abandon all hope ye robots who enter


 LEGO Projects

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  • 2A Mindstorms RoboGladiator for 1999 E3 trade show
  • Itchy & Scratchy Mindstorms Mayhem entries for 2001 E3 trade show
  • Stop-Motion Animated Movie
  • Playground, Roach Coach, Thrill Ride models
  • Tesseract future Mindstorms RoboGladiator
  • Working prototype model of Towering Inferno
  • Sparky the 108V spark generator

STORY: I cannot begin to find the words to express the true greatness that is LEGO. In 1932, the LEGO company was born. In 1958, the basic 2x4 brick was patented. Since then, LEGO products, especially the Technic line, have grown to include such sophisticated components as gears, pulleys, electric motors, pneumatic pistons, touch and light sensors, programmable computer controllers, and much much more. I have been playing with LEGO for as long as I can remember, and they have come in extremely handy for prototyping and modeling mechanical and creative designs, including 2A, Tesseract, and Towering Inferno. They're not only a toy for kids but a valuable design and engineering tool.

In early 1999, I created 2A, a 15lb infrared remote-control combat robot for a LEGO Mindstorms promotion at the E3 trade show. Building with LEGO, I revised and modified my design over and over extremely quickly. Repairs and upgrades after tangling with the other fighting robots were a snap, too. 2A ended up with the 3rd place trophy. (see a 2A demonstration video)

I've created another combat LEGO robot, called Tesseract, which I demoed at BotBash 2000.

Partly on a whim, partly as research into a future RoboGladiator weapon, and partly just because I can, I created Sparky. Sparky is a 108V sparking contraption powered by 72AA batteries in 12 battery boxes. It uses lots of electric cables and lots of electric plates.

My next foray into LEGO design was the pair of bots named Itchy & Scratchy. These 2 lightweight bots were designed for the 2001 E3 trade show at the Mindstorms Mayhem competition at the LEGO booth. Itchy has a hoop for collecting ping pong balls & bashing other bots on the head, while Scratchy has a large, weighted disc with claws, spinning at about 600 RPM, to launch balls & bot parts.

At a 2002 robotics workshop for Santa Barbara county 3rd-12th grade students enrolled in the Robo-Challenge curriculum, I gave robot demos & entered 2 LEGO bots in the tug-o-war competition: Longneck and the Infernal Brick of Despair, which came in 1st & 2nd place. They didn't fare as well in subsequent tug-o-war events.

In 1992, I purchased my first camcorder, and within a few weeks of the purchase, I'd already made a stop-motion animated music video using LEGO parts. It depicts a giant robotic dragon wreaking havoc at a rock concert.

In a design and modeling class at UCSB, I used LEGO bricks to make 3-D mockups of the class projects: a children's playground, a roach coach lunch truck, an amusement park thrill ride. After fleshing out the designs with LEGO, I created 3-D CAD models with Pro/Engineer.

LEGO has even come in handy on more serious projects, like a structural frame for an electromagnetic levitation device I put together for a controls class.

SPECS: 2A employed 4 Mindstorms RCX computer bricks, 8 battery packs, 22 motors, 8 pneumatic pistons, and a large array of gears, pulleys, treads, chains, wiring, and cranks. The infrared communication capability of the RCX bricks was used to create a remote control system.

Tesseract was much deadlier, with 16 motors overdriven at 18V, spinning 4 disks with protruding metal hooks. It drove by 8 motors and 3 more are used for speed controllers. It had 1 RCX brick on the robot and 2 on the ergonomic remote control joystick.

My first experiment with creating stop-motion animation was a music video with LEGO characters and sets. Not only did LEGO allow me create a polished look and feel, but it made for very convenient posing in the painstaking stop-motion process.

For the engineering design class I took many years ago, we were required to make and pitch mockup models. While most students were struggling with popsicle sticks, poster board, and drinking straws, I was snapping together LEGO bricks. The professor of that class ended up using photographs and CAD drawings of my thrill ride design as documentation to our Mechanical Engineering department that he deserved tenure.

TECH DETAILS : Check out 2A, Tesseract, and Sparky.

SPONSORS : Combat robots sponsored mostly by Switzer Communications and LEGO Mindstorms.

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All content © Jason Dante Bardis and the Infernolab, 1999-2016