Tag Archives: LEGO

Maker builds a McNugget vending machine entirely out of LEGO

Ba da ba ba ba, we’re lovin’ this!

Despite whether or not you’re a fan of fast food, those feelings will go out the door after seeing this nifty desktop McNugget dispenser made entirely out of LEGO. Simply insert a €2 coin, sit back and let it deliver a box of nuggets in seconds, complete with the necessary dipping sauce.


Bring your LEGO projects to life with the Brick Sound Kit

This rocket-shaped device will add motion-activated sound effects to any LEGO or Mega Bloks project. 

“What if there was a way to record our own sounds and play them back whenever we flew our Lego spaceship?” This was the simple question that prompted eight-year-old Chase Freedman to explore his imagination and resulted in the conception of the Brick Sound Kit — an attachable device that allows users to record or download sounds to enhance their playing experience.


Instead of having to actually make the typical “whoosh,””pew pew” and “pow pow” noises  yourself, the Brick Sound Kit enables children (and those who are still kids at heart) to transform their toys into interactive machines. Recreating your favorite scenes from Star Wars has never been so much fun!

The BSK is built around an Arduino-friendly board equipped with an ATmega328, LEDs, light-up buttons, a AAA battery and a gyroscope, all protected by a highly durable, rocket-shaped enclosure. This casing not only functions as a standalone toy, it can easily snap onto anything you build with Lego, Mega Bloks, Kre-O and other compatible brick building sets.


Freedman’s innovation is ready for use right out of the box. What’s more, it can be paired over Bluetooth with the accompanying BSK Sound Effects App, along with other apps and games to add more interaction to the your bricks in just minutes.

And that’s not all. The Brick Sound Kits includes an FTDI USB adapter and cable so you can reprogram the gadget’s capabilities using free Arduino tools. Open source SDKs let anyone build their own apps and games controlled by the BSK. All programming is super simple for users of any age or skill, and will be supported by the team through a developer portal.

The young Maker didn’t do this all by himself; in fact, he collaborated with his father, Chuck, to bring the idea to life — and now Kickstarter. After receiving enormous amounts of great feedback from friends and family, the duo looked into how they could commercialize the invention and make it something that other people could use. The two ended up contracting Boston University Electronics Design Facility to develop the kit’s circuit board and Clear Design Lab of Boston to design the housing.


“The Brick Sound Kit is not only a device for kids. It was also developed to be used by enthusiasts and collectors, that want to enhance the device even further and create their own programs and sounds. All this comes together in a marketplace where sounds, apps and games can be exchanged between Brick Sound Kit users and developers,” dad explains.

Are you ready to make the spaceship of your dreams? Then fly on over to the Brick Sound Kit’s Kickstarter campaign, where the father-son duo is currently seeking $18,000. Amazingly, Chase is actually the second eight-year-old Maker to launch a crowdfunding campaign this year. Over the summer, Omkar Govil-Nair debuted his O Watch, which went on to garner more than $18,000.

Watch a LEGO band cover Daft Punk’s ‘Da Funk’

Billed as “the world’s first robotic LEGO band,” each member of Toa Mata is made of Bionicle pieces and powered by Arduino.

Last year at this time, Italian sound artist Giuseppe Acito caught our attention with his innovative take on Depeche Mode’s anthemic 1983 single “Everything Counts.” What made it so different, you ask? The rearranged tune wasn’t performed by him, but instead by his entirely LEGO-based, ATmega328 powered band that he calls Toa Mata.


Billed as the world’s first LEGO robotic group, the Toa Mata Band is controlled by Arduino Uno hooked up to a MIDI sequencer. For his latest project, Acito wired the Bionicle bunch to several servos, each driven by the Arduino.


With a little programming via MIDI, the band was able to play Daft Punk’s hit song “Da Funk” using a range of instruments and synthesizers including Fender Jazz Bass, Ableton Push/Live, Coron Drum, Korg DS10 synth, Finger BassLine, Boss HC-2, Moog Animoog, and a Nintendo DS.

Pretty cool, right? Watch Acito’s Toa Mata Band recreate Daft Punk’s legendary track below! Meanwhile, you can browse some of his other work here.

Watch this Maker remotely control a robot with his LEGO exoskeleton

Danny Benedettelli has added a new dimension to remote manipulators by building a robotic exoskeleton out of LEGO.

A remote manipulator, also known as a “waldo” thanks to the 1942 short story by Robert Heinlein, is an electronic telemetric input device that enables a mechanism to be controlled by a human operator. This method can be found in a variety of applications, ranging from NASA to Hollywood special effects and the Muppets.


