Jason Strikes Back!

This week marks three years since I built my Ultimate Useless LEGO Machine! In all that time, I still haven’t figured out a way to turn it off. At last I will have my revenge! Or will I?

There is actually some cool programming going on here. The black box and the hand robot coordinate their behaviors using the Mindstorms Bluetooth capabilities. I have to say, I was super impressed with the ease and performance of this feature. Kudos to the EV3 team for such a fantastic implementation!

Despite what it might look like, the black box robot is actually driving the entire sequence. It sends messages to the hand robot to tell it what to do, then it either does an evasive maneuver, or waits for the hand to turn the switch off.

It responds to the switch being turned off the same way it always has, using the light sensor inside. It doesn’t use the proximity sensor to detect when the hand is there though. Since it is telling the hand what to do, it always knows what is going on. The hand would always trigger it anyway, since it is always above the sensor.

Instructions for building the the black box can be found in my original blog post. I haven’t put together instructions for the hand robot. Had a lot of fun making this video, hope you enjoy it!

LuuMa Hand

Escape From Jakku Maze

It’s been on my todo list for a while to see what kind of maze I could design by combining the parts of another LEGO set with the 21305 Maze set. I finally decided to see what I could come up with using 75099 Rey’s Speeder.

I wanted to keep the theme of the maze related to the set, so this maze has you navigating the alleys of the Niima Outpost, avoiding the scrap piles, and eventually getting to the Millennium Falcon in order to escape from Jakku. Despite the limited selection of parts, I was able to design a couple of dynamic obstacles, including a rolling canister and swinging pendulum, which are pretty easy to get through, but will slow you down if you are trying to do a speed run.

It is a variable difficulty maze, in the same style as the other mazes I’ve designed, so that you can increase the difficulty by progressively removing the tan 1×2 log brick pieces. Instructions for building it can be found below the video.


Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List



Jakku Maze

Pop-Up Book Adventures

I couldn’t resist using the LEGO pop-up book to make a little video retelling the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Humpty Dumpty. With my own little twist of course! I hope it illustrates how much fun you can have with this model. Kristal and I certainly had a lot of fun making the video.

If you’d like to see this model potentially become a real LEGO set, head on over to the LEGO Ideas website and add your support: https://ideas.lego.com/projects/151695

Here are pictures of the two new interiors I created to make the video. Rapunzel’s tower.


And Humpty Dumpty’s wall.

Humpty Dumpty

Pop-Up Book Ideas Project

A few months ago I was approached by a fellow builder, the very talented Grant Davis, to help flesh out an idea he had for LEGO Ideas – a fully functional LEGO pop-up book. Of course, I was already familiar with Grant’s work, and was really impressed with his original pop-up book when he posted it on YouTube a couple of years ago, so I jumped at the opportunity to help him with this project.

We finally put the finishing touches on it a few days ago and it is now live on the LEGO Ideas website, so if you’d like to see it potentially become an official set, be sure to head on over there and add your support: https://ideas.lego.com/projects/151695

You can see the book in action in this showcase video we put together.

The book features a simple and reliable mechanism, built around a couple of constrained Technic axles, to raise and lower the main pop-out scene. We also added a clasp to the keep it closed, so everything remains securely inside when you are handling it.

The aspect of this project that I am most excited about is that you can completely customize the interior scene to tell any story you can imagine. I think it really expands on the core values that already exist within the LEGO system, especially exercising your creativity and imagination.

I designed a couple of interiors for the book, including a cottage and castle, which could serve as the backdrop for many popular fairy tale stories. I also have a few more in the works, which I’ll be posting over the coming weeks with some other updates to the project. Stay tuned!




Remote Control Monowheel

Towards the end of last year, with the release of The Force Awakens on the horizon, I started conceptualizing what a LEGO BB8 droid might look like. That project hasn’t gone very far yet, but in the process of prototyping I also started working on this (much simpler) monowheel model. You can see it in action and how it works in the video, but there are some more notes and photos below as well for those interested.

The core engine of the model is designed using a counterweight system, with one Power Functions M-motor used to propel the wheel and another one for steering. The steering motor slides the counterweight from side to side inside the wheel to tilt it, which causes it to turn. The propulsion motor just rotates the wheel around the engine core.

There are some issues with the steering system, most notably there is no means of self-centering using the M-motor, which means bringing the counterweight back to center is hard to do reliably. I tried to use a Server motor in some early prototypes, but there just wasn’t enough space inside to fit it. I do have some ideas for improvements though, so hopefully I can refine it in the future.

The wheel also has a tendency to fall over due to the erratic steering. I think that’s just a matter if increasing the size of the lip that runs around the edge of the wheel track, but I’ll experiment with some other solutions as well.

The track is built using flexible tubes (also called rigid hoses), wrapped around the sidewall discs. Each tread of the track is created using a couple of curved slopes, and slide onto the flexible tubes through some Technic bricks with Axle Holes.

Despite the performance issues, it is still pretty fun to play with, and if I iron out some of the problems I’ll put together instructions for a future version.


Simple Drawing Machine

This is a simple Spirograph style LEGO drawing machine, loosely based off an old drawing toy from the 1950’s called the Hoot Nanny or Magic Designer. It can create many different patterns by changing the configuration of the model. You can also draw multiple patterns on the same piece of paper to create even more complex designs. Check out the video to see how it works. You can also find building instructions, along with some construction notes, below.


Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List


For best results you’ll want to use a pen or marker that glides very easily over paper and can deposit ink with very little pressure. I’m using a Uni-ball vision fine point pen. A regular ball point pen doesn’t seem to work unless maybe you strap some weight to it. A pencil will also work.

If you’d like to reproduce the patterns shown in the video, you can see how the machine is configured in the following pictures. Be sure to duplicate all of the connection points of the armature and also note where the fixed anchor is located.

As I mention in the video, the central gears will result in the pattern repeating 27 times in one rotation of the paper. You can customize this ratio by replacing any pair of meshed gears. For example, instead of using one 8 tooth and one 24 tooth gear, you can use two 16 tooth gears, or one 12 tooth and one 20 tooth gear.

Have fun experimenting with your own designs!

Drawing Machine

The Magnolia

New LEGO Room

It’s been almost 2 weeks since we moved into our new house, and we finally finished setting up the LEGO room! Here’s a time lapse video of us setting it up.

There is still a bit to do, like adding another light above the main build table, bringing in some more shelving, and putting some decorations on the walls, but at least most of the LEGO is set up! It will be nice to have somewhere to build again.

LEGO Studio

The room is over 20′ by 14′, and I’m sure was originally intended as some sort of rec room or home theater. It will be so great to have so much space to build in. We also put together a new build table, which has a 4′ by 8′ surface and adjustable legs. I think we’ll try it out configured as a stand up desk for now, since we’re mostly on our feet anyway while building (constantly going to get parts).

LEGO Studio 2

My old main build table, which seems woefully small now, will now serve as a dedicated video table, though I can see it quickly being covered in partially completed LEGO models. 🙂

LEGO Room Tour

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.

LEGO Room 2016

I’m really looking forward to setting up the new room. Stay tuned!

The Engineer

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.

Engineer Open

Fan Designed Custom Mazes

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.

View post on imgur.com

Factory Frenzy

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.

Factory Frenzy

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!

01-star wars maze

Golf Maze

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.

Lego golf themed maze! Check out my YouTube video, link in bio!

A photo posted by @brick_rhodes on

Maze with Cars

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.