Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful LEGO...

T’s the season to be giving your LEGO fans amazing LEGO books! Here is one LEGO book they will definitely enjoy.

Beautiful LEGO by Mike Doyle, No Starch Press 2013 – is indeed a “beautiful” book of over 275 pages of remarkable LEGO creations. It is a LEGO Art book of sculptures, magnificent buildings, whimsical characters, bizarre, and futuristic models.  Just about all styles of building are represented from the colossus City of Odan by Mike Doyle, the author, to Vignettes, to mini builds, to mosaics, to Cube Dudes, to Macha, to cars, to sci-fi.

The photos of the LEGO artwork are in full, beautiful color (except for a few works by Doyle in black & white, which may be for the effect). There are 77 artists represented including Agnes MacLane, and two I have had the pleasure of meeting at their showings of their works – Nathan Sawaya and Arthur Gugick; and many more some I honestly never heard of, but through this book I am introduced to and will look for more of their works.

This is one book LEGO fans “must” have in their collection. And if you are a LEGO fan yourself, send a “hint” to family & friends or just treat yourself to this “Beautiful LEGO” book. 


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


Sunday, November 17, 2013

FLL - Nature's Fury: NYC FLL teams 2013-14...

2013-14 NYC FLL teams

Team # Team Name
10825 Sonic Gears
683 Vulcabotz
12204 OST at MS 74
192 B.R.A.T.S.
1880 Bengal Tigerbots
3334 76ers
6388 Basement Cubs
10092 Robotz
12465 RoboSapiens
14413 Bronx Task Force
15638 Techno Tigers
15898 Tigers
16356 Daedalus
16366 Robotic Bulldogs
16614 Bronx Park Robotics
16984 The Ridder Kids
18177 Boogie Down Bots
18689 Robotics 89
18719 Eistein's Engineers
1869 Master Blasters
1870 Amazon Warriors
2458 Mission Masters
2459 SwaggerBots
2581 Royal Sages
3626 832F Wolves
5354 MasterMinds
5355 MasterMinds2
5848 Tsunami Bytes
9304 CIS 228
9857 The Sensors
10061 Packer FLL1
10064 Packer FLL2
10654 Gear Hawks
10665 RoboTigers
10675 Smart Bots
10680 Robo-Warriors
10700 Nanowolves
12414 The LEGO Mindblowers
12989 PS 321
13911 Genesis 1
13912 Genesis 2
13916 Genesis 3
13918 Genesis 4
15555 Banneker Bots
16290 Iron Eagles
16628 Sunset Park Prep - Lego My Eggo
16966 Lego Force
17163 Legominds
17234 Math and Science Explorers
17236 Math and Science Problem Solvers
17515 MS 50 Warriors
18094 PAVE Academy
18333 Madibabots NG
18726 Team 1
18729 Team 2
18883 Falcons
18887 Demolition
10658 Mission 11
10661 Blood, Sweat, and Gears
10668 PS 5 Lego Rockets
10672 Lego Legacy 366
10685 Lego Legends
10689 Panther's Robotics
10695 213 Lego Dream Team
10698 Madibabots
8777 warbots
18539 Old Schoolers
18549 New Schoolers
1785 Bleeker Stars
2651 The Abbe Robotic Panthers
5332 Queens Robotics Club
8720 FHRL Storm Troopers
8721 LEGO Monsters
8722 GirlBots
8724 Planetary Forces
8725 FHRL Team 4
8726 FHRL Team 6
11690 Team 7
14720 Team 9
16219 MELS Blue
17912 Team 10
17366 Ryan Lions
440 TopGearz
452 Not Sure Yet
7159 FLL @ Sacred Heart
17928 Saint Pancras School Robotics Club
447 SuperBotz
5065 Slaughterbots
18240 Robo Griffins
1357 RoboTron II
4000 Hurricane Pandas
8965 RoboBeta
3374 Roboblaster
1043 P.S. 199Q Lego Robotics Team #1
1047 P.S. 199Q Lego Robotics Team #2
12684 49er Miners
15575 Robosapiens
15576 Robo Ninja
573 Thunderbots
1709 Trinity School Blue
1717 Trinity School Gold
1949 Medabots
4368 DWI SCI
4448 G.O.
4449 F.O.R.T.H.
4451 U.N.A.F.R.A.I.D.
4697 Innovators
5352 LREI A
5356 LREI B
8488 Chapin Blizzards
8542 The Chapin Wild Firee
10628 Manhattan Monsters
11721 ICE ROCbotics
11989 Hurricanes
12119 Chargers
12123 Cougars
12572 D.A.L.T.O.N.
12744 RobotI.C.S.
12978 PS11 Team
13381 Elite
13751 RoboTRONS
13759 DROIDMakers
13933 Robotics
14821 The Automators
15086 Super Awesome Team
15099 Dutchmen
15234 The Digital Pride
15719 Chelsea Cyber One
15735 Chelsea Robo Duex
15845 CGPS Fury Fighters
15929 Space Cases
16769 Hau-yu Chu
17077 Grace Gremlins
17179 Middle School Robotics
17502 Milbotics
18575 PS11 FLL Robotic Team Team 2
18593 Isaac Newton
18798 P.S. 9 Robotics Team
18856 TBA
18878 Lego Lions
18921 Girl Scout Bionic Women
2276 Rockin Botz
2278 Short Circuits
14513 Little Warriors of East Harlem
5357 Quantum Club
4584 Stormy Weather
3280 RA Tech Titans
15981 SLCD Robotics
8562 Owl Bots
16714 NXT Generation
4199 Robo Fusion 192
15212 192 Scholars
1274 Knights of 24
1276 Dark Knights of 24
1282 Rouge Knights of 24
1285 Knights of the Olde Republic
1342 PS 57 R Robotics Team
2274 Wizards
2277 Marauder Bots
2346 Eagles
4553 Mustangs
4556 Mustangs 2
4558 Mustangs 3
6570 St. Clare's Transformers 1
6573 St. Clare's Transformers 2
6574 St. Clare's Transformers 3
6576 St. Clare's Transformers 4
11393 Robo-Panthers

