BrickEngineer: LEGO Design

LEGO Engineering for LEGO NXT and Robot Enthusiasts

Arduino NXT Motor Shield

TKJ Electronics has released a LEGO NXT Servo Motor
shield for the Arduino
. This shield can interface with up to two NXT motors as well as the ultrasonic rangefinder. In addition to controlling motor speeds via pulse-width modulation, the shield reads the motor’s encoders so that it knows the position of the motor with a precision of 1 degree.

NXT Motor Shield

NXT Motor Shield for Arduino available from TJK Electronics

The NXT Motor Shield is discussed in the TJK Electronics Blog.
The NXT Motor Shield kit can be purchased at the TJK Electronics Store.

Extra NXT motors and Arduino units can be found here:

LEGO Mindstorms EV3: Hackable, Linux, Android and iOS!

LEGO Mindstorms, one of the best robotics kits, is about to get even better!

Earlier this month LEGO unveiled the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas. As technology becomes more a part of us, LEGO Mindstorms is evolving to provide us greater connectivity to our creations.

Robot Snake

LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Robot Snake

Like its predecessors, LEGO Mindstorms EV3 will four motors and five sensors including a new infrared sensor that will enable the robot to track a remote control. The expanded brick employs an ARM 9 central processor that can access 64 MB of RAM and 16 MB of Flash. This results in more room for stored programs. The brick also comes equipped with an SD-slot that allows one to expand the memory further. With a new secure Bluetooth chip, the LEGO brick can now connect to the Android and iOS operating systems so that one can use a smart phone, an iPhone or an iPad to control the robot! There will also be a USB port that will allow connectivity via WiFi. This increase in connectivity will open up a world of new possibilities.

Hackers will be happy to hear that the operating system is a version of Linux for which LEGO will release detailed documentation as well as an SDK.

LEGO will release the Mindstorms EV3 to the public this summer.

KnuthLab LEGO Exploration Rover Featured on Japan’s NHK World Network

KnuthLab Exploration Rover Featured on NHK WorldNet

KnuthLab Exploration Rover Featured on NHK WorldNet

The Knuth Cyberphysics Laboratory focuses on studying the fundamental physics governing the processes of information-driven systems.

At present we are focused on two research projects. The first, which is funded by a NASA SBIR grant, aims to develop Bayesian vision-based navigation systems for future NASA missions. The second, which has been funded by NASA in the past, is focused on developing intelligent instrumentation in the forms of science platforms that can autonomously decide on and perform their own experiments. Both projects, which are focused mainly machine learning software, rely on robotic platforms that we construct out of LEGOs. LEGO bricks are prefabricated plastic parts that can be assembled and disassembled in a matter of hours. We have found them to be quite versatile and capable, as well as being inexpensive.

On Wednesday Sept. 12, 2012, the Knuth Cyberphysics Lab at the University at Albany was visited by a television crew from NHK
World Network (Japan Broadcasting Corp.). They were working on a piece focused on the Mars Curiosity rover and were interested how NASA missions fostered creativity in robotics. In our lab, they were specifically interested in the fact that we used LEGO robots to test software for funded NASA projects. The program aired in Japan on Sept 15, 2012.

Here is a link to the show’s website.

Here is the photo caption from the website:

The Bing translation is:
Incorporating a unique way for free thinkers NASA challenge space development. How is block have become toys. Share the anticipated blueprint image team studies the next-generation spacecraft, while using the block and identify the problem. Easily can be recreated many times, easy and free thinking-is an advantage of the block. Using the block curiosity Inc. developed and went on. Research and development professionals “using blocks, a good idea? so readily detect if it isn’t policy change even faster” and speak.

The Knuth Cyberphysics Lab website can be found at:

Learn more by checking out this related post”

Mars Curiosity Rover Made Entirely of LEGOs

In celebration of the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, on Mars, Doug Moran and Will Gorman of built a LEGO MINDSTORMS model of the Mars Curiosity Rover. The model was part of the Build the Future in Space event at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The LEGO Curiosity Rover relies on 7 NXT Bricks running leJOS NXT. It employs 13 NXT Motors, two Power Function Motors, and 1000+ LEGO Bricks.