Following the same principles, Daniele Benedettelli has developed an impressive wearable LEGO exoskeleton that can wirelessly control a LEGO Cyclops MK II humanoid. While wearing the upper-body suit, the Maker can command the robot to carry out a movement, such as bending his arms or waving goodbye, by simply acting it out himself.

The Cyclops MK II, which is the latest iteration of an ongoing project from four years ago, is based on a pair of LEGO Mindstorms NXTs (AT91SAM7S256/ATmega48), six motors and his own custom Android smartphone app. The robot is connected over Bluetooth with an Arduino fitted to the back of the suit that transmits motion signals. The LEGO exoskeleton also has a potentiometer for each degree-of-freedom that the robot has. Meaning, when Benedettelli moves his shoulder, the movement is read by the Arduino and sent wirelessly to the Cyclops MK II, allowing it to mimic anything Benedettelli does.


Benedettelli is far from being done tinkering with his humanoid friend and its corresponding suit, though. The Maker admits that this is merely a prototype, so don’t be surprised if you see a new version boasting an upgraded design with enhanced controls and more functionality. For one, he is hoping to implement a mechanism that would enable the Transformer and Iron Man-like gadget to walk around, as well as open and close its hands. As we wait to see what’s next, you can watch his project in action below!

This Luigi LEGO portrait lights up and plays Super Mario Bros. music

This mosaic LEGO portrait of Super Mario Bros. sprites is comprised of LED panels, transistors and an ATmega328. 

By now, we’re sure you’ve come across at least one of Maker Baron von Brunk’s amazing LEGO projects. From his Starmen to Dry Bones sprites, and everything in between, the talented and quirky New York artist continues to impress us with his LED-flashing, nostalgic chiptunes-playing Super Mario Bros. creations.


Added to his growing list is the Illuminated Mosaic Musical Luigi, which combines the polyphonic sound code from his electronic Dry Bones sprites along with the structural functionality of his illuminated mosaic Link portrait. In this new project, von Brunk uses a grid of flat LED panels fastened onto a rear door, with a 16Ω speaker attached as well. Controlling the whole circuit is a homemade circuit board based on an ATmega328P that contains an Arduino code for playing the Super Mario Bros. “level complete” theme and activating the lights.

“The biggest technological feat for this project is how I successfully managed to control the 12V LED panels through a small 5.5V AVR, through the help of transistors. In layman’s terms, a small microcontroller like the ATmega328 is only capable of controlling circuits between 3-5.5V; anything else will burn out the chip. By using transistors attached to the digital outputs of the ATmega, I can control much larger loads, with the overall 12V input power being directed into the circuit via a voltage regulator,” the artist explains.

As for the LEGO portion of the project, it was rather straightforward and fortunately didn’t present any obstacles along the way. Towards the tail-end, though, the Maker did have to slightly tweak the mosaic in order to use a small tactile button to trigger the circuit. Originally, he had a large momentary pushbutton installed near the bottom of the rear door, but the button required too much pressure to push, which caused the structure to wobble and almost fall over when pressed.


“Creating the circuit board and wiring the Arduino code was also rather simple, since I used the same functionality of the Dry Bones model. Unfortunately, when I was testing out the method of using transistors for controlling the LED panels, I accidentally loaded the 12V power into my Arduino Uno’s 5.5V input — thus frying it. After purchasing a new Arduino, I successfully did some breadboard experiments with TIP120 transistors to control the LED panels,” he adds.

What’s cool is that the LEGO structure opens like a book, and on the back door are eight white SMD LED panels connected in parallel to three digital output pins of the ATmega328P — cathode to cathode, with the red positive wires being channeled into the positive terminal of the 12V power supply. For sound output, von Brunk created some makeshift speaker holes atop the right orange brick sprite. This was achieved by placing LEGO grille tiles over headlight pieces.

Reading about the portrait is one thing, but seeing it in all of its glory is a whole ’nother story. Intrigued? Be sure to head over to its official page here.

This LEGO Super Mario Bros. sprite plays polyphonic music

Maker creates an electronic LEGO Super Mario Bros. Dry Bones sprite with glowing eyes and polyphonic music.

Who could forget the days of slipping a Super Mario Bros. cartridge into their Nintendo console and the distinct chiptune soundbites that ensued from hitting every power-up? Inspired by the ‘80s pop culture phenomenon, last year Baron von Brunk created mini 3D pixelated versions of the iconic Starman and Super Mushroom boosters entirely from LEGO pieces, and impressively, embedded them with circuitry to emit sound and flash LED lights in unison.


