It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this, but hackers and makers absolutely love LEGO. We think you’d be hard pressed to find a Hackaday reader, young or old, that hasn’t spent some quality time with the little plastic bricks from Billund, Denmark. So it follows that there’s a considerable community of individuals who leverage their better than average technical prowess to utilize LEGO in new and unique ways. But the activities and history of these LEGO hackers is not exactly common knowledge to those who aren’t heavily vested in the hobby.
During the recent FOSSCON 2018 in Philadelphia, Daniel Pikora gave attendees a comprehensive look at the intersection of open source development and the world’s most popular brand of construction toys. A software developer with a penchant for open source code by trade, he’s also an avid member of what’s known as the Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) community who’s exhibited his creations at shows across the United States and Canada. Such a unique perspective, with a foot in both the FOSS and LEGO camps, makes Daniel an ideal tour guide for this particular microcosm of toys and tech.
In a whirlwind presentation that took attendees through 49 slides in about as many minutes, Daniel covered LEGO’s beginnings in the 1930s to the rise of 3D printed custom bricks, and everything in between. Some of the engineering-centric product lines, such as Technic and Mindstorms, were already fairly well known to the types of folk who spent a beautiful Saturday in Philadelphia at an open source conference. But Daniel’s deep-dive into the long history of open source LEGO projects brought to light the work of so many dedicated developers that everyone walked away with a newfound respect for the amount of work the AFOL community has put into elevating LEGO from a child’s toy to a legitimate tool. Join me below for a look at the particulars of that deep dive.
Continue reading “FOSSCON 2018: Where Open Source and LEGO Collide”
Mechanum wheels are great, but you have to have them perfectly alined or they come across a little clunky, giving your robot a herky-jerky movement. Robotics educator and supreme LEGO builder [Yoshihito Isogawa] built a mechanum-wheeled rover that has the angles right: each wheel consists of 12 smaller rubber tires angled at 45 degrees. The key to the project is Part Number 85940, accurately if unsexily named “double Ø4.85 hole w/ Ø3.2 shaft”. It consists of a double technic hole with a shaft projecting in a 45-degree angle.
Unlike his omni-roller project with 3 large wheels and the mechanum tank treads he built for another project, this one features the gold standard of mechanum movement: creepy agility. He also did a version with 9 side rollers per wheel, and it was nearly as stable.
Hackaday loves [Yoshihito]’s great creations, which are as beautiful and elegant as they are functional. His all-LEGO centrifugal pump and his spirograph machine make expert use of parts to make the builds as simple as possible.
Continue reading “Freakishly Agile Crawler Rocks All-LEGO Mechanum Wheels”
When we see what [Jason Allemann] does with LEGO, we wonder why more one-offs aren’t made this way. This time he’s made a Halloween mechanical marvel that will surely scare more kids than anything else they’ll encounter on their rounds — so much so that many may even decline the chocolate it dispenses. Who wouldn’t when to get it you have to reach over an animatronic skeleton hand that may grab you while a similarly mechanized spider may lunge onto your hand.
The chocolate dispensing, the hand and the spider are all animated using four motors, a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 brick to control them, and a touch sensor. When a kid presses a pumpkin attached to the touch sensor, the next chocolate candy is lowered by gravity onto a conveyor belt and carried forward to the awaiting child. That much is automatic. At the discretion of [Jason] and his partner [Kristal], using an infrared remote control and sensor, they can activate the skeleton hand and the lunging spider at just the right moment. We’re just not sure who they’ll choose to spare. It is Halloween after all, and being scared is part of the fun, so maybe spare no one? Check out the video below and tell us if you’d prefer just the treat, or both the trick and treat.
We do have to wonder if there’s any project that can’t benefit from LEGO products, even if only at the prototype stage or to help visualize an idea. As a small sample, [Jason]’s also made a remote-controlled monowheel and an actual working printer along with a Morse key telegraph machine to send it something to print.
Continue reading “Mechanical Marvel Trades Courage for Chocolate”
[Bram], a 17-year-old robot fan from the Nertherlands, had an opportunity to watch a RoboCup soccer match played by autonomous robots, and was inspired to create his own Mindstorms version of the robot for a school project.
The robot he created is around 80 cm in diameter and is controlled by four daisy-chained EV bricks. There are nine large motors for controlling the wheels, two more large motors for grabbing the ball, and two medium motors for the ball-shooting mechanism. It uses a Pixycam for ball detection, and it can identify and move toward the ball so long as it’s within 2.5 m. A gyro sensor determines the robot’s rotational direction.
Our favorite detail of the robot is its giant omni wheels, constructed out of LEGO elements. Each one consists of sixteen Mindstorms-standard wheels arranged in a circle, with an offset double row of rollers to give the same angled effect as a Mechanum wheel’s rollers.
