April showers bring May flowers – at least in Northern climates. I built this mechanical LEGO flower to celebrate the imminent arrival of summer. It’s pretty simple, and features a collar on the stem that you can rotate to open and close the flower petals. The collar is connected to each petal using a link and a couple of ball joints. You can watch me build it in the video (skip to the end if you just want to see how it works). Building instructions are included below if you would like to try and build it yourself.
Last week, I was in St. Louis for the FIRST Championships, showing off some robots in the LEGO Education booth. Unrelated to the robotics event, they had a table full of white parts, mostly from the Architecture Studio set, for people to build with. It’s a very interesting exercise to build using a single colour. You focus a lot more on the shapes of what you are creating, using texture to add detail instead of colour differences. I definitely wandered over to that table whenever I had a chance. Who can resist a table full of pieces? One model that came out of it was a micro scale Millennium Falcon. It wasn’t very accurate to the ‘real’ thing, as there was a limited selection of parts, but upon returning home I thought I would try to make a more accurate version at the same scale.
Here are building instructions if you’d like to try to build your own. You can just use a regular 1×1 cone for the cockpit if you don’t have the squat cone that I’m using, which isn’t all that common.
As I was thinking of projects to incorporate the PFx Brick into, one of the first ideas that popped into mind was to create a LEGO version of HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although it doesn’t exercise anywhere near the full capabilities of the PFx Brick, I felt HAL is such an iconic entity from the realm of classic science fiction that just hearing him speak from a LEGO model would be incredibly cool. I decided to have some fun with the video for it. Instructions for building your own can be found below.
If you are interested in the PFx Brick, be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign we are currently running. If it is successful, I’ll provide instructions for integrating it into HAL, as well as the configuration I used for the lighting and sound.
The build is pretty straight forward, mostly using basic pieces for the interior. The red and yellow pieces can be swapped with any colour without changing the outward appearance of the model. The instructions include space for the PFx Brick and the XL Speaker behind the speaker grill, as well as some holes to run the wiring. Feel free to build up the entire interior with basic bricks if you’d rather, or fit in your own lighting.
We are in the final week of our Kickstarter campaign for the PFx Brick. There is still quite a bit of ground to cover to reach our goal, so be sure to check it out if you haven’t already. There is a lot of great content on the fxbricks.com website about how it works and what it can do, but this video will give you a taste of what it can accomplish. A huge thanks to all our backers so far. Help us spread the word in a final push to the finish!
To celebrate the arrival of spring, Kristal had a wonderful idea to build a LEGO egg that could hatch. She designed it so that a cute little chick breaks out of the top of the egg when you turn a knob on the side. Of course, I just had to motorize it, and built a nest containing three of them that can wiggle the eggs and open them all. I explain how it all works in the video, and you can find instructions for building the basic egg, along with more information below.
One thing to note if you build your own is that if you push the front of the egg in really tight, the beak of the chick can get caught on the inside. You may have to loosen up the connection, or pull it out just a bit if that happens to ensure the head can move up and down freely.
I’ve also designed the control knob so that it can be easily removed and replaced with a 1×1 plate, to ‘hide’ the mechanism. But, depending on the clutch power of your bricks, the 1×1 round bricks might slip. You can just replace the axle with a longer one that extends outside the egg to have a more solid control connection.
The nest was very interesting to make. It’s actually built around a Technic ring to get the semi-circle shape, and uses a combination of plates and tiles to give an intertwined effect. Most of the pieces are actually connected to each other, though there are a few that I just slid into the gaps to fill space.
I’m using 4 Power Functions M-Motors to drive all the motion. 2 for wiggling the eggs and 2 for opening and closing the eggs. This allowed me stagger the starts of the wiggling and hatching of some of the eggs for the video, instead of having them all happening at once.
Over the last year, I have been working with Michael Gale on a LEGO compatible device to really inject some life into our models. It’s a powerful little piece of technology called the PFx Brick, which can be used to add advanced lighting, sound and motor control to your models. Today, after much engineering, testing and preparation, we are launching a crowd funding campaign to put it into volume production.
Head on over to the Kickstarter page to check it out. There is a tonne of information over there, including more videos demonstrating its capabilities. We would really appreciate any support you are willing to give, either through sharing our campaign with your fellow LEGO fans, or directly supporting it yourself. Help us make the PFx Brick a reality!
A couple of months ago, LEGO launched a site called the Ideas Test Lab, to test some new features that I assume might eventually make their way to the main Ideas site. As part of the Test Lab, they ran a challenge to build a ‘fourth model’ for some of the LEGO 3-in-1 Creator sets.