See ya @ the games!


Friday, November 8, 2013

FRC Robots in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade...

Five FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) teams will be taking part in the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on November 28, 2013 at 9am EST (it will be televised live on NBC):

Team 1538, The Holy Cows, from San Diego, Calif.;
Team 1477, Texas Torque, from The Woodlands, Texas;
Team 180, S.P.A.M., from Stuart, Fla.;
Team 16, The Bomb Squad, from Mountain Home, Ark.;
Team 25, Raider Robotix, from North Brunswick, N.J.

The teams will be leading the parade with their 2013 FRC ULTIMATE ASCENT robots which have been modified to perform tasks specifically fot the parade. The Texas Torque team’s robot will do the honor of cutting the ribbon to start the parade and the other robots will shoot confetti as they travel down the 2.5 mile parade route to Macy’s Herald Square. 

How awesome is that?!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Book Review: More Amazing Vehicles...

More VROOOOM!!! 

In The LEGO Build-It Book: Amazing Vehicles by Nathanaël Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni, No Starch Press 2013, is a nice collection of “build-it” models for the vehicle building LEGO fan. Now, there is MORE; The LEGO Build It Book: MORE Amazing Vehicles by Nathanaël Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni, No Starch Press 2013.

Again, the LEGO Build-It Book it is a full-color illustrated book of 10 rather cool vehicles with very clear step-by-step instructions for building them. As in Vol. 1, the authors include a pictorial list of the LEGO parts you will need to build the models. These parts are basically standard parts, which you probably already have in your LEGO collection or can buy at

If you are new to building with LEGO or building LEGO vehicles, you do not have to run out and buy Vol. 1 before reading Vol. 2 (but you will probably want to have it anyway in your collection), because there is a section: BUILDING TRICKS, which offers A QUICK REFRESHER, plus new tips and techniques on how to use simple LEGO parts in several different ways for better reinforcement for your models.

At the beginning of the ADANCED section of the book BUILDING TIPS offers three questions to consider when building your own amazing vehicles: 1) Where are the wheels (in relation to the type of vehicle)? 
2) Where is the engine? 
3) Where is the driver seated?
Things you need to think about before you start building that awesome vehicle.

There are 10 models of instructions to inspire:
·      Hot Rod
·      Gran Turismo
·      Chopper
·      Roadster
·      Wrecker
·      Dune Buggy
·      Forklift
·      Big Rig
·      F1 Racer
·      Excavator

My favorite is the Hot Rod!

In all, both The LEGO Build It Book: More Amazing Vehicles by Nathanaël Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni and Vol. 1 are fun books with great ideas and tips for LEGO fans(and possible LEGO fans) ages 7 and up. They are also both available in e-book format.

Note: FLL (FIRST LEGO League) builders this is not robotics, but there are some interesting building tips in both books that just might inspire some ideas for your robot.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

FLL - Nature's Fury: EV3 Programming Help...

