Saturday, April 28, 2018

FLL - Hydro Dynamics: Field Model Leftovers...

The Hydro Dynamics FLL (FIRST LEGO League) season has come to an end, now what to do with the Robot Performance field set-up models?

Well, you can:
     1. Keep the models and mat, so that you might revisit those exciting moments of the tournament by running a mock tournament.
     2. Keep certain models that seem to reappear in a similar form each year (loops), so that you may practice during the off-season.
      3. Invent your own scenario, with the models, of an obstacle course.
      4. Dissemble them and add them to your growing collection of elements (there is sometimes a new element that is not found in the LEGO kits).
     5. Or re-mix them for another use, such as...

Converting the Barriers to a Business Card Holder!

Converting the Faucet to a Bank




Friday, April 20, 2018

FLL - 2018-19: Revealed...Updated

FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams
you are headed for the MOON for the 2018-19 Challenge!

Registration is now opened for FLLJr - Mission Moon!

Also, at the World Championships in Houston, FIRST LEGO League  
field mat & models were revealed...

See FLL Coaches of NYC facebook page for a video...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

B2B Lab: SteamPunk-E...

SteamPunk-E is a Steampunk version of Wall-e the robot. Originally, it was to be  powered and programmed  with WeDo 2, but SteamPunk-E turned out to be a little too heavy for the WeDo motors. 

So, the Power Functions system was used…


Motors, IR receiver, Rechargeable battery box


Thursday, April 12, 2018

FLL - Into Orbit: Training...Updated

FIRST LEGO League space engineers start your training...

Start your research:

     NASA -

     NASA Robotics Alliance Project -
         (Although this is directed to grades 9-12, 6-8 graders can understand most of the information)

      ESA -

For building inspration, you can download building instructions from past LEGO models. Type in "Space" for the theme.

Q-Tip: On "almost" every challenge theme since 2000, there has been a mission that involves retrieving a loop model. On this past year's Hydro Dynamics it was the Pipe Removal. In Mars Mission (2003) it was an Ice Core like the model below:

In recent years another popular mission was to push something to make something rise & stay in position. I believe it first appeared in Body Forward (2010):

There are similar missions in the LEGO Education Space Challenge Set that you could practice.

Veteran teams think about past theme missions, what else could be on this year's theme?


Saturday, April 7, 2018

FLL - Into Orbit: Trip resources...

Into Orbit!

For those teams in the New York City area or nearby tri-state area here are some trip resources for your teams. Plan a trip to visit theses resources for inspiration...

NYC Center for Aerospace and Applied Mathematics
Address: 220 Henry St, New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 608-6164

Rose Center for Earth and Space
Address: 175-208 79th Street Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 769-5100

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Address: Pier 86, W 46th St & 12th Ave, New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 245-0072

Liberty Science Center
Address: 4636, 222 Jersey City Blvd, Jersey City, NJ 07305
Phone: (201) 200-1000

Cradle of Aviation Museum & JetBlue Sky Theater Planetarium 
Address: Cradle of Aviation Museum, Charles Lindbergh Blvd, Garden City, NY 11530
Phone: (516) 572-4111

Buehler Challenger & Science Center
Address: 400 Paramus Rd, Paramus, NJ 07652
Phone: (201) 251-8589

Note: The New York Hall of Science does not have that much on space exploration.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

FLL Challenge - 2018-19 - Into Orbit!...

Hey, FIRST LEGO League teams!

The Hydro Dynamics season is almost over and a hint of next season is receiving signals from Outer Space.

Teams prepare to explore the Universe....

If you happen to have the Mission Mars Challenge of 2003

the LEGO Education Space Challenge Set

(now I am dating myself...)

 get them out of storage because the word is we are going… 

                                                                                                                                                             (R) FIRST


Friday, March 16, 2018

Beyond FLL...

FIRST LEGO League participants are the inventors of today and the future...

Read about these young inventors: 


Saturday, March 3, 2018

B2B Lab: WeDo 2.0 Motor Blocks...

If you are new to WeDo 2.0, you might need a little clarification on the motor blocks. So this is what they do (according to LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 Programming Blocks by LEGO)

Motor This Way -  Counter Clockwise - Left

Motor That Way -  Clockwise - Right

Motor Off - Stops the motor
1. This is from the perspective of looking at the front of the motor as seen on the programming block.
2. The motors are continuously running until the program tells it to stop - Motor Off block.

