It’s time to say goodbye to what has been my LEGO room/office for the last 17 years.
Kristal and I just moved into a new house, and we’re really excited about it for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is that there is a lot more space. Our old place had one room (13 feet by 14 feet) which served as both the LEGO room and office. The new place will have a dedicated room for the office and an absolutely enormous room for the LEGO (14 feet by 20 feet)! More info on the new room will be forthcoming, but I thought I would take the opportunity of my last night in our old house to do a room tour.
Not all of our LEGO is actually in the room in the video. We had already taken some boxed up models, overflow bins and unopened sets out to prepare for the move. It was actually a lot more crowded in there than what you see, which is why I won’t really be missing it.
I’m really looking forward to setting up the new room. Stay tuned!
This is Kristal’s latest model, a kinetic sculpture of a human head that opens up to reveal the inner workings of the mind. This is the second model in a series that she started a year an a half ago with ‘The Artist‘. Each head in the series opens up in a different way to depict a different aspect of the human mind.
All of the complex mechanics, as well as the light, are powered through the single crank on the side of the model. The electricity for the light is generated by using a LEGO motor as a generator connected to the crank. There is quite a bit going on in this model, through a series of 29 gears and 4 gear racks, to achieve all of the behavior. I try my best to explain how it all works in the video.
It’s been two weeks since the Maze set was released, and some amazing custom mazes have been popping up in various places. I thought I’d highlight just a few that I really liked. I’m really excited to see people embracing the customization aspect of the set, as this was one of the core components of my original idea, and I can’t wait to see what else people come up with!
Benny’s Maze Maze MAZE!
Just today, /u/Marcus_Aurelius2 posted this awesome Benny/Classic Space themed maze over on reddit. I love the use of flexible hoses for part of the track, the elevation changes and the extension of the theme to the frame itself.
John Stephens create this wonderful factory themed maze. The factory/industrial aesthetic is bang on, with some great usage of stickers and printed pieces. Some great elevation changes on this one too, and I especially love the micro scaled equipment. He even posted a YouTube video of it in action.
Star Wars Maze
I’ve seen a couple of Star Wars themed mazes, but this one by Flickr user chun-wei Cheng is particularly nice. It features a tonne of great decorative elements, including a micro scaled AT-AT, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Death Star, Sail Barge and Sarlac Pit. There are just so many great details to look at!
Instagram user brick_rhodes created this nicely detailed golf themed maze. It features a pretty interesting game mechanic. The ball starts in a shallow depression, and you have to tilt the maze quickly to get the ball out and take a ‘shot’, just like teeing off at a real golf course. You can see it in action in the video he posted.
This maze, by /u/Yifkong, is particularly interesting in that is has a couple of cars that roll back and forth, and you can use them to transport the ball. A really interesting game mechanic that I am looking forward to trying out myself at some point.
The day has finally arrived! My LEGO Ideas Maze (21305) is now available from LEGO brand stores and Toys R Us. You can find more information about the set, with links to my previous posts and instructions for building additional mazes, over on the Maze page. For anyone in the Toronto area I’ll also be at the Yorkdale LEGO store on Saturday, April 9th, from 11am to 3pm if you want to come and hang out and have me sign your set.
The best part about this set for me is being able to design my own mazes, and lately I’ve been experimenting with other parts in my collection to see what is possible for designing cool obstacles. Kristal suggested I build a mini golf based maze, which I thought was a great idea. Mini golf courses are known for having interesting obstacles that you have to get around, and we had fun coming up some some that would be suitable for a maze. You can see the results in the video, or read more about it below.
One thing in particular I wanted to experiment with was building dynamic obstacles, and this maze features a swinging block and rolling gate that move as you tilt the maze. I also integrated one of the old 9V micro motors into a windmill to get it to rotate. I think dynamic elements like these can really add some interest to mazes. I really like the windmill and rolling gate, but the swinging block might need some work. It’s a bit too unpredictable right now, and sometimes it takes forever to get the ball through it.
I also tried using curved bricks for walls and curved slopes to add a bridge and some bumps to roll around. I really liked both of these ideas. The bridge is quite interesting, as it requires you to gain some momentum to get the ball to roll over it, and I think the curved walls can be used to make some really interesting maze designs.
I’m sure there are a lot of other cool LEGO parts out there that can be used to make some interesting mazes. I’m really looking forward to seeing what other people come up with!
In my previousposts about the LEGO Maze (set 21305), I talked about the imbalance in the tilting mechanism, and mentioned I would be putting together a tutorial on how to modify the official set to extend and balance the tilting capabilities.
Just to be clear, this will not make it any easier to solve the mazes, and is not necessary to enjoy the full awesomeness of the set. I’ve been playing with the unmodified set for the last few weeks, and I haven’t felt the need to modify my own copy yet. That being said, making this modification might expand the range of obstacles that you will be able to build. Does anyone want to try building ramps? It also might make it feel a little less constrained if you have an aggressive play style, especially when tilting the inner frame to the left.