I really enjoy the challenge of building alternate models for LEGO sets. It brings me back to when I as a child, building with a limited selection of parts, relying more on imagination rather than trying to build a polished model. It also makes you think a little more about how to use certain pieces, to get the most out of what limited number you have. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to participate.
Modern Creator sets are actually pretty good for designing alternate models. They typically have a good selection of useful parts related to the type of set, and a unified colour palette. Much better than, say, a super heroes set that might have more specialty pieces and a bunch of minifigs. Of course, coming up with a good idea of what to build is usually the hardest part for me. In the end I built 1 alternate model for each of the sets in the challenge. You can see them all below, along with some notes on their construction. I also put together instructions for anyone interested in building them.
Mountain Goats and Vulture
These were built from 31058 Mighty Dinosaurs. I started out trying to build some sort of robot, but after randomly trying out some pieces for a head, I realized it looked very much like the head of a mountain goat. I built the large goat first and thought I was done. Then Kristal came by and suggested I built a kid to go along with it. With the leftover small pieces I was also able to build a vulture to hang around with them.
Built from 31057 Air Blazer, this is a micro scale, single pilot, spacecraft, which I envisioned as being for research, exploration and scout missions. I really like the teardrop shape of the body and how tightly the angled wings mesh with it. With the leftover pieces I was even able to design a stand for it.
I really wanted to build something other than a vehicle from 31056 Green Cruiser, but in the end my creativity failed me, and I ended up with a large scale motorcycle. Once I embraced what I was building, it came together pretty quickly, and I’m pretty happy with the final result. I focused more on the shaping of the bike, rather than functionality.
The smallest set was 31042 Super Soarer, with just 100 pieces. I really didn’t want to build another flying ‘thing’ from this set, and ended up building a robot. Its limbs don’t move very much, due to the limited selection of hinge or joint pieces, but I was able to add some nice details to its torso and head. With the leftover pieces I was even able to build a landing pad or the Gnat, which you can see in the video.
I’ve received a few requests for instructions for Kristal’s kinetic Bat sculpture, and though I don’t know if I’ll be able to make them for the full model, I have started to document some of its components. Here are instructions for the mechanism used to flap the wings. Hopefully some people can make use of these to achieve similar motion in their own models, or even just to get a better understanding of how it goes together.
I really enjoy designing LEGO models at the ‘micro’ scale. It can be a real challenge, and sometimes unlocks uses for pieces that you never even considered before. Not to mention, it doesn’t require an enormous collection of parts. One of my favourite models I’ve ever designed is my micro scale tractor from almost 11 years ago, and it’s been on my to do list since then to design more farm equipment at that scale.
I finally took the opportunity when Kristal built her Micro Scale English Village almost two years ago. I figured a micro scale combine harvester would be a nice addition to the countryside. The finished model has been sitting on my desk ever since, just waiting to be posted. I was actually waiting to get a couple of ‘Plate, Modified 1 x 2 with 3 teeth’ pieces in Dark Bluish Gray to colour it the way I wanted. I use them for the cutter teeth under the header reel, and even though they are barely noticeable in the final model, I was determined to make them look more metallic.
Building instructions are below if you want to see how it is built, or build one yourself.
Update 3/19/2017: Instructions for building the core flapping mechanism are now available here.
As I mentioned in my post about our trip to Australia, Brickvention is held in one of the coolest venues for any LEGO event I’ve been to. What I didn’t mention was that the Royal Exhibition Building is surrounded by some really wonderful green space, and that every evening as left we would see some cool Fruit Bats flying around. This was the inspiration for Kristal’s latest LEGO model, The Bat.
It took quite a few design iterations to finally get the mechanics of this model compact enough to fit in and under the body, but still evoke the unique movement of a bat’s wings. This includes the flapping motion, their expansion and contraction, and sweeping them forward with every beat. The stand also moves the entire bat up and down. In the video I explain how the mechanics work together to achieve these movements.
The wings are built mostly with LEGO flex tube, to keep them as light as possible. Even so, you can see that they do bounce a bit when they reach the bottom of the downward beat. This is mostly due to the backlash that is present in any LEGO gear system, which is taken up as the wings turn over at the top of their cycle. The wings then recoil a bit as the gears ‘catch up’ to them at the bottom.
As these bats are mostly active at night, Kristal designed a brick built sunset on one side of the stand, which transitions to night as you turn the model around.