Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Anthropomorphic Ping Pong Playing Robot

Robot are good for doing the "Three 'D's; Dull, Dirty and Dangerous."  I am not sure which this fits into, but it's pretty cool anyway.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unimog-Based Swiffer Vehicle

John Brost, a fellow MCP built this awesome "Swiffer" sweeper to clean off the gigantic Monster Chess and Super Robo Rally board.  I knew that the Unimog would come in handy for something.

Awesome MOC

Some Great GBC Modules by akiyuky

I am a big fan of GBC modules, just because so many of them require some creative thinking, but a couple of these by YouTube member akiyuky have some cool mechanical features...

This one is particularly impressive because it has several well choreographed movements using only a single air source.

This guy does a nice job illustrating how water was pumped by the ancients.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Little About My WRO Experiences...

I have to confess why I was absent for a few months earlier this year.  I was one of the extremely fortunate people who got to go to the World Robot Olympiad in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  It was truly one of the best times of my life, but it wasn’t without lots and lots of work and planning.  It’s that work and planning which kept me away.

It was an incredible display of cooperation between people of many, many countries and cultures.  I have never been part of something so diverse, so wide spread, so incredible.  Every moment was an experience that I will forever treasure.  Literally, one moment I would be speaking to someone from China, then Oman, then Egypt, then Brazil, then the Phillipines, then Syria, and on and on.  We all had one big thing in common, which I share with you; the love of LEGO robotics, the thirst for learning and the excitement of being a part of something so big.  Everyone was happy.

I got to take my big Four Lego Delta Robots setup, which was itself a feat.  I had to break it down into about one hundred small parts and pack it into eight boxes.  Then the shipping company, DHL broke it down into about 500 more pieces during shipping so I had to spend almost a full day fixing it.  I got it to work and it actually worked the whole show without many problems.  And a note to you about shipping robots, don’t expect that it won’t arrive in the same number of pieces that you packed it.  It will be broken.  ;)

I was diligently working on a robot to take, but due to some technical difficulties I wasn’t able to take it.  I am still working on it so I don’t have any videos, but I think you will like it.  It’s similar in style in that it has tons of movements which require lots and lots of mathematical calculations.  It’s those calculations which I wasn’t able to solve (and still to this day haven’t been able to completely debug.)  But I am absolutely driven at this point to get them solved….I am soooooo close.

Michael Brandl, one of the other MCPs who attended the WRO has put together an outstanding web page showing all the information about the WRO, what we did, where we went, what we ate, when we went to bed and woke up…Ok, maybe a little bit of exaggeration.   But it’s a great scrapbook that I will be showing off for years to come.

If you ever get the opportunity to attend something like this, do whatever you can do to get there.  You will be blessed.

Lego Loom

MAKE pointed out that sren2000 also has a really cool RCX controlled Loom.  I am so impressed by this thing.  It's got some awesome mechanical movements and robotic controls. It's just plain fun to watch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Polar Graphing by sren2000

There's not much information about this plotter, like how it's controlled and what it looks like in real time, but it's VERY impressive how the lines are so smooth.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Festo Automation

Here's a Festo station that has lots of really cool movements.  I have absolutely no idea what it does except sort some little round pieces,  but I know it will inspire a few of you out there.  I love all the little movements.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LEGO Injection Molding.

Here's a short video of just one of many injection molding machines in the LEGO Billund factory.  Not very glorious at this point, but the final product is simply awesome!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

NAO Next Gen : the new robot of Aldebaran Robotics

Try and tell me this isn't cool!  I dare you.

Monday, December 5, 2011

CISR Haptically-Enabled Universal Motion Simulator (UMS)

Would you ride this robot?  Dumb question, I guess.

Quadrotor Assembling a 6 Meter Tower

Is there anything that Quadrotors can't do??

Friday, July 22, 2011


If this isn't one of the finest GBC you have ever seen...Made by akiyuky

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bubble Bot

Not LEGO, but certainly could be made from LEGO.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tummy Patter

I am posting this video just because of the look on the dogs face.