Motor On For - Motor on for X seconds and then it stops.
1. The block does not indicate which direction the motor will turn, so you must place before it a Motor This Way or Motor That Way block depending on which way or that way you want it to turn.
2. If you use the block without indicating which direction you want it to turn, it will turn in the direction that was last used.
3. Weird, at zero-seconds, it actually moves. (See - B2B Lab: Exploring with WeDo 2.0)
Motor Power - Determines the power and speed the motor will turn. Power is in the range of numbers 0-9 that can be combined to make a number larger than 9.

Motor Power
1. Zero, of course, is no power.
2. Even though you can put in a large number for the power, it seems that max. is at about 20
3. As power increase so does speed. Plus, the distance the shaft rotates also increases. So if the robot was a vehicle and you increase the power w/o increasing the Wait For, how will it affect the distance traveled? Try it out...

We do know we can have 2 motors connected to 1 Smarthub and they will both be controlled by a single Motor This/That Way or Motor On For block, but you can control them individually. In the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 Curriculum Pack it shows you how by using the Motor This/That Way (which runs continuously until indicated to stop) block, but you can also use the Motor On For block. Click/Press the block until the Labelling Panel of 6 squares appears above it. Each square has a color assigned to it for each motor - up to 6 motors. Tap the Labelling Panel to change the color and assign that motor on the particular Smarthub. 

Now, we can take it a step further, you can individually select up to 6 motors on the 3 Smarthubs paired with (connected) and programmed by one program string or parallel program strings from one device (tablet/computer). You can select which motors to control on which Smarthubs, as well as assign different power levels the same way with Motor Power blocks, but remember an unselected Motor Power block or unselected Motor This/That Way or Motor On For block will control all motors at that point in the program. 

However, multiple sensors cannot be "selected" (if a sensor on one Smarthub detects, then the response causes all Smarthubs to respond and this is where motor selection can be helpful to control which motors you want to respond. Sound and displays are through the device so it happens exactly where it is in the program string. Imagine, you can turn on and off any motor on any Smarthub in your project - Awesomeness! 


Saturday, February 24, 2018

B2B Lab: WeDo 2.0 Parallel Coding...

Here's Danny's first WeDo 2.0 car... 

To run his car, instead of just adding programming blocks in one line of code, he actually used three lines of code - parallel coding. If he had put all of it in one line of code, the vehicle would pause while waiting for, let's say play sound, to finish executing before continuing to move. Now, in the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 Curriculum Pack parallel coding can be done by using the Send Message, and Start On Message blocks. However, Daniel had not learned those blocks yet, so he invented his own way of doing parallel coding.

By doing this he was able to have the vehicle perform 3 functions at the same time - in this case: movement, color change, & sound. Cool!

To run the above 3 Loop programs, use three finger to tap on all 3 Start blocks at the same time or quickly tap on each Start on each.

Another way of parallel coding is to use the Message blocks:

If you like a little challenge, you can also write a code that has WAIT for Time at the beginning of the programs so that you have time to tap each Start individually. The program below is without Loops so it will run just once. The challenge is getting all to start and end at the same time - test your programming skills!

There are various ways of coding, explore the possiblilites...


Monday, February 19, 2018

B2B Lab: Exploring with WeDo 2.0...

The original WeDo Resource Set introduced 1st-3rd-grade kids to the world of robotics. The one thing I did not like about it, is that the robot had to stay connected, by wire, to the computer. With the introduction of WeDo 2.0 Core Set, Bluetooth frees the robot from the computer. It is also more versatile with the use of tablets, as well as computers. 

For those of you who might be considering LEGO's WeDo 2.0 Core Set, you will find that it is a good platform for Grades K-4 and a good introduction to robotics for the older students who are starting to explore the world of robotics. It is a natural lead into LEGO Mindstorms robotics. 

So, the Brics~2~Bots engineers have been tinkering with the WeDo 2.0 set and have made some interesting discoveries.

If you haven’t seen the Smarthub yet, it does not have a display screen or speakers like the NXT or EV3 Controllers. However, it does have programming/coding blocks for both sound and display; the sound is played and the display is seen through your tablet/computer.

As you may or may not know, the Smarthub has only 2 Input/Outs for motors and/or sensors. So it really doesn’t matter which Input/Output you use.

When 2 motors are connected 1 Smarthub, both motors are programmed by the same motor block. Also, when 2 of the same sensors are connected, both sensors are programmed by the same sensor block and either one will respond.