If you are a FIRST LEGO League coach whose team is planning to use the EV3 in competition (or a teacher teaching with the EV3)  and you are looking for an introductory programming guide go to:

It is a nice introductory resource to programming the new Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit. You might want to also save it as a PDF and print out select pages as reference charts.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

FLL - Nature's Fury: To NXT or To EV3...

To NXT, or to EV3, that is the question…that FIRST LEGO League teams are pondering as the new challenge, Nature’s Fury is about to get underway.

When the Mindstorms NXT came out in 2003 it was an improvement over the RCX, but there were teams who choose to still compete with the RCX and were successful.

Again, LEGO has enhanced the Mindstorms robotics kit with the new EV3. Yes, it has an improved microprocessor and the programming has some nice features over the NXT-G. No doubt, the EV3 is an awesome system (even with a few minor faults that LEGO is quickly rectifying – except for the display screen, see New EV3…Update).

So again, teams are faced with the decision to use the Mindstorms NXT or to go out and buy the new EV3 (don’t think anyone is really using the RCX anymore - but then someone, somewhere in the world might :-) each set of course has its strengths. Suppose your team can’t buy the EV3 right now, does that mean they will be at a disadvantage?  NO, in the finally analysis it is not so much the Brick Controller, as it is how a team uses its building skills, programming skills, strategy, and creativeness (see NewEV3…Update) to build a successful robot!


Monday, September 23, 2013

FLL - Nature's Fury: Robot Game Scorer...

The 2013 Nature's Fury Robot Game Scorer

Available for FREE:

The App Store for iPad and iPhone - There are about 3 different ones. Two cost 99 cents and one is FREE.


Friday, September 6, 2013

FLL - Nature's Fury: Robot Design Rules...

Robot Game Rules

Be sure to read the 4. Equipment rules in this year’s Nature's Fury 2013 FLL Challege Handbook, there is more clarification than last year. For example:

4 – Equipment
 EVERYTHING you use in the competition area directly or indirectly for strategy (mission-related goals) must be made entirely of LEGO-manufactured elements in original factory condition. Stickers are not allowed, except LEGO stickers, applied per LEGO instructions. Paint, tape, glue, oil, zip-ties, etc. are not allowed.
  Exception 1: You may reference a paper list to keep track of robot programs.
  Exception 2: LEGO string and tubing may be cut to length.
  Exception 3: Marker may be used only in hidden areas, for ownership identification.
  Exception 4: Carts, trays, and boxes may be used for hand-transport and storage, off the table only.

REGULAR ELEMENTS - You may use as many non-electric LEGO elements as you like, including pneumatics, rubber bands, and string, and they may be from any source or set (MINDSTORMS® /TECHNIC/ CREATOR® /BIONICLE™/STAR /WARS™/HARRY POTTER™/HERO FACTORY/ etc.). Exception: Factory-made wind-up/pull-back “motors” is not allowed.

CONTROLLERS - You are allowed a maximum of one controller in the competition area in any one match. You could choose one of the two LEGO-manufactured types RCX, NXT or EV3. No other controller is allowed.

SENSORS – This year you are allowed as many sensors as you like, but the types are
limited as follows:
They may only be touch, light, color, rotation, ultrasonic, or gyro.
They must be LEGO-manufactured MINDSTORMS type including RCX, NXT and EV3.

NOTE: Sensors that may have the LEGO logo (such as HiTechnic color sensors) and/or other sensors made "for" LEGO, but not "by" LEGO sold at LEGO shopping sources including or may NOT be used in competition (exception – Research Project models)

Motors: You are allowed a maximum of (4) Four Mindstorms motors in the competition area. 

Quantity limits don't just apply to what 's on your robot. The Robot Inspector (if your tournament has one) & referee adds everything you have with you in your boxes, your hands, your trays, and on the table. All of it counts toward your total of 4 motors. 
   Example 1: You have 1 motor with differential gearing on your robot, plus 3 motors w/ attachments = 4.
   Example 2: You have 2 motors on your robot, plus 2 motors with attachments = 4 motors.
   Example 3: You have 3 motors on your robot, plus 1 motor with an attachment = 4 motors.