Now several months later, the Maker has returned with another slick project — which he tweeted to us just moments ago. Using similar technology as his previous LEGO Super Mario power-ups, he has designed a new 3D sprite that can actually play polyphonic music. This is made possible through Len Shustek’s Miditones Arduino code, which is capable of converting MIDI files into binary code and then being split amongst multiple AVR timers for three sound channels.


For this particular build, von Brunk chose the Fortress theme from Super Mario Bros. 3. Along with the tunes, the eyes once again blink with a flickering red LED. However, unlike his previous projects, the Dry Bones model employs four AAA batteries along with an ATmega328P, rather than two coin cells and an ATtiny85.

“I wanted to use a standard LED to blink in synch with the music, but alas I wasn’t able to achieve this due to the ATmega’s timers being occupied with the musical score,” the Maker explains.

Intrigued? See it in action below!

Building a LEGO radio with littleBits and an ATtiny84

Oh Henry! Turn up the music with this littleBits project.

Give Philip Verbeek a bunch of LEGO blocks, a handful of littleBits, an MCU and a challenge, and there’s no over-the-top creation that the Maker can’t bring to life. Those of you who recall his earlier project — a pinball machine comprised of over 4,000 plastic bricks, six servos, five motors, an MP3 and Arduino — are sure to love his latest piece of work: Henry the LEGO Radio.


Just like any conventional boombox, Verbeek is able to adjust the music’s volume, automatically scan forward and backward for stations, and manually turn the dial for new tunes. Take apart the LEGO bricks to reveal its inner workings and what you will find are a pair of synth speakers, a dimmer, a button, a few wires, a battery, a power module, as well as an ATtiny84 based Radio Bit board.


The Radio Bit can be used as a standalone device (with a power Bit) or in combination with other littleBits modules, as seen in this project. For instance, if paired with the cloudBit, users can even trigger weather forecasts and employ the radio as an alarm in the morning. This unit boasts three buttons (scanning, next song and mute), a couple of indicator LEDs, a digital FM transmitter, a low-power audio amplifier and an audio jack with an adjustable volume, which when connected to a set of headphones, doubles as an antenna. According to Verbeek, Makers can also extend the antenna via an antenna connector. Meanwhile, built-in memory will store the last radio station before powering down.


Intrigued? Be sure to check out his official project page here, where you can vote for his littleBits module to go into production!

This 3D printer is made of LEGO bricks

Don’t let its appearance fool you, this LEGO machine will work just as good as any Prusa i3 printer.

Reminiscing about your earliest years as a Maker will surely conjure up some memories of interlocking multi-colored plastic bricks. Since its debut in 1949, LEGO has remained synonymous with DIY, especially for the younger crowd. As of late, we have been seeing quite the convergence of the 3D printing and toy worlds, ranging from Disney to Mattel, with hopes of delivering customizable items on demand. And who’s to say that it only has to be for child’s play? One Maker has proven just that by devising a fully-functional 3D printer comprised of, well, LEGO pieces.


The brainchild of Gosse Adema, the so-called LEGO 3D Printer is based on the framework of a Prusa i3 printer. Originally conceived as an A4-plotter with stepper motors from an old HP printer, the Maker had decided to upgrade to Nema 17 stepper motors and transform it into a slick X, Y and Z axis machine.

Though a quick online search may reveal a number of LEGO-based 3D gizmos, none of them may be as impressive as this one. Made up of default-sized bricks (four by two studs at 32mm x 16mm x 9.6mm), this innovative contraption is capable of extruding plastic like any other desktop device. The printer boasts a base of 34 x 64 studs (19.2cm x 51.2cm), which determines the exact location of the Y axis, along with a height of 44 blocks (42cm) and a sturdy L-frame that’s 36 blocks tall. This, of course, dictates how high a printed object can be.


Keep in mind, as with any LEGO project, the taller the structure, the more unstable the frame becomes. For support, the Maker ensured that every fifth piece was a technic brick. And unlike the X axis of a Prusa i3 consisting of a separate left and right side connected by two rods, Adema instead implemented one large X axis using long technic bricks for enhanced stability. Beyond that, Nema 17 steppers are attached to the technics using a felt damper/isolator and M3x15 bolts, giving it a robust base.

Adema makes it known that he did not use any Mindstorms product for this build. Whereas most LEGO printers employ servos, this design worked quite nicely with stepper motors. As with any Prusa i3, this device was powered by the incredibly popular combination of an ATmega2560 MCU with a RAMPS 1.4 shield. The motor responsible for driving the entire operation is held in place with technic bricks at the back. In terms of software, the gadget uses Marlin for the ATmega2560, while running Pronterface on his laptop to control the printer.