Super Wall-E

I got to spend a few days with Marc-AndrĂ© Bazergui a few weeks ago along with his Wall-E robot.  The man is just as impressive as his robot.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Delta Robot Greatness

The University of Jordan Robotics Club is working on their own Delta Robt system like mine.  They even mention that my robot is part of their inspiration.  Inspiring people to try harder projects is one of my goals and I am truly honored by their mention in the description.  Great work!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pancake Robot

If you have kids like I do, this one may touch you in a special way.  Something about the joy on the little girls' face when she pushing the button. And then PANCAKES!!!


Yet another Theo Jansen imitator, but this one can be ridden.

Pneumatic Vehicle

Here's a neat little pneumatic vehicle made by Nico71.

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-AndrĂ© 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.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gettin' Ready

The robot is all packed up, batteries charged and programs are downloaded on the laptop.  I think I am ready to go.

And if you are going to be in the same place as me, please, please don't hesitate to come and say hi and chat a bit.  My goal is to meet every single Mindstorms and Technic minded person in the building, get to know you and possibly enjoy a drink with you too.  In fact, if you catch me early enough, I may just ask you for some help!  The robot took three hours to disassemble and I figure it might take six to reassemble.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bionic NXTPod 3.0

Over at World of MindStorms dimastero has recreated a creation of one of my favorite companies, Festo.  He has named it a Bionic NXTPod 3.0.  I like it.

You can read all about it at hist blog, World of MindStorms

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Short Pause...

Sorry for not posting, we have been really busy 'round here.  Gettin' ready for you know what!!

While you wait, check these out.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Making LEGO

A nice clip about how LEGO parts are made.

Monday, May 23, 2011

MisterFitzGibbon's Work

Whilst perusing MisterFitzGibbon's YouTube Channel, I found a really nice compilation of some of his work.  It's pretty impressive.

Brick Sorting Bird

Here's a great little project.  But this is different because this sorter doesn't have any brains, it simply uses an ingenious mechanism to to "measure" the length of the brick and then pick up and move the brick to the appropriate location.  According to MisterFitzGibbon..
"How does it work? When the beak can close no further, power is transferred to turning the bird. If the beak closes on a larger brick, it will begin turning earlier, and thus further, before dropping the brick."

Dice Throwing Robot

Ever get to lazy that you can't roll the dice while you are playing your favorite board game.  LotteGore has you covered....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Kiva Robot

I really wish that I could explain this video, but I can't.  All I can say is that this Kiva robotic system is a really cool and complicated way to help pickers pack boxes for shipment.

I guess that wasn't so bad.


A couple of people over at the Chinese University of Hong Kong are developing a tree climbing robot.  It surely has a novel way of climbing, that's for sure.

More information at IEEE Spectrum

Basketball Practice..On a Robot?

The French basketball team "Poitiers Basket 86" sometimes practices their "spatial orientation" skills while riding on an over-sized robotic arm.  Personally, I think they are only honing their ability to not vomit while handling the basketball.

Found on Engadget

Beautiful Periodic Motion

Pendulums are boring, right?  Nothing cool to see.  I submit to you an argument to your case.

Found on Make:

If you want to know more about why this happens this way, check out the Wikipedia page for pendulums

Monday, May 16, 2011

JPL Curiosity Mobility Platform

Robotic rock negotiator at the JPL Open House.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Short bit on the Moonbots Competition.

Super-8 Movie Projector

I think this is a great thing.  A LEGO Technic Super-8 Movie Projector.  Only a few of the obvious parts are not LEGO.  I found this on Make:

Lego Technic Super-8 Movie Projector from Friedemann Wachsmuth on Vimeo.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cornell Ranger Walks Non-Stop 40.5 Mile Ultra-Marathon

The impressive part of this video is not the mechanism so much, but that the folks at Cornell designed a mechanism that uses so little energy that the machine could walk 40.5 miles in just under 31 hours...without stopping to charge up.

I would love to see this built with Mindstorms.

Robotic Light Saber Duel

Can't they just sit down and talk about their differences?  Why do they have to fight???

Found on Technabob

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What's Going On?

Over at Boing Boing I found a great piece of kinetic art by Brett Dickins (MechanicalSculptor).  It gets better at about 1:10.

And by the way, I am that one guy who actually likes that song.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Again, Quadrotors, Is There Anything They Can't Do?

Prank Bot.

Here's a twist on this fun prank.  But you have to watch the video all the way to the end.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Quadrotors, Is There Anything They Can't Do?

