Friday, June 24, 2011

Brickworld Round-up

Sorry friends for not posting for so long.  I have had a whirlwind experience in the last week and a half.  And then to top it off, I came down with strep throat that someone in Chicago so kindly shared with me.  I am back at full strength with all the vim and vigor needed.

Well, I’ll start of by trying to be humble and say that the quad Flexpicker was pretty successful.  In fact, I garnered this little trinket for my display case. 

 Not bad for first time attendee to Brickworld Chicago.

I had some things I wanted to accomplish when I signed up to got to BW.  I wanted to meet some like-minded people because I had never met another Mindstorms fan face to face.  I’ve shared email with many of you, but never face to face. Check.  I wanted to see the Monster Chess board.  Check.  Maybe shake hands with a few LEGO reps. Check.  I wanted to meet Steve Hassenplug.  Check.  See some incredible non-Mindstorms MOCs. Check.  And that was really about all I wanted to accomplish.  But it was so, so much more. 

It was fairly uneventful until about Friday night when I discovered that the robot wasn’t working correctly.  It worked, but it wasn’t picking up the blocks at the right time and it was putting them in the wrong bins.  Suddenly I noticed that I had Hassenplug and about five other MCPs standing around me trying to help me debug it.  Then Marc-André Bazergui (Bazmarc) gets my attention to introduce me to Steven Canvin, the big dude with LEGO Mindstorms.  I walk over to Steven, shake his hand, say “It’s great to meet you, I would love to talk, but I have six of the best Mindstorms brains on the planet trying to help me with my robot and I would like to spend some time with them.”  Naturally, he graciously understood.  I got my chance later to spend some time with him.  We figured out the problem, scavenged some parts from other places on the robot that weren’t necessary and got it running great.

Saturday came and I spent the whole public day looking at a view like this…
Everybody seemed to be impressed. I answered lots of questions, and I imagine that I probably inspired more than a few people to go out and buy their own NXTs.  I have learned what the questions will be, so the next time I set it up for a display, I am going to make little signs that give a brief explanation what is happening.

My favorite comment from a visitor was an unimpressed “It’s just a pick and place robot, it just moves to the X,Y position and grabs the brick.”  I said, “yep, you’re right” and then there was a long pause.  Then I watch a dumbfounded look wash over his face as he said “OOOOooohhh! Nice job!”  I imagine that at that moment, he realized it’s not as simple as he originally thought it was.  That was pretty satisfying for me.

But for some reason, most of the photos seemed to be of a single sign that I placed on the front of the robot to try to keep little hands away from the moving parts.

And then Sunday rolls around.  Saturday was pretty exhausting, so a piece of me dreaded doing it again, but when one of the Brickworld organizers put the little trophy in front of my robot, I somehow mustered the energy to do it all again.

All through the day, lots of LEGO employees came up to me to shake my hand to congratulate me and show appreciation for my construction.  That was just a bonus because I really didn’t go to compete, I just went to be a part.

When I got to talk to Steven Canvin, he sprung the news to me that he would like to invite me to be one of the MCPs.  Two weeks ago, I thought that MCPs were Gods and I would be happy to just meet one or two.  Now I was being invited to join this very exclusive club.  I actually did a little happy dance right there in front of Steven.  It’s such an honor and I can’t wait.  I am going to be that overly excited seven year old kid at a candy store, so I have to figure out how to calm myself down.  I am truly blessed.  Thanks, Baz for making such a fuss.

But one of my favorite things happened right as I was taking the Flexpicker apart.  At the end of the show, as the Master Chief was tearing down the Brickology display…
A little boy stood in front of the Flexpicker and watched me tear the whole thing down for about an hour rather than going to watch what everyone else was watching.  We had quite a little talk.  Forgive me, but I don’t remember his name but I assure you he has quite a future ahead of him.

I can't wait, but I have NO IDEA what I can do to do better next year.  sigh.


  1. A hexapod like the one I put on your facebook page. Only it will assemble something out of lego.

  2. How about finishing that car factory that you started last year? I'm pretty sure if you asked people to e-mail you virtual files for some simple, economicle cars, than you would get something good.

  3. That Danger sign is outstanding. I can think of places I've worked where we really needed something that hits home like that.

    Congratulations on the award--and on helping people "get it" with your robotics.

  4. Congratulations on your ascendance into the Pantheon!! Your robot was one of the major highlights of my time at Bw2011!