Now, if 3 SmartHubs (the Max. is 3 and you can edit and label each by pressing the hub icon) are paired with/connected to one device  (tablet/computer), one or simultaneously executed program strings will control all 3 Smarthubs at the same time. Any sensor from any of the Smarthubs can receive input and all motors respond. So one tablet/computer can be paired with Smarthub A and Smarthub B at the same time running the same program string(s). This is a handy titbit when testing the effectiveness of a design model to another using the exact same program string - a side by side comparison, which we did when we compared a Pulley driven vehicle to a Differential Gearing driven vehicle.

In order to control two or more Smarthub models separately, you will need two or more devices (tablets/computers). Each model will be paired with one device and the program strings on that device will only affect the model paired with that device.

We wanted to know the relationship between the number (seconds) input for motors to actual motor rotations, so we did some tests:

How does the number (seconds) input relate to the actual motor rotation with the motor using a Power of 1?
We built two cars, a pulley driven car and a gearing driven car.

Some useful info:
Pulley driven car - 1:1 ratio of Wedge Belt Wheel to Wedge Belt Wheel
     0 seconds = .65 rotation
     1 second = 1.75 rotations
Gearing driven car - 1:1 ration of 20 Bevel to 20 Double Bevel
     0 seconds = .75 rotation
     1 second = 2.25 rotations
( you would think that at 0 seconds it would not move at all!)

Note: When inputting the power of a motor, the maximum power is about 20, even though you can input a larger number.

Next, we did a test comparison on the performance of the same pulley driven car to the gearing car, comparing the distance traveled using two extreme Power settings of 1 and 9. The cars were tested for various durations (seconds) inputs. Our hypothesis was that the gearing driven car would perform better.

And the results are in….

As you can see from the data, the pulley driven car did not travel as far as the gearing driven car. 

Our conclusion: The gearing driven car, based on the observations, performances better by going faster, further, and straighter than the pulley driven car. We believe the gearing has more clutch/grip so its performance is more accurate and consistent; whereas the pulley driven system might tend to slip, particular with wear the rubber band will stretch slightly resulting in slippage. Also, with the pulley driven system, one has to make sure the car/vehicle is balanced from side to side, otherwise it will have a tendency to drift to the weighted side of the vehicle. We also found that the tension of the rubber band has to be exact and after some use it loses its tension and will cause slippage; direct connection to the motor or use of gearing is definitely better.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

B2B - Lab: Tracks vs. Tracks...

I volunteer at quite a few FLL (FIRST LEGO Lague) tournaments and I noticed that very few teams use tracks on their robots, mostly rookie teams. So the Brics~2~Bots Engineers decided to test tracks on the field mat with various combinations of small rubber studs (Boost & Technic kits) and large red rubber studs (which were available when the EV3 was first launched). 

Our test robot was simple. An NXT with EV3 motors. Programmed with EV3 software.

 First, Brandon made a test program for the vehicle to move first backward then forward, turn left and then turn right. It used the programming block Move Tank at a power of 50 for 2 rotations, then repeated the sequence with a power of 75. There was a WAIT of 1 second between actions.  The program was set up to see if the robot could start & stop at the same spot; this would indicate the precision & consistency of the robot's movements. Observations of the robot's performance were recorded.

Tracks without studs.
Bumpy with slippage. Turns not consistent. Robot out of control!
Tracks w/small rubber studs on the outer edge or inner edge of the tracks.

Somewhat slow moving even at 75. Slightly bumpy on the FLL field mat & smooth surfaces. Seems to have consistent turns. Placement of studs is better on the outer edge of the tracks. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by 1-1.5 inches forward.
Tracks w/small rubber studs alternating inside & out positions.
Visibly less bumpy, but with consistent turns. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by .5-1 inches forward.
Tracks with 2 small rubber studs per track.
Appears to be a bit less bumpy than a single stud per track. Consistent turns. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by .5-1 inches forward.
Tracks w/large rubber studs on alternating tracks track.

It is bumpy at 50 power and very bumpy at 75 power. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by
1 inch forward and .5 to the left.
Tracks w/large rubber studs on every track.
Less bumpy that alternating tracks, but still rather bumpy. Consistent turns. To start and stop at the same spot was almost perfect.

Each time the robot stopped there was a rocking motion. This might be cause for concern traveling a longer distance than 2 rotations might cause inconsistent results.

It has a better grip on rough surfaces & is good for crawling over a low obstacle.