-Wheels for the Mindstorms® NXT robot hobbyist...

Rotacaster - Australia 


HiTechnic - Marcy, NY

However, a creative alternative...
If you happen to have a pair of Tetrix® Omni Wheels you can adapt them to work on your NXT robot. The Tetrix® Omni Wheel attaches to the Tetrix DC drive motor or uses a metal axle to attach it to the metal frame of the robot, but it can be adapted to attach to the NXT Interactive Servo Motor or as a free moving wheel attached to a Technic beam. It's excellent as a third wheel (see above photo).
The Omni Wheels can also be doubled for more stability & traction.

This Omni Wheel can be ordered from LEGO® Education; come as a pair of wheels, one spacer, and four screws. However, I used two of the 3/8" Butt Head Screws, and two 1/2" Socket Head Cap Screws.

NOTE: The Omni Wheel from Rotacaster is NOT allowed in FIRST competitions. The Omni Wheel from LEGO® Education is used in the FTC competition, which uses the Tetrix® and Mindstorms® NXT® kits to build their robot. Sorry FLL teams, this wheel can not be used in the FLL competition - yet! (:-)


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11...

May we never forget the heroes and innocent people who lost their lives that horrific day!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

FLL - Food Factor: New Rulings...

Take Note:

There are new rulings concerning Robot Design...

In the Complete Challenge PDF Document: under "robot game - rules, procedures, philosophies and definitions" - 4- Equipment:

You are allowed a maximum of six non-rotation sensors in the competition area. Choose your favorite combination from among the LEGO-manufactured Mindstorms touch sensors, light sensors, color sensors (LEGO RGB color), and ultrasonic sensors.

This is in reference to the NXT Mindstorms, any combination folks, and yes, there are only 4 Input ports on an NXT. Hmm, think creatively folks and it does say "in the competition area." (hint, hint, :-)

For using the RCX:
RCX robots are allowed, with a max of eight sensors from among touch, rotation, and light.

Also, be sure to download the awards descriptions, there is a change in the Awards:

Remember to keep up with the clarification of or new rulings:

LEt's GO Teams!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Inventor's Guide....

The Unofficial LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Inventor's Guide by David J. Perdue with Laurens Valk (No Starch Press) is an excellent book for the NXT robotics hobbyist to add to their reference library. It offers something for every level of NXT robotics building and programming. It is a learning guide that will take the beginner who has some experience with the NXT system, to the immediate level, to the advanced level builder/programmer.

There is a nice introductory section (Parts I & II) to the consumer version of the Mindstorms NXT 2.0 followed by some good building tips for sturdy structures and an excellent tutorial on gearing.

Part III covers the basics of programming with NXT-G, followed by using the NXT-G tools of calibrating sensors, updating firmware, block import, creating “Pack & Go”, plus the awesome tools of image editor, sound editor, and remote control (which are only found in the consumer version of the software).

Part IV covers the projects. The projects are presented in a progressive sequence from beginner to intermediate to advance. The first project, “Inventor Bot” is a nice example of a robot using treads and is easy to build. The “Sentry Bot” takes the Inventor Bot a step further by adding an Ultrasonic sensor, a third motor, and a ball-shooting device targeting the object (intruder) that is detected by the Ultrasonic sensor. Pretty cool! The “Table Bot” adds two Touch sensors to sense the edge of a table: and the Ultrasonic sensor and third motor can be removed or remain on the robot and programmed for some function. With the "Table Bot" the level of programming could be considered intermediate. The next two projects, "The Jeep" and "The Lizard," offer two new designs for building, which will make use of Color sensor. On the advanced level is the last project, "The Printer: a drawing device."

Overall, I found the building instructions clear with very good diagrams, I particularly liked the "blow-up balloons" to show detail. The programming diagrams were also very good with the use of labels to explain. Besides being a great reference for the hobbyist, The Unofficial LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Inventor's Guide also a great guide for teachers of NXT robotics.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tragedy in the FRC community…

Sincere thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Shaunakaye Williams and members of the West Side High School FIRST Robotics Competition team on the lost of a promising science student.

16-year-old Williams drowned while on a school trip to compete in the Los Angeles Regional First Robotics Competition at the Long Beach Arena this past weekend.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

New LEGO Education Resource Set...

There's a new Education Supplementary Resource Set from LEGO Education .

There are a few new elements not found in any other NXT kit. The old Resource set had about 116 different elements, the new has about 144.

Of course, there is also a new price - $99.95


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Winning Design! LEGO Mindstorms NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition...

Although the 2010 - FIRST LEGO League: Body Forward season is almost over, this year's novice coaches and the new coaches for next year’s 2011 - FLL: Food Safety tournament will want to get a jump start with this book: Winning Design! LEGO Mindstorms NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition by James Trobaugh (Apress publishers).

The author’s purpose for this book is to help coaches and teams better understand what it takes to successfully compete in the Robot Performance and Technical of the FIRST LEGO League and other LEGO(R) robotics events. He offers insight into what it takes to develop hopefully a winning robot; and what comes across in the book is planning: planning robot design, planning the order of executing the missions, planning in programming.

It is a book for both rookie teams as well as veteran teams. It is one of those “everything you need to know” books about building a robot for the FLL tournament (which also can be easily applied to other tournaments). The book is divided into four parts representing four major principles: Designing the robot, Navigation of the robot: the art of consistently moving about, Manipulation through purposeful attachments, and Organization/Programming.

It took me awhile to read the book for this review, because it is filled with so much valuable information. However, coaches/instructors will find the book well organized so they can go directly to one of the four major areas of discussion and find the information and advice they need; it is full of helpful tips. The sections on gearing, squaring up, line following/light sensors, and Manipulation are a must read. There are a lot of pictures/diagrams to go with the explanations.

The focus of the book is on using the LEGO(R) Mindstorms(R) NXT kit and NXT-G programming, but the author also included a little about RoboLab(R)

software. In Appendix A there are building instructions for the DemoBot. Perhaps you would want to build the DemoBot before reading this book, so reading the book could be a hands-on experience as well.

Besides the softcover printed book, it also comes in eBook format which makes for a handy reference on an eReader or iPad, while working on that winning robot.

I’ve been a FLL coach with a winning team for a few years now, and I was able to take note of some of the excellent tips from Winning Design! LEGO Mindstorms NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition.

Book Reviews *

Saturday, January 1, 2011