Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whaaaa... OMG!

Well, I did it. With very little warning, I did something that I have said I wouldn’t do. Yes, the unthinkable is..I tore MARVIN apart. All the way. No remains. Kaput. Nada.

Why you may ask? Because I need a break from MARVIN. I started working on him back in January. I worked very hard on him for many, many hours. But then summer came and I started working more outside, played with the kids, all the good stuff. I got distracted. Then last Friday night I sat down with about three good quiet hours and I was completely, utterly uninspired. The great cancer of a Lego builder.

Over the last few months I have been working “on the side” with a few other small projects but I couldn’t actually finish most of them because all my NXTs were tied up in MARVIN. That frustrated me. I thought, and still think that MARVIN is a great project and I fully intend to build him again, but I need to mentally stretch, take a walk and come back to him refreshed.

I also made some crucial mistakes while working on that project. First, I let my imagination get away from me. I literally had pages of notes of things I wanted to make him do. All of that would have taken time and when I looked at the list I was overwhelmed. I had a very hard time getting started on one thing because I had fifty other things on my mind.

The second major mistake was that I initially spent all my time building and very little time programming. I enjoy building much more than programming (but I do like to program) so when it came to make him do his thing, it was pretty much exclusively programming. I didn’t enjoy that. I had a pile of about seven thousand Lego parts, but I felt that I couldn’t mechanically change him because it might mess up my plans. My next project(s) (and when I do get back to work on MARVIN) I am going to build, program, build, program, build, program… rather than build, build, build and then try to program it all. At one point I had twenty five motors and over thirty sensors mounted but not a stitch of code. That was a big mistake.

So what this means is that I hope to do smaller projects for a while, throw some video up on YouTube, and offer more good stuff here on Tinkernology. I have some great ideas that I have started working on and in fact, I have already built one small thing that only took me about two hours. I really miss working on projects like that. I am very excited to be back building again.


  1. There is great wisdom in the old adage, "keep it simple". I have found that as soon as you start changing things as you build then you have gone to far. Start with a clear plan and build to the plan. If you have great ideas save them for the next version.
    All in all its probably for the best! build a few robots that do the individual tasks first then combine into a monster later, when you know it will work and you know how to do it.

  2. I'm a Project Manager thru and thru (by degree as well). I'm also an Electrical Engineer (by degree). And I am working quite a bit with our Systems Engineers at work too. So why am I telling you all of this? These skills are exactly what you need, and I know you already have most, if not all, of them (many of them much better than me too). Bottom line, though, is that you need a plan. Next time you haul off on a large project, write yourself down a mission and vision statement, then dive down to whatever requirements you intend to fulfill, all of which must (or should) fall within the mission and vision statements. And then do your best to stick with them all. It's all about scope. Generate your scope before you begin and stick with it. Difficult? Hell yeah. But then you won't run into the problems you had this last time around.

    Honestly, I envy the hell out of you. You are an incredibly creative guy. I wish I had more of that, and the time and energy to go with it.

  3. We've all been there. I am a little sad to hear that you took it completely apart. You've got to try to build modularly so you can tear off an arm or an NXT if need be to recoup parts but not lose your progress.

  4. Dan, believe it or not, that is how I started. I had built the "Lego Lips" a year or two ago. I almost always have an articulated arm in the works because it is one of my favorite builds. I have built large bases before just for tooling around the house. I have built the radar turret before. But somewhere along the way I lost the "modularity" aspect of the project and it was the great downfall. Lesson learned.

    And I thought I had a plan in place. It just got too big.

    Part of the problem was time too. I had spent a very long time unemployed so I had time. Now that I am back to work plus a few other major distractions (two kids, a huge garden, summer). This is where the modularity would have greatly helped too.

    I alway say to people "Do you know how to eat an elephant?" "One bite at a time." My cheeks were buldging and my belly was distended.