Theft FAIL

We all wish we had more, but most of us do it the correct way.  I said MOST of us.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


From my interest in parallel and delta robots, I ran into an interesting site called  They have all kinds a cool stuff.  Here's one of the images I found.  

I think that this device is used to wind watches.  It doesn't look too hard to build.

Corkscrew Drive

Here's an innovative way to achieve locomotion.  Not sure it's very useful, but it sure is thinking outside the box.  Found on New Scientist.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Amazing Toothpick Kinetic Sculpture.

Ya, ya, I know.  It's not LEGO, it's not robotic, but I think you can appreciate this.  Lots of sites are putting this incredible feat up as a static display, but I just learned that it actually is a kinetic display.  This is the result of 35 years of labor. Here you go.

Rollin’ Justin

Robots are now playing ball for you.  Watch this robot named Rollin’ Justin catch multiple balls as well as make coffee.  I found this everywhere.

I am tellin' you, we will soon look like this unless we make some changes...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dale Dougherty: We are makers

Why do you build?  Dale Dougherty did a TED Talk and it explains perfectly why I build.  It's because I like to "play technology."  A very inspiring eleven minute video.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How Robots Solve Mazes

I have never built a robot that can drive through a maze and solve it, but I know that there are some algorithms to do so.  Over at the blog PATRICK MCCABE MAKES, Patrick shows a great, relatively simple algorithm to solve the maze using a technique he calls "left hand on the wall."

The robot travels through the maze once and maps a fairly good portion of it until it gets to the finish.  And then using a system to process the map, he is able to have his robot find a shorter way through the maze.  Then using that information, the robot easily navigates the maze in quick fashion.  It's an easy to read tutorial.  I like it a lot.  I don't think it is the most efficient way to solve a maze, and I think that using this method might not always take the very best route, but it will certainly get to the finish.

Click here to zoom over to his site.

Vintage LEGO Packaging

I ran into a great site that shows all kinds of vintage LEGO packaging.  I love this stuff and I wish I had more.

How Do They Do It? Lego Style

I found a great little video all about LEGO.  Enjoy!

 I know, the picture stinks, but we can look beyond that, can't we?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How Stuff Works LEGO Quiz

Here's an interesting quiz on our favorite toy, although several questions I pretty much guarantee you won't get.  I thought that I knew a lot and I only got 13 out of 20.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Four Lego Delta Robots

Years of development, months of building and programming.  Here it is.

About the Lego Quad Delta Robot System.
This system uses four Lego parallel robots which are fed by two conveyor belts.  As items flow down the conveyor belt toward the robots, each item passes by a light/color sensor mounted on each conveyor.  When the item is detected, a signal is sent to the robots telling them information such as the color of the object, which belt the object is on and the position of the object on the belt.  The robot reaches out and grabs the item from the moving conveyor belt when each item gets close enough and moves it to a location based on the color of the item.

The cell is capable of picking and placing objects at a rate of 48 items per minute.  Each robot can move 12 items per minute, or it can move an item in 5 seconds!

Delta Robots, also known as Parallel robots are commercially available from several manufacturers.  They go by names such as ABB Flexpicker, Bosch Paloma D2, Fanuc M-1iA, Kawasaki YF03N, and Adept Quattro s650H.  They are known for moving small objects very quickly, usually at two hundred or more moves per minute.  Parallel robots are often used in many industries such as the food industry where the payload is small and light and the production rates are very high.  Many times a series of parallel robots are used to do things like assemble cookies, package small items, stack pancakes and much, much more.

Each robot operates independently.  The robots receive a signal from the master, which in this case is the NXT that controls the light sensors.  The signal contains information about the color, lane, and position of each object.  When the signal is received, the data is stored in a chronological array.  When the object gets close enough, the robot goes through a preprogrammed series of movements based on the information in the array. 

At the beginning of each run, all three arms move slowly upward until they each hit a touch sensor.  After all three arms have reached the top they all move down together to a predetermined zero position and the encoders are reset.  At that point all the robots wait for the first signal which will be the master sending the belt speed signal.  The robots can automatically adjust movements such as where they pick up the objects based on the belt speed.

Immediately after the belt speed information has been received, each NXT brick will sound off in a timed sequence with their respective brick number.  This is an error checking technique.  If the operator doesn’t hear the full “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX” there is a problem and the run should be terminated and restarted.

