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!


Monday, February 20, 2017

B2B Lab: LEGO & litttleBits Together..(Updated)

LEGO® and littleBits®, as two modular building systems they are awesome together. Some of the Brics~2~Bots engineers started working on projects that use LEGO elements with littleBits to learn electronics. 

We started off with a simple Power + Fan (output) to cool things off.

Luc added a button to control the fan: Power + Button (input) + fan (output).

We also made Telegraph devices. First we research telegraphs and the Morse Code on the Internet and printed out the code. 

In 1836, Samuel Morse, American inventor and painter, American physicist Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail created the single wire telegraph system to transmit information for long distances via radio waves. A coded system which became known as the Morse Code, sent as a series of electrical signals - short signals represented as dots and long signals are referred as dashes. Letters and numbers were assigned a combination of dots and/or dashes.The International Morse Code has been in use for more than 160 years longer than any other electrical coding system. The Morse Code was  use in aviation, amateur radio, the general public, and military personnel in the US Navy. The most common message is SOS and in Morse Code (… - - - …). It is rarely used today, because of cell phone and Internet communication, but it is still pretty cool.

Brandon’s telegraph includes a Buzzer and LED to make  the Morse Code signals. Power + Button (input) + Buzzer (output) + Long LED (output).

Spooky Box

Luc's Spooky Box Surprise includes Power + Sound sensor (input) + Pulse (input) + Split (wire) + 2 Bright LED (output).
The Sound sensor picks up the sound of someone entering a room (it is adjustable to sensitivity) causing the LEDs to flash (Pulse). You can make it an alarm by adding a Buzzer.

Olivia made a Night Light that responds to sound.

It has Power + Toggle Switch (input) + Sound sensor (input) + Slider (input) + Wire + Bright LED (output).

Learn more about littleBits®


Monday, January 23, 2017

B2B Lab: All Aboard for TrainVille...

The history of trains goes back to a simple “wagonway” train system dates all the way back to 2nd and 1st millennia BC, where Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians build roads with specific wheel-ruts deliberately cut into rock. This road configuration enabled them to more easily transport wagons that were pulled by horses or bulls, without any need for steering or controlling the trajectory of the wagon and allowing the journey in only two directions. The Greeks especially adopted this type of transport, even managing to build very impressive “wagonway" called Diolkos in ancient Corinth around 600BC, which may be called the first railway in history.


Steam Engine train going over a Trestle Bridge

Controls for Crossing Gates, 9-Volt Trans, PF  Trains,
Sound Effects

This was another collaborative effect by the 
Brics~2~Bots Engineers!


Friday, January 6, 2017



LIVE: Expedition 50 Spacewalk: Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA on the first of two spacewalks to perform a complex upgrade to the International Space Station's power system.

Check it out: