LEGO Coin Sorter Is So Money

When it comes to LEGO and sorting, the idea is usually to sort bricks by color, which is a great way to help keep your sanity. And if you want to buy more, you may need to save your pennies and so on. What better way for worlds to collide than to build a working LEGO coin sorter?

[brickstudios]’ sorter does it all — pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollars. As with most coin sorters, the idea is to differentiate by size. This brings up challenge number one — the fact that a penny is ever-so-slightly bigger than a dime.

[brickstudios] was able to solve this by leveraging the difference between a headlight brick and a regular modified 1X1 with a stud on the side. Later, the same two coins reveal challenge two, which is that if you want to sort the coins in order by value, you have to somehow get the dimes past the pennies and nickels after each has fallen through the chute. Same deal with the giant half-dollar and smaller dollar coins.

The basic sub-build is a pair of tile rails on which the coins slide and either fall into the hole or keep going based on value. Once [brickstudios] had all the coins falling just right, it was time to address the value vs. size issue. Essentially, they solved this by building a ramp that turns the dimes and dollars and gets them to the right spots. Be sure to check out the build video after the break.

We are constantly amazed by the things people can make out of LEGO, like this hydroelectric dam or this hydraulic excavator. Have you made something amazing? Let us know!

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A child in a red shirt and blue pants balances on a board suspended across two small, green sawhorses. An astroturf hill and blue elephant-esque cart are in the background.

Popup Playground Roams Around

Going to the park is a time-honored pastime for kids around the world, but what if there isn’t one nearby? COMPA Teatro Trono and the International Design Clinic have designed a park that can come to you.

Working with a group of design students from Bolivia and America, the theatre troupe has iteratively designed a set of playground carts that can be deployed for kids to meet each other and play. El Alto, the city of 1 million where the playground plies the streets, has grown exponentially since its incorporation as an independent town in 1985. Infrastructure has trouble catching up with population jumps of 54% like that experienced from 2000-2010.

Starting with interviews with kids from the city about what was important for a playground, they found a trend of trees, slides, and the color green. Over the course of three summers, the design students went from janky prototypes to the more refined carts now seen roaming El Alto built around the idea of “exaggerated topography.” An elephant and “astroturf bee” are the two hand carts which disassemble into a variety of playground equipment once in place at a destination.

Not a ton of details are given in the article about the construction of the carts themselves, but we think this tactical urbanist approach to parks is a hack in itself. That said, be sure to point us toward some more info on the builds if you’ve found any. Know of another hack, that brings joy to your own neighborhoods? Send it to the tipsline!


Electric Boomerang Does Laps

Boomerangs are known for their unique ability to circle back to the thrower, but what if you could harness this characteristic for powered for free flight? In a project that spins the traditional in a new direction, [RCLifeOn] electrifies a boomerang to make it fly laps.

The project started with several of the 3D printed boomerang designs floating around on the internet, and adding motor mounts to the tips. [RCLifeOn] is no stranger to RC adventures, and his stockpile of spare parts from previous flying and floating projects proved invaluable. He added motor mounts and mounted all the electronics, including a RC receiver for controlling the throttle,  but first iteration didn’t have enough lift, so the boomerang and motors were scaled up.

[RCLifeOn] launched the contraptions by letting them spin on the end of a stick until they achieve lift-off. The second iteration still couldn’t quite get into the air, but after increasing the blade angles using a heat gun it was flying laps around the field.

Although we’ve seen spinning drones that are controllable, it would be no small control systems challenge to make it completely RC controlled. In the meantime this project is a fun, if somewhat risky way to mix the traditional with modern tech.

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Design Secrets Of Fantastic, Hand-made Puzzle Boxes

[Kagen Sound] is a woodworker and artist who gives a great behind-the-scenes look at his amazingly high-quality puzzle boxes (video). Not only do his varied puzzle box designs show his math background, but they are all made entirely of wood. There are no nails or fasteners; just intricately-fitted wood and some glue.

There’s a lot of variety in his designs, and while it’s all fantastic from beginning to end, two things stood out to us as being of particular interest. One is the “Plus Box” which makes a clicking sound when the pieces are moved (at 2:47) thanks to a clever wooden spring. [Kagen] shows an example of the concept, where a flat wood piece with slots cut from the sides acts as a spring and clicks into notches when moved, providing audible and tactile feedback without anything other than wood.