The modification involves raising the tilting frames, so there is more room for them to tilt in each direction, and requires no additional pieces. You just need to move a few pieces around. It’s definitely easier to show you than to explain in writing, so follow along with the video if you are interested in trying it out.
One note, this modification will disable the locking feature, since there is now a bigger gap between the tilt frames and the base, so a few extra bricks and plates will be handy if you want to re-enable that feature. The modification raises the tilt frames by the width of a one stud brick, which, if you know your LEGO dimensions, is 2 and half plates. In the video I show you one option for re-enabling the lock feature, which is to split the difference and increase the height of the locking block by 3 plates (1 brick) and the height of the ball container by 2 plates. If you are ambitious you can increase the height of each by 2 and half plates by using some fancy building techniques with bricks with studs on their sides.
The picture below shows the unmodified set on top and the modified set on the bottom, which might give you a better idea of what this change will do.
When I first found out my marble maze would become an official set, after all my excitement had died down, I really started to wonder what changes would be made to it.
The model was quite large, larger than any of the previous Ideas sets. Would they need to reduce the part count? Would they make significant changes to the overall design? What changes would be required for the model to meet The LEGO Group’s design guidelines (a glimpse of which can be seen in this document created by designer Jamie Berard)?
I put together a video discussing some of the major changes that were made to my original model, and you can read more about them below as well.
I knew my original model had some shortcomings, especially with respect to strength. In particular, many high stress areas were only attached using stud connections, which would work themselves loose over time and eventually fall apart. Definitely not official LEGO set material.
The official set was designed by veteran designer Steen Sig Andersen, so I should have realized I had nothing to worry about. I was excited, impressed, and a little relieved, when I first saw the final design. The overall look and feel were retained, the tilting mechanism and control system were pretty much identical to those in my original model, and Steen had reinforced all of the major weak points of the model. Awesome!
Of course, it was inevitable that some changes were made. The ball container and travel locking mechanism, for example, were simplified and streamlined. I was really impressed with Steen’s solution for these features, and I thought the way the ball container was incorporated into the locking mechanism was ingenious. My original travel lock also had a tendency to detach itself, which didn’t actually make it very effective.
The mazes were also simplified. Gone were my fancy walls on the standard maze, built using Technic beams on their sides, which, if you delve into Jamie’s document above, you will find are all ‘illegal’ connections. By using standard bricks for all the walls, it also means it is a lot easier to share parts between maze designs.
My original mazes were also one plate thicker, with deeper holes to fall into, but they were also more part intensive and harder to build as a result. The official mazes are simpler, easier to build and much lighter, which results in the control system being much more responsive.
There are a lot of other smaller differences as well. The control wheels are gears, as opposed to the rubber tires in my original model. Most of the buildings in the medieval maze are simplified versions of my originals, and that maze itself is slightly different. The support platform that the maze rests on in the inner tray also runs along the entire interior, making it much stronger.
There were some concessions made as a result of these changes. The shallower holes in the mazes means that in some cases you can get the ball rolling fast enough to roll right through a hole. Some of the structural changes also resulted in the tilt frames being one brick lower, which is the main reason for the uneven tilting I mentioned in my previous post.
I am really pleased with how faithful the official set is to my original model, and quite impressed with most of the changes. I actually prefer to play on the official set now, which I guess really says all that needs to be said. A huge thanks to Steen for turning my original concept into such a great model!
With Easter just around the corner I thought it would be a great time to dust off my EV3 and build an egg decorating robot. These machines, commonly referred to as Egg Bots, have been around for a while. In fact, an early version dates all the way back to 1990! Since then, many versions have been created, some scratch built and some others using LEGO Mindstorms. I really enjoy the challenge of designing my own models, so here is my version, the EV Egg Bot! Instructions, program file, and notes for building your own can be found below. Other than the eggs and marker, all the pieces you need to build this model come in the EV3 Home Edition kit 31313.
The motors should be connected to the ports as follows:
Port A – the large motor that turns the egg
Port B – the medium motor that raises and lowers the marker
Port C – the large motor that moves the arm from side to side
Operating the EV Egg Bot is pretty straight forward. Once the program is running, you can use the left and right buttons on the EV3 unit to scroll through the available patterns and select the center button to ‘print’ it. Before decorating you’ll want to make sure the marker is about .5 cm/.25 in above the surface of the egg. I’m using standard Sharpie markers, but I think any felt tip marker that can draw on an egg will do.
The video should give you a pretty good idea of how it all works. Feel free to delve into the program file to design your own patterns!
It has been a long journey, but there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Almost 4 years ago I submitted my Labyrinth Marble Maze project to the LEGO Ideas website, with vague aspirations that some day it might be turned into an official LEGO product. Well, that day has finally come, or at least will be coming soon. On April 1st, LEGO set number 21305, Maze, will be available for purchase.