The signal is an eight bit binary light signal that takes about 170 milliseconds to transmit.  The master NXT blinks the LEDs that are attached to each robot on and off at an interval about 20 milliseconds each flash.  Each robot is equipped with a Lego light sensor that easily sees the short flashes.  The same signal is sent to all the NXT bricks, but data encoded in the signal determines which robot will move the item.  The robot’s NXT brick decode the message and sends that information to a procedure that does the appropriate movements.

The binary signal is converted to a three digit number such as 132 or 243.  The first digit is the lane.  Possible values are 1 and 2 corresponding to conveyor 1 and conveyor 2 respectively.  The second digit is the robot number and the possible values are 1 through 4 corresponding to each of the four robots.  The third digit is the color of the object.  The possible values are 1 through 6, i.e.  BLACK=1, BLUE=2, GREEN=3. YELLOW=4. RED=5, WHITE=6.  The position of the brick is noted by the time that the light signal is received.  The robots calculate the position of each object by using the time when the signal was received relative to the current, dynamic time.  The belt moves precisely at 100 inches per minute so based on this, the position of the item on the belt can be precisely calculated.

A few signals other than brick information and belt speed are programmed to be sent.  The master can send an emergency shut down message in which all robots immediately stop what they are doing, drop their bricks and go to their home position as well as stop the conveyors.  Signals can also be sent to make the robots dance, play sound files and music files concurrently.

The precise kinematics for the movements of the robots are dynamically calculated using detailed formulas that convert the Cartesian coordinates (x,y,z) of the location of the brick into the angles of the servo motors (theta1, theta2 and theta3) and vice versa.   This is the heart and soul of the robot.  Without precise calculations, this project would be nearly impossible.

As the gripper or “end effector” is moved around, it becomes necessary to calculate the best route for it to move.  The best route is usually a straight line.  This is done by locating the start point (x1, y1, z1) and the end point (x2, y2, z2) and then calculating a discrete number of points that lie on the line between the two points.  For each and every movement, the robot first creates an array for all the points in between and then moves nonstop from point to point to point through the array until it reaches the end point.

As the robot moves around, each motor speed is adjusted relative to the other motors speed in a manner that all three motors arrive at their target position at the same time.  This makes all the movements very smooth and the robot doesn’t shake too much.  The motor speeds are adjusted so that the robot moves as fast as possible.

Since the objects on the conveyors are moving at all times, the robot actually moves to a position where the object will be rather than where the object is actually at.  Also, when the robot grasps an object, it doesn’t lift it straight up, but up and forward slightly so that any objects behind the object on the conveyor belt won’t hit the object that is being moved.

It is possible for the robot to be overwhelmed by having too many objects to pick up.  Once an object goes past a limit point where it is too far to reach, it is removed from the queue and will not be picked up by any robot.

As the robots place items in the bins, the release point is shifted slightly so that the items won’t pile up.

The grippers are each driven using a single pneumatic cylinder.  The cylinder is cycled by a valve equipped with a medium PF motor connected to an IR receiver.  Each NXT is equipped with a HiTechnic IRLink sensor.  The NXT controls the gripper by sending a signal to the motor through the IRLink sensor.  The motor then rotates clockwise or counterclockwise for one quarter of a second to switch the pneumatic valve.  This is a very effective way of controlling Lego pneumatics with a NXT.

The air system must be robust because the pneumatic cylinders on the grippers move about 96 times a minute.  This requires a great deal of air.  The air compressor consists of six pumps (with the springs removed) turned by three XL PF motors.  The pressure is measured using a MindSensors Pressure sensor.  The pressure is kept between 10 and 13 psi to maintain good operational speed and gripping capacity.  The whole system will not start until air pressure is up to a minimum of 8 psi, and an audible alarm sounds if the pressure drops below 8 psi.  At this point, the operator can help the compressor by manually pumping up the system to the required pressure.

The three XL-PF motors are powered using a 9v train controller.  This is done so that consistent power is transmitted to the motors.  Air compressors tend to use batteries very quickly and using a train controller avoids that cost.

There are also six air tanks for storage, a manual pump, a pressure gage, and a pressure release valve to purge the system of pressure.  The manual pump is primarily used to assist the compressor if it can’t keep up.