The other is a patterned puzzle box (at 7:10) whose geometric designs change as the user moves the pieces. A reminder that [Kagen]’s devices are made entirely of wood and glue, so the design comes from two different types of wood assembled and cut at an angle to create the patterns seen. [Kagen] shaves thin layers of veneer from this block to attach to the puzzle pieces as needed to create the patterns without resorting to ink, paint, or decals.

[Kagen] has a math degree but is entirely self-taught as a woodworker, so don’t let lack of formal training stop you from experimenting. You can watch him give a tour of his work in the video, embedded below.

Feeling the urge to make your own puzzle boxes? Take a look at some we’ve seen over the years, and we even have a collection of single-line cryptex fonts to make laser-engraving puzzle bits a little easier.

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3D Printed RC Kart Actually Made Entirely By Hand

If we told you somebody built a 3D printed go-kart, you’d expect to see a certain sequence of events. A bit of work in CAD, a printer montage, then some assembly. That’s not the case here. [3D Sanago] is an artist that works with 3D printing pens, creating 3D objects entirely by hand. It’s an impressive skill, all the more so when it’s used to build something functional like this gorgeous little go-kart.

Just filling in the front wing of this build took approximately four hours. Thus, [3D Sanago] used foam boards to cover much of the chassis.
The build recreates the kart from the KartRider Rush+ game. The first step was to purchase a basic RC car frame to serve as the basis for the kart. [3D Sanago] then set about building a kart skeleton over the unpainted body of the basic RC car. It starts with a wireframe and individual flat panels that are eventually fused together into 3D trusses using the 3D pen.

The trusses are then mounted to the RC car chassis underneath with some wood plates serving as a supporting structure. [3D Sanago] has been known to surface his creations by tediously filling in the wireframes with the 3D pen, but not so this time. He took the easy way out of affixing sections of foam board to create the outer skin of the kart. He also demonstrates neat techniques like forming over a pen to create long plastic pipes and other tubular features. His acrylic-and-mousepad wheel and tire package is also pretty neat.

It’s as much craft as anything else, but it’s amazing to see what can be done when a human takes on the role of a 3D printer.  We’ve featured other great builds from [3D Sanago] before, like this awesome Pokemon-themed humidifier.

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Hotshot 3D Printed Hovercraft Is Devastatingly Fast

These days, it’s pretty cheap and easy to build your own little RC hovercraft. [ValRC] demonstrates just that with a hovercraft build that is surprisingly nimble, and fast to boot.

The build started with a design [ValRC] found online. It was simple enough to print and assemble, needing only a pair of a brushless motors, a speed controller, a receiver, and a servo to run the show. The design uses a plastic bag as a skirt, assembled around a 3D printed frame. That proved to be the hardest part of the build, as hot glue didn’t want to play nice with the thin garbage bag.

Even despite the challenges, once assembled, the hovercraft performed well. It readily slid around on a cushion of air, drifting across asphalt with abandon. Upgrades included a better rudder and a skirt made of thicker and more resilient plastic.  The final craft looked mesmerizing as it glided over the smooth concrete of a parking garage with ease.

A hovercraft is, honestly, one of the cooler printable projects for beginners. All you need is a simple design, some powerful motors, and you’re good to go.

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A Hydroelectric Dam, Built Out Of LEGO

Hydroelectric dams are usually major infrastructure projects that costs tens of millions of dollars to construct. But they don’t have to be — you can build your own at home, using LEGO, as [Build it with Bricks] demonstrates!

The build is set up in an aquarium with a pump, which serves to simulate flow through a river system. The LEGO dam is installed in the middle of the aquarium, blocking the flow. It has a sluice gate in the lower section to feed water to a turbine for power generation. The gate is moved via a rack and pinion. It’s driven by a LEGO motor on a long shaft to keep it a safe distance from the wet stuff. The dam also gets a spillway to allow for overflow to be handled elegantly. Meanwhile, a second motor acts as a generator, fitted with a fairly basic turbine.

Hilariously, the first build fails spectacularly as the hydrostatic pressure of the water destroys the LEGO wall. A wider base and some reinforcements help solve the problem. There’s a better turbine, too.  It’s all pretty leaky, but LEGO was never designed to be water tight. As you might imagine, it doesn’t generate a lot of power, but it’s enough to just barely light some LEDs.

It’s a fun way to learn about hydroelectric power, even if it’s not making major amounts of electricity. Video after the break.

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