An article on the event can be found at There is also an article by the creators themselves at

LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover

LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover by Doug Moran and Will Gorman of BattleBricks

Here is a video of the rover in action!

Check out to learn more about the long-awaited NASA-LEGO partnership. And be sure to check out what the real Curiosity Rover is experiencing on Mars!

Build Your Own LEGO Mars Science Laboratory Rover (MOC-0271)

Stephen Pakbaz, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who actually worked on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as NASA’s Curiosity Rover has built a small LEGO model for others to build and enjoy!

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover LEGO Model

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover LEGO Model

This model features an offset differential suspension system that works so well on Mars, and this video on Flickr shows that it works well during play as well!

This model comes with free pdf instructions (download here) and a LEGO Digital Designer Model (download here).

More information can be found at and

One can also build the descent stage and sky crane pictured below!

LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover Descent Stage and Sky Crane

LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover Descent Stage and Sky Crane

Raspberry Pi: An ARM GNU/Linux box for $25

Move over LEGO brick!
Here comes Raspberry Pi, and it is going to change the face of robotics forever!

Raspberry Pi is Linux machine the size of a credit card. Plug in your television and a keyboard and you have a fully-functional computer for $25.

Layout of the Raspberry Pi ARM GNU/Linux Box Computer

There are two models, Model A and Model B.
Model A has 256MB RAM, 1 USB port and no Ethernet (network connection).
Model B has 256MB RAM, 2 USB ports and an Ethernet port.

It relies on a System on a Chip (SoC). The particular SoC used is Broadcom BCM2835. The Broadcom BNC2835 is a High Definition 1080p Embedded Multimedia Applications Processor. It relies on the ARM1176 (ARM1176JZF-S) Processor which has a floating point processor and runs at 700 MHz. Moreover, the SoC has a Videocore 4 GPU, which is capable of BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s. The Broadcom BNC2835 has a fast 3D core accessed using the supplied OpenGL ES2.0 and OpenVG libraries. The GPU is capable of 1 Gpixel/s, 1.5 Gtexel/s or 24 GFLOPs of general purpose computing.

The Raspberry Pi is SMALL!
The card is slightly larger than 85.60 mm x 53.98 mm x 17 mm due to the fact that the SD card and connectors project over the edges. It weighs with a mass of 45g. The Raspberry Pi is low power and runs on 4 AA cells.

Fedora, Debian and ArchLinux are supported and other distributions will be supported later. Python is the official educational language.

I cant wait to get my hands on one of these and begin interfacing directly with the LEGO motors and sensors!

A photograph of the Raspberry Pi

KnuthLab LEGO Exploration Rover

Image of KnuthLab Exploration Rover

KnuthLab Exploration Rover with Researchers A. Fischer and N. Malakar

The Knuth Cyberphysics Laboratory in the University at Albany Physics Department has developed the KnuthLab LEGO Exploration Rover, which acts as a testbed for robotic intelligence and navigation software. Development of this rover was funded by a NASA SBIR Award (Advanced Bayesian Methods for Lunar Surface Navigation) through Autonomous Exploration Inc. as well as a University at Albany Faculty Research Award (Developing Robotic Explorers, PI: K.H. Knuth).

The LEGO Exploration Rover is powered by six NXT Standard Motors in a Rocker-Bogie suspension system used in all of the NASA Mars rover designs. The rover is approximately 1.5 ft high with a 1 ft x 1.5 ft base. It is larger than the NASA Sojourner Rover, which was part of the Pathfinder Mission to Mars in 1997, and smaller than the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. It can safely carry a payload of 8 pounds.

Image of KnuthLab LEGO Exploration Rover

KnuthLab LEGO Exploration Rover

The LEGO Exploration Rover has two laptop bays built into the box-like frame in which it can carry two Asus Eee Laptops for onboard processing. The wheels are controlled by two LEGO NXT bricks, which can communicate with the laptops via Bluetooth. The rocker-bogie suspension and low speed allows it to handle relatively rugged terrain and steep grades.

The white frame mounted on top of the rover is the Bayesian Vision-Based Navigation System being developed by Autonomous Exploration Inc. for NASA.

Check back, as we will be posting videos of its operation and discussing some of the important design features.

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