The compressor motors are turned on and off using a Lego servo motor and a PF switch.  As the pressure sensor senses the pressure going above or below the thresholds, the motor moves the switch back and forth to add air or turn off the compressor.

The conveyors are controlled by a dedicated NXT brick.  The timing and speed of the conveyors is critical so that the items will be positioned accurately.  The speed of the conveyors is governed by a proportional controller.  They were originally controlled using a PID controller, but it turns out that a proportional control was adequate.   The speed of the conveyor can be vary from zero inches per minute up to two hundred inches per minute, but one hundred inches per minutes is the best for all the robots.

The NXT brick that controls the conveyors reads the same light signal information as all of the robots, but ignores most of the signals.

Each conveyor is ten feet long.

The light/color sensors mounted on the conveyor do double duty.  Their default mode is as an ambient light sensor but they are frequently changed to color sensor.  A PF LED light is mounted opposite to the light sensor to give a high value of light detected.  When an item passes between the LED and the light sensor, a low light condition is detected and the sensor immediately switches mode to a color sensor.  This can be seen when the sensor briefly emits an RGB light as a brick passes in front of the sensor.  As soon as the color is correctly read, it immediately switches mode back to an ambient light sensor and waits for the next item.  When the color is determined, the brick then sends a signal to all of the slave bricks and an audible color sound is played.

There is a condition when two bricks pass by both light sensors at the same time.  It is impossible to send two signals at the same time, so the first item to be detected takes priority and the second brick signal is sent 400 milliseconds later.  A special signal is sent to tell the robot to adjust the position timing to account for the 400 ms delay when the brick comes to be picked up.

The frame structure holding the robots is highly engineered.  The combination of the weight of all the robots as well as the constant movement is a considerable problem.  The main horizontal member is achieved by layering Technic bricks with plates.  This configuration is very strong and has very little sag.  Movement is also minimized, but not completely eliminated.

The two main posts in the middle carry most of the weight and do a great deal to stop the structure from moving while the robots are operating.  The four outside posts help, but are mostly for support.  The diagonal braces are quite small relative to the size of the other members, but actually do a great deal to stop movement.

All of the posts are made from standard Lego bricks with Technic beams attached around to lock them together.  The structure is completely tied together as one piece, but can be broken down into eight parts for transport.

I have a personal fascination with this type of robot.  I find the movements mesmerizing and extremely interesting. The movements of the actual robots are extremely fast and accurate and defy belief.  I especially like the fact that the location of the end effector can be precisely calculated from the angular location of the three servo motors positioned at one hundred and twenty degrees from each other. 

This is not the first parallel robot that I have built.  My first delta robot was built in 2004 using the Mindstorms RCX and was very crude and not very useful.  After several more attempts, I finally found a design using the Mindstorms NXT system that worked well.  At that time I still hadn’t worked out the kinematics but I found a way to fake the movements by positioning the end effector by hand and reading the encoder values.  Then I used those values to create a series of movements that closely resembled an actual robot.

I have researched for about six years and built this project many times.  This project took about five months to build and program.  It was purely a labor of love for this robot.

I don’t know how to improve on the current design.  As you can tell if you have read this description of the robot, I have exhaustively researched and built to every goal I have.  Sadly, I believe that I have reached the limit of what can be built using only Lego building elements.

Friday, April 15, 2011


I was doing my daily internet browsing this morning and I found a video on Singularity Hub that shows some of the work of John Nolan, who specializes in Hollywood animatronics. But I warn you, some of the shots might take you back for a moment.

If you like that, there are a few more videos on this Singularity Hub post.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quad Flexpicker Nearing Completion

I thought I would give you an update on my personal project, the Quad Flexpicker, so here goes…

I started on this thing back in December 2010, so I have a few months into it now and I am actually getting close to finishing it up.  I pretty much have everything tuned in to where I want it.  The robots are much faster and smoother than my original Flexpicker.  In fact, it’s tuned so well it wears me out running it. 

Here’s why.  The conveyor belts run at one hundred inches per minute.  That’s not really all that fast, but it is plenty fast enough to keep the robots busy and the person loading the conveyors too.  You see, each robot is capable of picking and placing twelve blocks per minute, or a block every five seconds.  Multiply that by four robots and you will find that this robotic cell is capable of picking and placing forty eight blocks per minute, or just over a second each block.  The conveyors aren’t long enough (they’re ten feet long!) to be able to stage all the blocks before turning on the robots, so someone has to constantly load the conveyors at a rate of forty eight blocks a minute.  I am here to tell you that is moving fast!

