Saturday, December 24, 2016

B2B Lab: Holiday Displaay 2016...

Season’s Greetings!
from the
Brics~2~Bots Engineers

A majestic church with carolers singing Christmas songs.
See more about the church @

A Menorah - Happy Hanukkah!

Waiting for the train at the station. The train is powered by RC Power Function System.

The Gingerbread man waves from outside his house.

Kids frolic in the snow.

The Toy store will be open late with Mrs. Claus.

Santa is lead by Rudolph the Red-nose reindeer. 
Thank you Jason from JKBricks for the PF motorized idea of Santa and his deer. We, however, “robotized” our sleigh with EV3 robotics. Sounds were added through the EV3 brick.

A train tunnel with a waterfall that leads to an underground stream under the town.

This was a collaboration of all the Brics~2~Bots  students. Various elements were used in making this display along with elements mixed and matched from the following kits:  Santa’s Workshop 10245, Gingerbread House 40139, Gingerbread Man 5005156, Winter Top Shop 10249, an earlier version of Winter Toy Shop 10199, Anna’s Sleigh Adventure 41066, Power Functions System, and LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kits (Programmable Brick & Medium Motor)with NXT Lamp components (which are hard to see in the video).


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: Volunteers are needed for the NYC FLL tournaments...

A Call for Volunteers!

     We are about to begin our tournament season in which we are planning for 200 NYC schools/teams to participate in tournaments across the 5 boroughs.  Throughout the months of January- March NYC FIRST will be hosting NYC First Lego League Robotics Tournaments.  To learn more about FIRST please go here:   We would love to get the schools and communities of NYC more involved with judging and continue the amazing work we do with our kids outside of the traditional classroom setting.  So, this is my official call for volunteers!  If you or anyone you can think of would be willing to give up just 1 Saturday or Sunday to come and be a judge for an event, it would be greatly appreciated.  Please share this with your staff, friends or anyone you think would be interested in helping.  I've attached the link for with the descriptions of the volunteering roles.  Please peruse the "Judge" roles here:  We will provide breakfast, lunch and a stylish NYC FIRST T-Shirt for your efforts.  Judges are asked to arrive at 8am and will be done around 2:00-2:30 at which point you may leave or join in the rest of the festivities.

Please follow this link to register for an event:
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.  If you are not interested, please do not neglect to pass this along far and wide to anyone you know it will be greatly appreciated by NYC FIRST and by the nearly 1,000 students participating in NYC FIRST.

Thank you so much for your anticipated support,

Peter Xanthus
MS 216 Science/Technology

Monday, November 14, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: Qualifiers, Semi-Finals , Finals - Update...

New York City Qualifiers

Saturday January 21, 2017 – CCNY - Manhattan
Saturday January 21, 2017 – Xaverian High School – Brooklyn

Saturday January 28, 2017 – I.S. 51 – Staten Island

Sunday January 29, 2017 – LREI – Manhattan

Saturday February 4, 2017 – MS  216 - Queens
Saturday February 4, 2017 – Amity School – Brooklyn
Saturday February 4, 2017 – Horace Mann School – Bronx
Saturday February 4, 2017 – Salve Regina Catholic Academy – Brooklyn

Saturday February 11, 2017 – Dalton School – Manhattan
Saturday February 11, 2017 – Williamsburg Community Center – Brooklyn

Saturday February 18, 2017 – Van Siclen Community School – Brooklyn


Saturday March 4, 2017 - IS 192Q - Queens
Saturday March 4, 2017 - Xaverian HS - Brooklyn
Sunday March 12, 2017 City Polytechnic HS - Brooklyn

Sunday March 19th - City College of New York - Manhattan

Registration of Teams for Qualifiers

(Coaches check your e-mails for Eventbrite ticket links)
Only one ticket is needed for the team.

Borough Priority Registration - Monday November 7, 2016  @ 8pm to Monday November 14, 2016 @ 7am

Open Registration - any qualifier - Monday November 14, 2016 @ 8pm to Monday November 21, 2016 @ 8pm 

FLL Qualifier Registration CLOSED - Billing begins 

     Tuesday November 22, 2016 @ 8pm


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: Geeky LEGO Crafts...

     Here is a fun book with simple to a bit more challenging models to build with LEGO® elements. Geek LEGO Crafts: 21 Fun and Quirky Projects by David Scarfe, No Starch Press, 2016 offers some interesting, many practical models for the home or office. 