Even better than that, at least for me, is that I have received a pre-release copy of the set! I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I’ve put together a video to give you a sneak peak at what’s inside and how it works. You can also read some more of my thoughts about the set below.
The set includes instructions for building two different mazes, though you can’t build them simultaneously, as they share many pieces. The ‘standard’ maze is the same layout as the original one in my project submission, and is actually quite challenging. I think it took me several practice sessions when I originally designed it before I was able to successfully make it to the end. The ‘medieval’ maze is inspired by my original submission, and includes two possible paths through it. It is a bit easier than the standard maze, but still provides a bit of a challenge, especially the final move to get into the castle. It is also a bit more visually interesting than the standard maze, as it includes more decorative elements.
The instruction booklet also includes photos of more inspirational mazes, which I designed, that can be built using the pieces in the set. Most of them are designed so that their level of difficulty can be varied by adding or removing the 1×2 log bricks used for walls. The photos are clear enough that you should have no trouble building any of these mazes, but I will be posting instructions for them in the next few weeks. I will also be posting instructions for more mazes which I have designed since then. You will be able to find all of these over on the Maze page.
Of course the real excitement of this set is the fact that you can design your own mazes, and as you include the pieces from your own collection these mazes can become more and more elaborate. I’m really excited to see what people come up with.
The frame is essentially a two axis gimbal, controlled by two wheels on adjacent sizes of the model. The internal control system is a linked set of control arms, and is largely unchanged from my original project. It is simple, robust and reliable. It is fairly straight forward to operate, but it will take some practice to develop the dexterity to finely control the movement of the ball. Keep in mind that a light touch will serve you a lot better than large, wild movements. Controlling the game is very much a learned skill, so the more you practice the better you will get at it.
The set includes 4 balls, which are stored in a small box that can be placed in one corner of the frame. When the box is put away, it snugly fits the space between the tilting frame and the base of the model. Combined with a block in the opposite corner which does the same thing, this locks the maze so that it cannot tilt, and secures it for travel.
There are a lot of small differences between the official set and my original model. I won’t be going into detail about all those differences here, as I will be dedicating another post and video to just that topic alone. Most of the changes made were structural, to give the model the strength and stability required to become an official set, and I’m really pleased with most of them.
One side effect of some of these changes is that the tilting is not uniform in each direction, which I illustrate in the video. As I mention in the video, this doesn’t really affect the game play, but it was something that I paid special attention to in my original design, and it’s hard to say if it will affect some people’s enjoyment of the set. So far in my tests I haven’t noticed it while I’ve been playing. Regardless, I will be putting together a tutorial for a modification for balancing up the tilting, which I will also be posting in a few weeks.
All in all, I’m very pleased with how the set turned out. I can’t really give an honest assessment of the set itself, since I’m way too tied up in it. I imagine your interest in the set will largely be tied to your interest in the game itself. At the very least, I think it is a unique entry in the LEGO universe, and a welcome change from the licensed products that seem to receive a lot of attention these days. I hope you enjoy playing with it as much as I do.
I’ve wanted to build an Orrery out of LEGO for quite a while now, and a couple of months ago I finally sat down and started putting one together. I mainly focused on the movements of the objects, paying close attention to the rotation of the Sun and Earth, and the orbits of the Earth and Moon. Clearly the relative sizes of the objects, and the distances between them, are not even remotely to scale. You can see it in action in the video, and you can find instructions for building your own down below.
As far as accuracy goes, it’s not too far off the real thing. Each rotation of the crank represents one day, and the Earth rotates once with every turn. The Moon orbits the Earth every 28 days, the sun makes a full rotation every 25 days, and the Earth orbits the Sun every 375 days.
For the large turntable, I’m using the newest 60 tooth version. You can use the older 56 tooth version, which is slightly smaller in diameter, you just need to use a 12 tooth double bevel gear instead of the regular 8 tooth gear to drive it.
When assembling the various gears, it’s important to make sure everything rotates freely. That is, don’t push the gears onto the axles too tightly, otherwise there will be a lot of friction between the gears an the Technic liftarms beside them.
The model can be motorized by replacing the crank with a gear and attaching a Power Functions motor to it. There are many ways to do that, but you can see how I did it in the video.
For Valentine’s Day this year I decided to build this clockwork heart, full of gear spinning action and a little steampunk flair. You can see how it works in this video. Building instructions, and some construction notes, can be found below.
If you don’t have the relatively new long Technic axle pin (the only black piece in the instructions), you can just use a 3 stud long Technic axle with a stud on the end to hold those gears in place (like many of the other gears already do). The newer piece just results in slightly smoother motion.
Towards the end of the video I show how it can be motorized by attaching a Power Functions M-Motor in the back, but you can also attach the motor to the same axle attached to the crank in the same way. You will want to be able to control the speed of the motor though so that it doesn’t spin so fast. You can do this using the IR Receiver and Speed Remote Control, or using the Rechargeable Battery Box, which has a built in speed control.