I hope to have some video up pretty soon, but I have a few more things to do.  Here are some pics.

Here's a shot of the whole thing.  As you can see, it takes up two 6 foot long tables.

Here's a shot of the infeed side of the cell.  I threw on some bricks just to give you some scale. The two conveyor belts would carry the blocks away from you in this photo.  The two sensors mounted on the side of the conveyors are Lego color sensors that act as a light curtain and also retrieve the color of the block.

The air compressor has to be pretty stout.  The cell moves 48 bricks a minute, which means that I have to cycle the pneumatic cylinders about 96 times per minute (once open and once close for each pick.)

As the blocks move down the conveyor they pass by a couple of Lego color sensors.  Here's a shot of how I arranged them.  I put a LED on the opposite side so that the ambient light reading would be high when there is  no brick and low when a brick is passing.  When the brick passes, the sensor reads the color of the block.

And I love this picture.  It's a shot from the top showing all the wiring.  Or should I say "spaghetti."  I have to mark all the wires so I don't get them crossed.

Here's a list of all the electronic elements used in this build...

Lego NXT bricks
Lego Servomotors
Lego NXT Touch Sensors
Lego Legacy Touch Sensors
HiTechnic Touch Multiplexers
HiTechnic Sensor Multiplexers
HiTechnic IRLinks
Lego Light Sensors
Lego Color Sensors
MindSensors Pressure Sensors
Lego M-PF Motors
Lego XL-PF Motors
Lego PF Receivers
Lego PF Switches
Lego Train Controller

And for those who are interested in the real dirty, nitty gritty details, I have put a lot of details after the break. It's a rough draft, so there are some spelling and grammar errors, so please forgive me.  Click "read more"

LEGO Club Show's Take On Monster Chess.

If you don't know, Lego has a YouTube channel called LegoClubTV. There are lots of cool stop motion videos and such. It's really not geared so much for "our" type, but on this episode they do a little thing on the Monster Chess build done not too long ago.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

5 Axis CNC

I am not sure if I put this video up once before, but if I did, it certainly is worth another look.  It's an incredible 5 axis CNC machining center doing it's thing.

Happy National Robotics Week! April 9-17, 2011

Click here to find out how you can celebrate!

Stair Climbing Robot

Here's a robot that at first I said "that thing is ugly" but after I saw it do what it is designed to do, I changed my mind.  It is in fact one of the more beautiful designs I have ever seen.  This robot uses several linkages to climb over some rather large obstacles very gracefully.  It's from a demonstration in Japan. It's built by Taylor Veltrop, more well known for his work with humanoid robotics, but he also dabbles in Lego.

Robotics Merit Badge for the BSA

This is pretty exciting to me.  The Boy Scouts of America now officially has a "robotics" merit badge.  It's a shame that the "video game" merit badge beat it to the punch, but I'll take it.  I bet there are tons of kids out there who are pretty happy that they can get credit for this great hobby.

Found on Engadget

JPLs "Curiosity" Rover Animation

JPL has released a new animation showing the way their new rover "Curiosity" is going land on the planet Mars. This video is a bit longer and shows a few more details from previous versions.

Found on ieee spectrum

Thursday, April 7, 2011

ABB's Concept FRIDA

For those who are fearful that robots will be taking away human jobs, here's more ammunition for you.  This is ABB's concept robot called FRIDA.  Watching the video, you will get an idea of just the types of jobs it might take.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Festo SmartBird - Bird Flight Deciphered

A few days ago I posted a video showing Festo's Smartbird, which is a robotic remotely controlled mechanical bird that flies.  Festo has put out a video showing how they built it plus lots of details about how it works.  It's a great, very professionally made video that's about eighteen minutes long, but it's well worth the time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fergie + Lego = Say whaaa?

The other night I watched the Nickelodeon 24th Annual Kids' Choice Awards, but I must not have been playing close attention.  Seems that Fergie, from the band Black Eyed Peas was wearing a dress made from our favorite building material.  I am not exactly sure what I think about it, and I certainly could make lots of adult based comments, but I won't do that, I know I have lots of young readers.  Here's the photo..

