PF-Idea-1_cover-front       PF-Idea-2_cover-front_new


These came in a while ago, but with all the travel this fall, I have been behind in my posting. I wanted to get share my review before the holiday season started as these are certainly must-haves for any LEGO Technic builder!

Before we dig into the books, let’s talk about the author, Yoshihito Isogawa. Yoshihito is one of the best Technic/MINDSTORMS builders out there. He hosts countless workshops in Japan and is always creating! What is so cool is that his creations can be used in so many different projects! They really are a great starting point. I highly recommend his LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book.

Now let’s talk about the LEGO Power Functions Idea Book Volume 1: Machines and Mechanisms. The first volume’s focus on machines is spot on! Many of the modules, for lack of a better term, are innovative ways to mount LEGO Power Functions motors and transfer power in a useful way.


As you can see from the example page, there quick little projects provide lots of photos and a bill of materials. While the book does not give you step-by-step instructions, much of the design is easy to figure out. More on that later.

The various machines Yoshihito provide lots of attachment points. I spent a few hours building some of the mechanisms from his book. I learned some good building techniques and I can really see myself using them in upcoming projects.

LEGO Power Functions Idea Book Volume 2: Cars and Contraptions is probably the more useful book for me. Many of the robots I build move. Cars and Contraptions shows some really unique drivetrains. These ideas would be super useful for FIRST LEGO League teams.


I rarely uses LEGO Power Functions in my drivetrains. These ideas will certainly change that. The beauty of LEGO Power Functions is that it super easy to integrate into a robot. While the motors are not encoded, they do provide a lot of power in a small package. These presents a unique design challenge and something that I am looking really forward to exploring.

My favorite part of this book is that it doesn’t give the entire design. So many of us are attached to building instructions. I love idea of just sharing pictures and letting others build off that idea. Yoshihito does exactly that. I found myself having to improvise when I couldn’t quite figure out how to make something or lacking a part. This was great fun and just added to the enjoyment from these books. The various models are simple enough that you get by with just photos, but yet also open ended so that is room to make your own take on everything! I would highly suggest this approach for anyone who feels that step-by-step instructions are too simple, but not quite ready to create from scratch.

Long story short, I would highly suggest both of these books and they should make it on to any holiday shopping list! Yoshihito is an amazing LEGO builder and it is truly a gift that he is sharing these ideas with the global LEGO community!

DSC_0830It’s hard to deny that “STEM” is the new buzzword in education. We need more STEM education! With the focus on this buzzword, schools are scrambling to figure out how to put STEM classes into their curriculum.

Robotics for me was the hook; it got me to explore, to question, to discover.

One of the most common ways schools are “adding STEM” is introducing robotics classes. I have seen countless schools that have introduced VEX IQ or LEGO MINDSTORMS as a way to address the need for STEM. These classes are “teaching” robotics, which as an engineer I don’t really understand.

Read the rest of this entry »

Remember that LEGO GoPro Gyro Stabilizer I showed in my Make Faires post? If not, check out the picture below!

Now you can 3D print that same GoPro to Technic Mount! I have posted it on Thingiverse. Go Check it out! All you need is 1 EV3, 3 Gyros, 3 Motors and an afternoon to make your own! Have fun!


WP_20150925_003 1WP_20150925_002
September was a busy month for me! The highlights were both Maker Faire Orlando at the Orlando Science Center and World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. You might have noticed a hint of what I have been up to over the past weeks. This post will be pretty heavy when it comes to pictures to help share the AWESOME that is the maker movement.

Never heard of Maker Faire? A Maker Faire is an event put on in conjunction with Make: magazine to celebrate “makers”. What is a maker? Well that is a little more difficult to understand. At its core a maker is someone who makes things. There is no age requirement to be a maker. There are lots of different types of makers. Some are ROBOT MAK3RS or people that make with LEGO MINDSTORMS. However that is hardly an official category. You might make robots, cars, giant flaming robot sculptures, paper models, apps, clothes. Making can use a range of materials from 3D printing to LEGO to metal/wood to fabric. Making is a form of expression and hands-on learning.

You can checkout coverage of the LEGO MINDSTORMS Booth, including some of my bots at The NXT Step!

Follow me after the break for more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Something is coming…

Posted: September 11, 2015 in News

Quick teaser of what is coming to World Maker Faire 2015. What might be inside?