A 5th motor in the competition area is NOT ALLOWED, no matter what.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

The New EV3...Update

When the LEGO Mindstorms RCX set came out, it was a major innovation for introducing students to the world of robotics. In 2006, LEGO Mindstorms NXT was introduced and it was a great enhancement over the RCX. For Mindstorms 15th anniversary in 2013 the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 is now available (Educational version – Retail version available Sept. 1) and it is a significant enhancement over the RCX & NXT.
First, there is a new design for the EV3 Brick & Sensors, which seems to lend itself to better building. The EV3 brick (Educational & Retail) has a more powerful microprocessor (ARM9 300Hz with 16MB Flash & 64 MB RAM), a 178x128 pixel  & slightly larger LCD, OS is Linux-based, instead of 3 motor ports there are now 4 (for large & medium size motors), there are still 4 Input ports for the sensors. a Micro SD-Card Reader up to 32GB & USB connection (more memory – nice!), and check this – the USB port can be used to link additional EV3 bricks with motors that can be then controlled by the host brick (amazing!).  Besides being autonomously controlled it can be remotely controlled with BlueTooth, & Smart devices (Android & Apple).

For more info on the EV3 Brick:

What sensors are in the EV3 Educational Core set? The Sound sensor has been eliminated – well, it was difficult to use in a classroom, what robotics classroom is quiet enough (I know mine wasn’t; it was filled with learning excitement noise - the kids ended up using the Sound sensors for decor & weight balance on the robot. The EV3 comes with 2 Touch, 1 Color, & 1 Ultrasonic sensor in the set. In addition, there is a Gyroscope sensor included. Not included in the Educational set, but it is available, is an IR Seeker sensor, an IR Beacon/Remote Control, and Temperature sensor (not new, it is the same one that is used with the NXT). There is a newly designed rechargeable battery, but the charger is the same as the DC charger & Power Functions charger. (thank you!) Besides the traditional LEGO Technic elements there are some nice additions: a smaller Turntable element, Double Bushing, Dampers, Left/Right Panels, & a cool Technic Ball Pivot.

     Let’s peek at the EV3 Brick Controller Interface. There are 4 basic screens: Run Recent (programs), File Navigation (of all files on the Brick & SD card), Settings (volume, sleep, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Brick Info - current tech specifications), & an amazing 5 pre-installed Brick Apps (plus students can make their own Apps in the computer software). Brick Apps include: Port View, Motor Control, IR Control, Brick Programming, & Brick Datalog – all of which are explained in “some detail” in the PDF EV3 Guide that comes with the software. 

  Now, a very brief summary of the EV3 software (Educational); due to bugs in the software a new version is available. If you already bought the software, you should be getting an e-mail notification from LEGO Education about download instructions of the new version. 

     When you load the software it opens to a screen called the Lobby, which has links to the various activities/functions (Quick Start, Model Instructions, Programming, Data Logging, Files). The model instructions on the software are divided into models using the EV3 plus the Expansion set (intermediate-advanced builder)  & models using just the Core set (novice-intermediate builder). Included in the EV3 Core set is an instruction booklet on how to build & program (Brick Programming) a simple robot. This is good for quick “intro” teaching to the system. The Programming Overview is a picture slideshow introduction of how to program, but does not go into all the programming blocks. Like the RoboLab & NXT-G, the EV3 is icon blocks that you connect by “click, drag & drop.” Now, the difference from NXT-G is that the EV3 has is only one palette of programming blocks, but the color coding is still used for the different grouping of functions for the blocks (e.i. green - Action blocks – motor, display, sound, etc.) Honestly, having the Common NXT-G palette really wasn’t necessary & was sometimes confusing to the novice user, since it was included in the Complete palette.  There is also a nice improvement with configuring the program blocks; it is done right on the block rather than a separate window – this makes it much easier to look at any part of the program & see at a glance the configuration of any block. Creating MyBlocks is basically the same procedure as with the NXT-G.

  Besides Download, Download & Run, Upload; there is something new added to the Hardware Page Controller – Download & Run Selected. This function will be useful for debugging sections of the program! A few other features added are the Zoom, Sound Editor, ImageEditor, & the Content Editor. There is a zoom icon on the programming screen that allows the program to be enlarged for better viewing; an excellent feature for those who may have some visual impairment or for the instructor to focus in on a particular area of the program. The Sound Editor & the Imagine Editor were originally introduced on the NXT 2.0 Retail; adding them to the EV3 Educational will offer more creative possibilities for students.

     Educators (perhaps FLL coaches too) will like this new feature, the Content Editor. It is an e-notebook for writing notes, including images, short videos, sound, & even record a webcam about the project & program the student is working on & saved with that program.