In his Instructables post, Adema explains in great detail as to how he assembled the frame, completed the X, Y and Z axes, added each of the three endstops, attached the threaded rod and installed the Geeetech MK8 extruder. What’s more, the heat bed is capable of reaching 110° C, while the printhead starts at 170° C. The Maker notes that prior to installing the Marlin software, a few changes to the printer and its configuration were necessary.

“My first print had some problems with the amount of filament but everything worked. The main problem was the difference in filament settings and extruder nozzle. This was caused by the Pronterface settings,” the Maker writes. “This resulted in feeding too few filament. Next error was the default nozzle size is 0.5 mm with a layer height of 0.4 mm. The actual nozzle is 0.3 mm.”

This simply meant that he had to adjust the settings a tad, aside from calibrating some of its parts.


“Although the printer needs to be further calibrated everything is working properly,” Adema concludes. “By ensuring that all axes move smoothly, no steps are skipped by the stepper motors. This was one of the problems during the first print.”

As with any LEGO project, having the ability to modify the gadget after it’s constructed is certainly an advantage. While it may look like a toy at first glance, this 3D printer can actually create some credible 3D models. Sound like a unit you’d love to try? Head over to the Maker’s elaborate tutorial on Instructables here, or watch it in action below!

UberBlox is a modular construction set for Makers

Like LEGOs on steroids. 

Iconic toy systems like Tinkertoy, LEGO and K’NEX have served as building blocks for the Maker Movement for decades, inspiring young do-it-yourselfers to piece together bricks, interlock rods and connect wheels to whip up some incredible projects. And, it’s clearer than ever before that today’s DIY culture is spurring an appetite for modular tools, as seen with the rise of littleBits and open-source machines.


Embodying many of the same principles, UberBlox is a new high-quality metal construction set for Makers to devise rigid structures and automated machines. The prototyping system features a unique single-connector locking mechanism that uses a common tool to quickly and precisely lock each block to the next. Affixing the components together creates an accurate, strong and rigid frame that can be used for a variety of applications and structures.


Aside from the basic blocks, the set also includes a growing catalog of compatible and reconfigurable parts, such as moving components, sub-assemblies, motors, electronics and controllers based on popular boards like the Atmel based Arduino, for a complete solution. This provides even the most sophisticated Makers the ability to build impressive machines, ranging from 3D printers and CNC machines to various forms of robots as their knowledge and understanding of the UberBlox system increases.

What’s more, UberBlox allows Makers to quickly and easily test out new design concepts for either entire 3D printing systems or portions of them for that matter, without getting bogged down in the fabrication process.


In addition to just 3D printers, the modular system can also come in handy for those seeking to construct various types of robots, including manipulator arms, rovers, and humanoids.

“We believe the time is right to bring a sophisticated high-quality construction system and prototyping set, backed by great support and community engagement, to Makers of all levels,” explained UberBlox founder Alex Pirseyedi.

Indeed, the creative nature of the UberBlox concept makes the innovative system an ideal project for Kickstarter. The company plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can watch its trailer below!

Relive those Super Mario Bros. days with these musical LED sprite pieces

Remember the days of slipping a Super Mario cartridge into your Nintendo console? Who could forget those distinct chiptune soundbites that ensued hitting a power-up?

If you recall, the retro game included a multitude of power boosters, such as Starmen and Super Mushrooms, which allowed Mario to morph into Super Mario and experience temporary invincibility, respectively.


Inspired by the ‘80s pop culture phenomenon, Maker Baron von Brunk has created mini 3D pixelated versions of the iconic Starman and Super Mushroom entirely from LEGO pieces, and impressively, rigged with a circuit to play sound and flash LED lights. Inside each model lies an ATtiny85, which is programmed with an Arduino code that enable the eyes to blink in sync with the tone music (not WAVs or MP3s) with a push a small tactile button.


First, von Brunk designed three stars (glowing yellow, ice blue, gold) to play the invincibility theme, whilst the fourth star (rainbow) emits the Super Mario Bros. 3 “Coin Heaven” music and uses color-changing eyes.

Similarly, in his second build, the Maker tasked various colored mushrooms with various sounds. For instance, both of the green mushrooms (white with green dots and green with white dots) use an Arduino melody version of the “1-up” tune traditionally used in the Super Mario franchise, while the red hat variants sound small segments of both Super Mario World’s “Overworld” and “World Ending” themes.


“You’re absolutely free to deviate from my musical codes and swap out any music you’d like, so long as you know how to tweak the Arduino code and manipulate notes. I personally recommend using the Super Mario World and Super Mario 3 songs for their corresponding mushrooms to maintain video game accuracy,” von Brunk notes.

Ready to spark up some gaming nostalgia? You can access a detailed breakdown of both projects on the Maker’s official Instructables page here. Meanwhile, watch both creations in action below!