I picked this nugget up at Yahoo! News.  That same article mentioned that the singer from the same group, Will.I.Am donned a Lego hat for the American Music Awards in 2010.  I went out and found this photo for you. 

So, do you think Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber will follow suit?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Android Megaminxer

I have never even seen this Rubik's Cube-like puzzle, and yet here's another Android powered Lego puzzle solver.  Incredible.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Monstrous Lego Sorting Machine

I could use a machine like this.  Just dump in a bucket of unsorted Lego parts and turn on the machine and the parts get sorted by shape.  It breaks them down into cups by categories like gears, beams plates, bricks, etc.  Akiyuky uses a digital camera with some pretty sophisticated software to identify the parts.  Then a big lazy susan type device rotates the cups and the robot puts the parts into the cup.  Pretty nice and effective, but painfully slow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Festo - SmartBird

Festo is just amazing.  My goal in life if to half as inspired as these folks.  They have created an actual robotic seagull that actually flies.

Found on IEEE Spectrum

Walking Table

This one will make you scratch your head.  But if you like linkages, you're gonna love it.

Orbiting Kinetic Art

Simple, short, fun to watch for a few seconds...

Festo - Robotino® XT

I'm showing you this video just because it's Festo, and I love the stuff that Festo is doing.  They are putting their "Trunk Technology" on a mobile robot platform (that you may recognize!)  It's controlled using an XBox controller, but from the demo it looks like it would be a real pain to learn to control.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World's Largest LEGO Great Ball Contraption at LW 2011

Sit back, put the video on full screen, and enjoy thirteen minutes of a Lego Masterpiece.

For more details, go right to the YouTube video.
(I can't believe I missed this!!  It's been out for a few days!!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Car Wheel Assembly

General Motors has a robotic competition and this robot came in first place this year.  It's an industrial type robot that assembles wheels onto a chassis.  I give this bot lots of credit because they were able to do something that's pretty tough and that is lining up Lego parts to snap them together.  This MOC does is right.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lego NXT-Servo Controlled Pnuematic Switch

Sparramc has a video of how he is using an RC servo motor to operate a pneumatic switch. 

I think we are all craving a really good way to control pneumatics with a NXT.  It would really add a whole new dimension to our robots.  The way that I do it is rather than using a servo as seen in the video, I use a medium PF motor.  Then I control it using the HiTechnic IRLink.  I have tons of luck with it, but one drawback is that I cannot stop the motor in the center position as sparramc has done. Then again, I haven't found the need to do so.  Check out an older video of mine.  You can see how I did it at about 0:38 into the video.

I am currently using four of these switches to operate the grippers on my Flexpickers.  The bad thing in my case is that each robot is run by its own NXT and I had lots of problems because I only had two IRLinks sensors to operate four grippers.  But after I ordered two more, things went very smoothly. Just turn the motor on for about one quarter of a second, and it works great.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thanks For Being Patient!

I know, I know, you haven't seen anything for a week.  I am sorry, but it will get better.  Lots of reasons for me being absent.  The flood, the family, my robotic project...etc.

The insurance adjuster was here today to check out the flood damage, so that is do done so it's just putting things back together now.  Things are definitely looking good in that respect.

I have put several hours of work on the Quad Flexpicker.  I have been having tons of success and I am quite pleased.  One of the nice things about working on a grand project like this is that I usually have months to think of new things and add them in.  The time away from the robot gave me time to just sit and think, which is very valuable.  I thought about listing them but I don't want to bore you to tears.  To share them with you when the robot is complete, I started writing a report to describe all the features which I will share.  That way you can easily go to sleep after reading all the boring details in one sitting.

So anyway, you should see more activity here soon.  And thanks again for being patient!

IEEE Spectrum

The blog at IEEE Spectrum which recently joined up with has tons of really cool robotic videos right now, far too many for me to list.  They have videos of the top 10 videos of the month and they are all awesome.  Check it out here


Wanna see something that really offers no mechanical or power advantage, but just makes the user look really silly?  Check this out.  If you can't read the text, skip to about 4:00 into it to see the good stuff.

You can read more at Popsci.

