Friday, July 29, 2011

Nxt2saurus Can Avoid Obstacles, Rotate in Place, Balance Self - With Only Two Motors

Name of Model: Nxt2saurus
Created by: Menno Gorter
Found at:
Details: Try wrapping your head around the mechanism behind this model. Using only two motors and a simple program, this robot can turn in place, avoid obstacles, and balance itself by shifting its center of gravity. The builder is intentionally not making it too obvious how it works, but I think it's possible to reverse engineer some of it. The "feet" actually spin, so the axles going down to them must be geared to power that feature. The shifting of the center of gravity could be worked in by providing extra friction somewhere in the gear train - conveniently, this design combines that with the task of lifting each foot to take steps.

Some of the clever parts of this design don't actually involve gearing at all. Putting the weight of the motors low in the legs makes the walking motion much easier on the gear train. The combination of a touch sensor and an ultrasonic sensor handles obstacle avoidance in a way that should be easy to program - and since the ultrasonic sensor is mounted loosely, it sways from side to side to allow for more thorough detection of obstacles. This is a masterpiece of showing how to get a variety of features out of very few sensors and motors.
A brief note about this "of the day" blog: It just hasn't been possible to post daily lately. Among other things, last minute plans to be at all four days of BrickFair have eaten up time that would normally be spent posting. We'll get back on schedule after we come back with a full report from the event.

Monday, July 25, 2011

HAK Utrine

Name of Model: HAK Utrine
Created by: gordangrguric
Found at:
Details: We first had a look at this model back at BrickMagic 2011 - where it easily won Best-in-Show. The unusual technique used makes the building mostly hollow. The walls are built with substantial sideways sections, allowing the model to more accurately reflect the look of the original. No detail was spared - door pulls and light fixtures are carefully recreated. Every 1x1 round plate in the roof garden is carefully arranged and attached in just the right place, and the inner atrium appears in perfect detail. Some careful BrickLink purchases got just the right colors and pieces to make every detail exact. Look closely at those doors on the top floor - fairly rare medium stone 6 x 6 tiles were used to ensure a clean, accurate, consistent look, unmarred by the more distinctive textures that 1 x 6 tiles or some combination of tiles would leave. Photos really don't capture all of the details of this model, but it's a masterpiece of architectural reproduction.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life-Size LEGO Technic Control Center Made Out of LEGO

Name of Model: Control Center
Created by: Brixe63
Found at:
Details: Back in 1995, LEGO released the (then-groundbreaking) Control Center II. As a "programmable" (through routines on a specialized console) tool for motorized Technic creations, it was a precursor to the more recent Mindstorms kits. One of the models you could build with the kit (the dinosaur) has been used as a flagship for the LEGO company long past when you could actually buy the Control Center II - giant sculptures of it can be found at LEGOLAND attractions. Here, we have life-size reproductions of some elements from the kit - the Control Center itself, and the European version of the power cable - alongside a 9V motor (a newer version than the one that came with the Control Center kits) and the end of a European extension cord.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Luxo Jr

Name of Model: Going to the movies?
Created by: The Slushey One (kyle slushey)
Found at:
Details: This version of Luxo Jr (we swear, this is really a much-beloved Pixar character) may be one of the most complex "simple" objects we've ever seen. The high amount of detail shown here was made possible by using various parts with clips the size of minifig hands and bars that fit inside of those clips. They're not as well-known as the standard LEGO bricks, but they've been becoming increasingly common over the past several decades. By the 80's, we were seeing those sorts of parts used not just for minifig accessories, but in Space robots and in various lamp models. LEGO didn't really make this into much of a standard "system" until the past 10 years or so - the unexpected popularity of the lightsaber element made it practical to think of these as elements you can build with and not just decorative accessories. Suddenly, what started as a coincidence of common measurements has become a real system you can build realistic models out of.

Angry Bird

Name of Model: Angry Bird
Created by: Sam Knavel
Found at:
Details: The birds are angry. The pigs don't stand a chance. Particularly if the other birds are also built out with studs facing every direction. The eyebrows are actually adjustable (the joys of mounting a 1x2 tile on top of small plate), but the really angry look captured here seems to capture the feel of the popular game surprisingly well.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A "War Machine"

Name of Model: War machine
Created by: Pjurkovi
Found at:
Details: This "war machine" is something of a giant crossbow on wheels. Somehow, though, it feels almost too realistic. Even though it comes in near miniland scale and features immediately recognizable LEGO elements, it feels more like a die-cast replica used in tabletop gaming. Maybe that was the point. In a way, I actually don't want to know how this was constructed - tying the difficult to work with LEGO string around the very sloped dinosaur tails could not have been easy. Getting either side's string-tied-to-a-tail to stay put instead of sliding off must have been a difficult feat, and getting the string to appear taut as well is enough to make this seemingly simple model suddenly become an impossibly difficult "don't try this at home" model.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A "Starfighter" in Atlantis colors

Name of Model: Eridan starfighter
Created by: thire5
Found at:
Details: This beautiful spaceship accomplishes something many people think is impossible: it uses a bunch of very specialized elements to create a seamless and original look. Many of the pieces - not to mention the red and trans-bright-green color scheme - come from the 2010 Atlantis kits (speaking of which, the 8075 Neptune Carrier, which is where that cockpit piece comes from, is currently 30% off at Amazon). The way the slopes for the nose are combined is already surprisingly sleek, but then you notice that Technic/Bioncle element hiding under the tip. There are quite a few great details and uses of parts here, but don't miss the landing gear and greebled underside - which makes great use of a Bionicle Krana Holder, chairs, and a cargo train windscreen.

Monday, July 4, 2011

NXT-Based Pancake CNC

Name of Model: Pancake Bot
Created by: Miguel Valenzuela
Found at:
Details: This 3-axis (well, two axes plus a batter squirter) CNC prints pancake batter. The batter lands directly onto a griddle. Full details are on the website linked to above. I'll let you watch instead of spoiling the video for you.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Part and Set Patents

Name of Model: various
Created by: Erling T. Dideriksen
Found at:
Details: Here's an interesting inside-look at the design process for new LEGO sets and pieces. Over the years, Erling T. Dideriksen designed many classic elements for the LEGO company. There are many parts, kits, and portions of kits that have been patented over the years for LEGO, but not all of them came to fruition, and of those not all have lasted for years. The patent for the 2x2 turntable was filed in 1977 (the same year that two-part element was released) and remains with us to this day (although LEGO started packaging it as two separate elements instead of one pre-assembled part years ago), but the motorcycle (filed for in 1982, released in a different form in 1983) hasn't been seen in a kit since the early 1990's.