Creating a new LEGO TECHNIC interface


This hackerspace swapped out the Apple II for an Arduino and a touchscreen.


Readers that were born in the 1980s or early 1990s may remember something called “LEGO TECHNIC.” These were advanced LEGO components that, along with other interesting mechanical parts, could be electrically driven and even controlled with an Apple II computer.

LBAP_Screen_Lit

The LVL1 Hackerspace in Louisville was fortunate enough to receive a set as a donation, including the 70455 interface module. Unfortunately, the space did not have a working Apple II to interface with it, so a member decided to “simply” make an Arduino interface for the device instead.

Lego

Going from donation to interface completion took several years, but the first step was to open up the box. Although looking inside things is generally a good thing to try when hacking unknown equipment, this proved unnecessary since it was already documented and available online. Based on research, an Arduino shield was then created to interface the Arduino outputs with the LEGO control box.

After everything was wired, code was written to control it, and thus the TECHNIC components. A touchscreen was added to complete the build as seen in the video below.

Although certainly an interesting exercise in resurrecting “ancient” technology, another alternative would likely have been to directly power the light and motor using a motor shield. Then again, what fun would that be?

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