The EV3 of course does not come with a book “manual” on building & programming; instead it has an excellent online help manual. Click on “Help” in the menu bar - “Show EV3 Help” & it will take you online for descriptions & explanations dealing with programming blocks, the EV3 Brick Interface, sensors, tools & data logging. Of course, there will soon be a number of  new EV3 books on the market - one is already out:  Classroom Activities for the Busy Teacher: EV3 by Damien Kee. He has a good overview of programming at:

So there are many great enhancements & features with the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3, but unfortunately there is one negative & that is with the display screen on the EV3 Brick. Students (and coaches like myself) that have some visual impairment (even with corrective devices) will have some trouble seeing the info on the display.  On the NXT the display screen might have been a little smaller, but there was less info displayed at a time so it was slightly larger. The EV3 may have sharper text/graphics, but it is packed with a lot of info shown on the display so the text is smaller. When files & selection choices on the display are selected by highlighting it (which becomes green text on black highlight – very hard to see). There is also a problem with glare & reflection – you have to find the right viewing angle to see the display clearly. Perhaps if the screen were a lighter color (if that is possible), the black text & graphics would show up a little better; maybe an antiglare screen too???

Another problem that The LEGO Group is aware of is with the rechargeable battery, see statement from LEGO: 

This was just a brief look at the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3; those of you who are upgrading from NXT to the new EV3, you will discover more great new enhancements to the system & that there are some NXT features that were retained (some with improvements). Now, you might be thinking, “What about all those NXT sets we have!?” Well, of course all non-electronic elements will still fit with the new set. There is also some compatibility between the NXT & EV3. 
           * Ev3 motors will work with the NXT brick, but not the EV3 sensors.
         * NXT motors & sensors will work with the EV3 brick; the EV3 brick & software detects the sensors & motors automatically, so you can configure them as if they were EV3 sensors & motors. 
check out: 

and if you happened to have some “old” RCX motors (need a Conversion Cable found in the NXT set or order from LEGO) see what creative things you can do with them on the EV3  :-) 


Sunday, August 18, 2013

FLL- Nature's Fury: NYC FLL & JrFLL Kick-Off...

NYC FIRST LEGO League Kick-Off!


Saturday September 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM-2:00 PM
Polytechnic Institute of NYU
6 Metrotech Center Brooklyn, NY 11201

10:00-10:20 AM: Welcome & Introductions (Pfizer Auditorium, 5 MetroTech Center)
10:25-10:40 AM: Nature’s Fury Challenge Overview (Pfizer Auditorium)
10:40-11:15 AM: Judging Rules Overview (Pfizer Auditorium)
11:15-1:15 PM: Rookie Team Workshop (How to organize your team, project overview; game strategies, robot design, & NXT software tips) (JAB - Room 474)
11:15-12:15 PM: Jr. FLL Workshop Disaster Blaster (How to register, run and prepare for the JrFLL Expo) (JAB - Room 475)
11:15-12:15 PM: Volunteer Workshop (What is FIRST, volunteer position descriptions) (Pfizer Auditorium, 5 MetroTech Center)
11:15-2:00 PM: Game Overview (All Teams) (Rogers Hall [RH] - Room 116)


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Amazing Vehicles...


LEGO car building fans here is a nice “build-it” book on vehicles, The LEGO Build-It Book: Amazing Vehicles by Nathanaël Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni, No Starch Press 2013.

In this full-color illustrated book are 10 rather cool vehicles with very clear step-by-step instructions for building them. One of (the many) nice features of the book is a pictorial list of the LEGO parts you will need to build the models. Also note, the parts are basically standard parts which you probably already have in your LEGO collections (of course, you can substitute your own colors) or can buy at

If you are new to building with LEGO or building LEGO vehicles, there is a section: BUILDING BASICS, which offers tips and techniques; “Getting Creative with Parts,” shows how to use two simple LEGO parts in several different ways which can inspire one to think of other ways. Also, “How Bricks Fit Together” gives the reader a little “aha!” knowledge on how one can fit various bricks together to achieve a particular structure. In the ADVANCE BUILDING section, are techniques for making “Strong Connections” and “flexible joints and articulation points” for manually moveable parts on models (opening the hood or door of a car, a bulldozer, or crane).

As for the models there are some simple builds, including not a car or truck, but yet a vehicle – a Stroller! Imagine what one can create from that! The authors included a nice variety of vehicles to build and be inspired by The final and 10th. model is the most intricate of all of them is the Rescue Truck.

After building these models, your creativeness should zoom to build your own awesome vehicles. If you have a LEGO Pull-Back motor, incorporated it in your own model. 

Also, check out More Amazing Vehicles by Nathanaël Kuipers and Mattia Zamboni, No Starch Press coming September 2013.

P.S. I was looking for a vehicle book to use with a possible Retired Seniors LEGO Club that I am planning to start in my community, The LEGO Build-It Book: Amazing Vehicles is perfect – it also comes in e-book format so I can put it on my iPad or computer to be enlarged on a large TV monitor.

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