Want a sneak peak? Stop by and check out the FIRST Robotics booth at Maker Faire Orlando. You might find me and my big box, hanging out with some of the coolest robots in the South!

I was working on my Icom 706MKII a little while ago. I had gotten a new Heil mic for my rig earlier this summer and needed to tweak the ALC on the radio. When I was telling my brother, Tony (KD8RTT), about it, he asked me to make a video to help viewers of his channel. Check out the video above if you’re having mic issues with your Icom 706!

Video  —  Posted: August 14, 2015 in Amateur Radio, Engineering
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

About 9 months ago, FATCATLAB posted a Kickstarter for an EV3 cape for the BeagleBone Black, an open source embedded Linux computer created by Texas Instruments. Their product was called the EVB. It was successfully funded and kits shipped out a few months ago. I received mine  a little while back. Generally I prefer using an EV3 brick, but I have loaned a bunch of my EV3s out to a local school district for training for FIRST LEGO League as they were awaiting their shipment of EV3s from LEGO Education.

See my thoughts (that didn’t make the video) after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

Video  —  Posted: August 11, 2015 in Engineering, LEGO, Robotics, Texas Instruments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Panda APRSI know I have been bad at posting projects recently, but here is one I have done a few times now that is super easy to reproduce. With the super cheap embedded Linux platforms (Raspi, Beaglebone, etc.) and cheap TV dongles, it is really easy to make your own APRS iGate, just like the one in the photo above. This tutorial will give you the steps to get going with an APRS iGate. What is APRS you ask?

APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. It is a 1200 baud RF (mainly ham radio) packet system commonly used to record telemetry. Sometimes it is fun to log a trip or track a robot. APRS is a great tool for these sorts of problems. In the USA, APRS is commonly used on 144.39 MHz. It can be used between radios directly or can be used to log on the internet (via websites such as  via an internet gateway or iGate.

To get started, follow me past the break.  Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Alive!

Posted: May 24, 2015 in News

Wow, it is been a busy six months! In case you haven’t seen my travels on Facebook, I have been all over the country and busy with several projects. This post will just be a quick recap and I’ll focus on sharing the projects this summer!9484_1580717765473637_493469672449590109_n

  • December 2014: LEGO Club Magazine posts my Creep3r and I spend a good chunk of my time researching some power vacuum tube projects.
  • January 2015: Lots of FIRST events, roof work at W4DFU, and a Raspi picture display project for my church
  • February 2015: Intel Edison and LEGO MINDSTORMS interfacing (more to see at Maker Faire NY 2015 in September!), Orlando Hamcation, Creep3r goes to LEGO World, and more FIRST (South Florida Regional).
  • March 2015: FLL State Championship, Orlando FRC Regional, and NVIDIA GTC (and visits to Groupon and Google).
  • April 2015: Southern Maine Gearbots district meet (Jr. FLL), FIRST Championship, and Megacon.
  • May 2015: International ROBOT MAK3R Day (LIVE from the LEGOLAND Florida Resort) and more work at W4DFU

So that brings us to the countless projects (some mentioned above) that I have been working on! Lots of LEGO MINDSTORMS, 3D Printing, Intel Edison, Raspberry Pi (Raspi), just to name a few. Be sure to stay tuned this summer as I work to get all these projects online!

3495OS_Lego Mindstorms Essentials_Mini

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Essentials by Abid H. Mujtaba in a new offering from PACKT Publishing. I was able to review the ebook over the last couple weeks.

PACKT did a good job in publishing the book in color. The book presents the EV3 in great details. It goes over each sensor and motor and includes comments on using NXT electronics with EV3. However, some of the images used were out of focus or looked cropped. The screen captures of the EV3 screen were good quality, which is key to understanding what is going one. That said, if you want a summary of EV3 hardware, there are better books out there. You might consider another option.

Where this book really shined (albeit a bit unusual approach, by not actually talking about some of the really cool tools of leJOS) is that it provided an overview of Java leJOS on EV3. It goes over some basic Linux settings (wifi among other things) on the brick. It goes over IDEs and Makefiles. The book provides some good sample programs to get you started. It sort of assumes you have some exposure to Java and Linux, but not much on MINDSTORMS.

Overall I would recommend this book if you want to do Java on EV3 and have some Linux exposure. However, there is some room for improvement. Naturally, it is LEGO and MINDSTORMS, not Lego nor Mindstorms. Lastly, leJOS has some impressive tools out of the box that seem to be ignored.