The author says in the introduction, “We all loved building with LEGO bricks when we were young, so why stop? This book is for everyone wants a little inspiration to keep on building!” And I second that. From this statement one would get the feeling that the book is being directed toward the AFOL, but having worked with kids I feel most of the models are easy and interesting for youngsters; they just might not be familiar with floppy disks, cassette tapes, and space invaders :-)

Each model is presented with a building difficulty rating - easy, medium, hard. There is a color and number list of the elements you will need (not that you have to stick to the color scheme). The building steps are in color and gray tone. The current building row is in color and the previous steps are in gray tome, so that you can keep track of where you are in the building process.

My favorites are the Sword-in-the-Stone Paperweight, Space Invader Space Saver (yes, you can guess my age), the Cursor Bookends are nice for my computer books, the Zombie Pencil/Pen Holder is awesomely gruesome, the Hanging Ghost and Christmas Tree Decorations are nice builds for child and parent to do together, perhaps I would build the Planter, but I don’t think it will be a Grenade, maybe a pineapple, and Tetris Fridge Magnets would be fun to play with while waiting for dinner to cook. Note to parents, there is a Wine Bottle Holder model, otherwise, there are nice builds for kids in this book.

If you have a LEGO collection of books, this is a cute book of ideas that might just inspire you to create your own LEGO crafts. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: Scoring Apps...

There are now 3 FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer Apps available at the App Store, however I would only recommend two of them:

FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer - Raymond Pang
FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer - Asha Seshan

Both scoring Apps are free and easy to use on your iPhone and/or iPad. They both have Timers, a place to store the results of the runs, which can also be displayed as a graph. 

One,  FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer by Raymond Pang, includes a video game, “Poop Pluck,” I really don’t know why?! 

I prefer the FLL Animal Allies 2016 Scorer by Asha Seshan, but you take a look at both and decide…


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

B2B Lab: Juno Spacecraft...

This past July 4, 2016, the spacecraft Juno, after a 5 year journey, entered Jupiter's orbit. To commemorate this historic event, Brandon ,from the Bircs~2~Bots Lab, built a Juno LEGO model and submitted it to LEGO Ideas.

Look for it @ 

and please vote if you like it!

B2B Lab: Star Wars Chess set...

And the Star Wars battle rages on between the Light and Dark forces, the Resistance against the First Order. 

This is Luc's project that he submitted to LEGO Ideas.

Check it out @   
and if you like it, vote for it!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

B2B Lab: Double-Sided Bricks...

Ever wish you had a double-sided, studs on opposite sides, of a brick? Perhaps, you needed to attach two plates with the studs facing out. 

Well, there is a solution, NO we are not going to glue to bricks undersides together! 

Use blue half pins (makes for tighter fit and less of a gap between the elements) to connect the bottom of a brick to a same size plate. Simply insert the pins into the “tubes” of the brick and plate and click them together! You can use the following bricks square/rectangle 1x1, 2x2, 1x2+, 2x3+; round 1x1; and their matching plates. The round 2x2 brick and plate can be connect with a #2 axle w/grooves. You can even connect two bricks together using blue half pins. 

And yep, it works with brick and beam elements. Use black pins (for a tighter fit) to connect the elements.
You could also use four 1x1 roof bricks wedged into the corners of the inside walls of the bricks and plates (see Pinterest), but I feel it doesn't connect the elements tight enough.

Walla, new elements! 


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

B2B Lab: Mini Amusement Park...

The current buzzword in education is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), but here is an example of project representing STEAM: 
  Science (physics)
  Technology (coding, digital photo editing, movie editing)
  Engineering (architectural, electrical, & mechanical)
  Art/Design (creative design of rides & display)
  Mathematical (numerical problem solving, forming math expressions through coding)

It is because of projects like this that Mindstorms or some sort of robotics curriculum should be available in all schools, as part of their STEM/STEAM initiative.

This mini amusement park was designed, built, and programmed by Beatrice, a student of Brics~2~Bots Lab (private organization) using various LEGO elements, the Mindstorms EV3 robotics system, and arts & crafts materials. There is a FreeFall ride, a Carousel, and a Ferris Wheel. First, she did research on the various rides and learned a little bit about the physics behind the ride. Each ride was designed after looking at pictures of real rides and then interpreted into LEGO building materials. Each ride was programmed separately and then combined into one program controlled by a touch sensor.

iMovie was used to enhance the video and add carnival music.

Read more about this project at Knights of Botsa blog by Brics~2~Bots Lab students.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

FLL - Animal Allies: The Field Mat...Updated

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. Last year, Trash Trek mat (introduced for the first time), a second line to the Base line it was called the Safety area which included the Base as well. This year as you can see there is a second line, but this year the whole area of the two lines to the Southwest corner is just considered Base.

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? Update: that is where the referees will put the "penalty" discs (manure - poop!)

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. Update: It's a milking center for the cows!

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...

Download the Challenge Guide and Updates


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!