This story has even geekier roots. [Bram]’s robot was based off of the Turtle, a soccer-playing robot used to teach programming to college students. Like [Bram]’s creation, they also have omni wheels, and see with a Kinect as well as a 360-degree camera up top that uses a parabolic mirror to keep an eye on its surroundings. The Turtle uses a compass sensor to distinguish its goal from the opposing team’s goal.
We’ve covered soccer bots in the past, watch a soccer-playing robot score on a human goalie.
Continue reading “Mindstorms Soccer Robot Inspired by Real Soccer Robot”
A group of embedded developers from Sioux Embedded Systems in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, wanted to get experience working on Microsoft .Net. To make it fun they made it their project to produce a LEGO train with visitors at LEGO World, the official LEGO convention in the Netherlands. The team developed an application in C# to fully automate the train, with Mindstorms NXT and EV3 bricks as well as LEGO Power Functions motors controlling everything.
The train project carries a simple premise: the visitor chooses one of four colors, and the train goes and picks up a piece of simulated candy with the matching color. Called Sioux.net on Track, the project has produced a new train every year since 2012 with improvement goals in place to add features with every version. Ironically, the least interesting part of the setup is the actual train and track. The team’s creativity comes to the fore in two areas of the project: the method by which the candy color is selected, and the assembly that dispenses the correct color into the train car.
Team member [Hans Odenthal] has built candy-grabbers for various years’ trains. He learned about the ABB FlexPicker and this year decided to build a delta robot for the layout. It consists of huge girders constructed from 5×9 and 5×11 Technic beam frames held together with more Technic beams and hundreds of connector pegs. The three arms each move on a pair of turntables which are geared down to provide as much torque as possible — the fake candy pieces are light, but the arms themselves weigh a lot. [Hans] ended up revamping the gearboxes to up the ratio from 1:5 to 1:25.
Continue reading “Monster Mindstorms Delta Bot Delicately Picks Candy”
[Jason Allemann] built a Mindstorms Telegraph Machine that packs so many cool details that HaD is about to have a fit.
First off, It’s a drawbot able to write letters, a difficult feat given a lack of native stepper motors and the limited gear options for Mindstorms. Trying to draw letters with servos typically makes for some ugly letters. And how does the drawbot know what to write? You code them in with Morse code. The second video after the break shows [Jason]’s setup. He has a Mindstorms touch sensor with a LEGO Morse key attached to it. He simply taps on the key and the EV3 Intelligent Brick interprets his dots and dashes and translates them into letters.
Next off, [Jason]’s printer is built using one EV3 set. It’s one thing to build a cool Mindstorms robot with whatever you have in your parts bin, but the gold standard is to make a project that can be built with only one EV3 set. That way, anyone with the set can build the project. Precious few really cool projects can be built with just one set–[David Gilday]’s MindCub3r Rubik’s cube solver comes to mind. Dude, this is another one.
Last off, [Jason] breaks down how to build it, providing full LDraw building steps and EV3 code on his site. Even better, he shows how to supersize the project by adding a second EV3 brick, which can connect to the drawbot’s EV3 brick via bluetooth and serve as a standalone CW key. He shows off this part in the second video.
Icing on the cake, [Jason] even built a Morse reference book, done appropriately in 100% LEGO.
Hackaday loves innovative LEGO projects, like this game-playing robot and this LEGO exoskeleton.
Continue reading “Mindstorms Morse Key Writes to Drawbot”
[Michael Brandl] got to visit the Milka chocolate factory in Bludenz, Austria and was inspired to build this simulation of the production process for the LEGO world 2017 event in Copenhagen.
The process begins with the empty mold riding on a double row of tank treads. Subsequent modules seem to fill the mold with LEGO ingredients, cool the bars, and remove them from the mold. The last two steps rock: [Michael] built a dispenser that drops a tiny cardboard box onto the line, sized to hold 3 LEGO bars. The box rolls to the end of the line and is picked up by a pneumatic gripper that picks up the box and places it on a pallet.
While more whimsical than the LEGO liquid handler we featured recently, there are a lot of interesting robotic techniques to be learned here. On the reverse angle video you can see more of what’s going on with the wiring of the various motors and sensors. There are six EV3 bricks scattered along the length of the assembly line. The bricks control 15 small motors, 2 large motors, 7 touch sensors, and 3 light sensors. [Michael] added some nice touches, like the combo of two color sensors, seen around 1:45 of the reverse angle video, possibly used to keep the factory operations synced.
Check out [Michael’s] Mindstorms sendup of [Anouk Wipprecht’s] drink bot dress. The LEGO version was built for Robotexotica. In addition, he has a lot of projects featured on his site.
Continue reading “Chocolate Factory Simulation Makes Bars with LEGO”