Parallel Robot Creaming Humans At Their Own Game

Here's a short video of an Adept Quattro parallel robot playing a game called 1to50 on an iPhone.  I have never seen this game before, but apparently you have to hit the buttons in order up to 50.  This robot is smokin' fast.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


If you are not afraid of robots, watch this video.  It might change your mind.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Kinect & Arduino-Controlled Delta Robot

Some people have developed a Delta robot that can be positioned using a Kinect sensor and an Arduino controller. Still pretty crude, but it is certainly pretty cool.  But from all my work with delta robots I can tell you that a good robot can move much, much faster than a human.  It's sorta like teaching a cheetah how to run like a human.

Kinect Controlled Delta-Robot from Enrique Ramos on Vimeo.

Found on Make:

Friday, March 4, 2011

C5 - The Flying NXT Blimp Project

This video came out on Monday, but I was busy that day...  You may have already seen it.  This has to be one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  This project has been a dream of mine for quite some time, but I don't think I could even come close to doing it justice like these guys have done.  Bazmarc has done it again with another great video.

Robotic Farmer: Prospero

This will be the third year that we have grown a garden.  It's lots of work, so a robot like this should help out a lot.  I think I would design it to pull weeds and water too!

Found on Engadget

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Flood of 2011

Our household had a minor catastrophe earlier this week.  First we had a bunch of snow over the weekend, and then some warm weather to melt the snow, and on top of that buckets and buckets of rain.  The result was about 3-5 inches of water in my basement.  It doesn’t sound like much, but our basement is a completely finished basement that could be easily converted into a full apartment.  We have a kitchen, bathroom, two living areas, a bedroom and of course, my Lego room (gasp).  The entire basement is (was) carpeted and fully furnished.  Four people spent about 12 hours ripping out carpet, moving stuff upstairs and out into the garage and into our storage shed.  Bad day, really bad day.  But the good news is that we called our insurance company and we are covered for all expenses, but we still have months to spend recovering. 
I sit right now in our basement with several heaters and fans running, trying to dry out everything so we can get started with the work.  

One third of my Lego is in the garage, one third is still in the Lego room, and one third is in various places around the house.  I won’t be working on my robot for a while (sadness).

Here’s a photo of the moment we started working on the Lego room.  A friend is cutting out the carpet.

And here are photos of the Lego room today, as well as the robot, which it seems will definitely have to come apart yet again in order to lay down carpet and complete renovations.

So please bear with me.  You may see limited activity and posts here for a while, but I don't think I can keep away from my passion so I won't be gone for long.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lego Biped Walker

Another great construction from 222Doc.  I love these monstrous creations.  At about 1:20 into the video, the thing starts to walk and it's just about the best walking movement I have seen from a Mindstorms robot of this type.

LEGO 4-legged Linear actuator walker (v2)

Yet another reason why I love the PF systems so much.  It's slow, but very effective.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Anybot Explained

This is a cool idea.  Do you think we could make something like this out of Mindstorms?  Of course you would need some non-Lego items, but I think it could be done.

Someone likes flying in airliners so much that they sent their Anybot on a trip for them...

Image from Gizmodo

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mechanical Principles (1930) by Ralph Steiner

Do you like interesting mechanisms?  If you do, then here's ten minutes of bliss.

I only wish that Lego made some of these parts.

LEGOWORLD Copenhagen 2011

bazmarc has uploaded a video from LEGOWORLD Copenhagen 2011.  It makes me pretty envious of him.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Reflection of Mine

When I was a kid, I had gotten a whole bunch of old comic books free from a store that couldn't sell them.  I remember going through the back of the books looking at all the crazy ads that they used to have, you know, the X-Ray glasses, all the spy stuff, the gadgets that every kid wanted.  But I remember really wanting one thing that I kept seeing over and over in the ads, and that was the Lego Car Chassis set number 8860.

At that time I didn't own any Lego and didn't get to play with them very much at all; maybe a couple of time at friends houses.  Little did I know that a good potion of my free time would be devoted to building with Lego and that my Lego collection would grow so huge.  Looking at this set now, it is ridiculously ugly and barely useful, but I would absolutely love to own it just to say that it was the set that got me interested in Lego Technic.

Making the LEGO® MINDSTORM® Rosetta Lander

There's nothing better than watching a bunch of grown, educated men sitting around trying to figure out how to model a spacecraft accurately in Lego.

Making the LEGO® MINDSTORM® Rosetta Lander from Lightcurve Films on Vimeo.