So You’ve Decided to Build a Killer Robot…

For those of you who attended BrickCan 2018, you probably spent some time watching a big plexiglass case with LEGO robots battling each other built by WilF.  If you saw it and thought this looks like fun, and want to build your own for BrickCan 2019, then read on….

The rules are posted on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/6557730 … 549021114/

——————————–

 

This is going to be a comprehensive guide to beginning your adventure into destroying other people’s Lego by means of robotic combat. Here, I will be going over the basics of design and thought process, as well as a little of what I’ve learned over the past year.

all things.jpg

PART 1

The Controller:

Let’s start with the brains of your robot and their effectiveness. To build a competitive machine you will need a micro controller that is capable of performing the tasks you want it to do. Let’s go over some of your options:

-Lego IR receiver: Lego’s previous generation controller for their Power Functions peripherals. It uses infrared to communicate with the user. It is capable of performing basic tasks but is susceptible to interference given off by fluorescent lights. It is also held back by a limited number of channels and the receiver must be visible to the user’s handheld control at all times. Its range is also limited to 15-25 feet and or even less in convention settings.

-Lego Powered Up: Lego’s new generation controller platform. At this point in time, Powered Up shows promise for the future of Lego robotics. Powered Up uses Bluetooth to communicate with the user’s controller or smartphone. It is compact, has an on-board power source and is not hampered by range or interference, unlike Lego’s previous generation IR controller. However, the only motor available for Powered Up is a motor equivalent to Power Function’s M Motor. Powered Up also only has two slots for peripherals which makes Powered Up useless for building a robot with two drive motors and a weapon motor. Powered Up-compatible motors also have new plugs which cannot be stacked on a single socket, unlike the old Power Function motors. Until Lego releases a socket splitter, then Powered Up is all but useless.

-Third party controller, “SBrick:”

sbrick1.jpg

The Sbrick is an extremely capable Bluetooth controller. It communicates to the user by smartphone app. It is Power Functions compatible. It receives power via a PF battery box or any power source that is PF compatible. It has four plug sockets on top and one power socket on the bottom. The Sbrick’s circuits are limited to approximately 11.6 volts at 2 amps.

sbrick2.jpg

The app is an extremely customizable way of building a control scheme for your machine. You may build your custom control scheme via their website or choose from a variety of premade control profiles. Follow the jist of these steps to get things working
1) Log in or sign up to https://designer.sbrick.com/
2) choose the aspect ratio of your phone screen that your control profile will be used upon.
3) place your sliders, joysticks, etc and save when done.
4) log onto the sbrick app on your phone, add your controller and then assign the appropriate SBrick motor sockets to your sliders, joysticks, etc.

Pro-tip: If you want to use the joystick to controller a tank drive, rotate the joystick placement in the designer phase by 45 degrees.

It is also possible to control SBrick with a game controller https://social.sbrick.com/videos/14132/ … gaming-pad

-Third party controller, “BuWizz:”

buwizz1.jpg

BuWizz is a polarizing controller among the community. It is a fairly recent addition to third party Lego controls. BuWizz has a lot of bugs to iron out, assuming they’ll ever iron them out. Its control interface is clunky. Customization is shallow and not nearly as in-depth as that of the SBrick. For instance, there is no way for you to be able to efficiently control tank drive by joystick through means of interface customization. The price point is also a massive downfall. At $200CAD, it’s a large financial investment to put down on a toy controller.

That being said, the devs behind the BuWizz have a clear set of intentions that are quite frankly, insane. Let’s run some bare numbers about the capability of this thing. The BuWizz has an on-board power supply that is a god damned 12 volt Lithium Ion battery. Its maximum output is 4 Amps of current. For those of you questioning whether or not that is a lot of power, yes. Yes it is.

power!.jpg

To put into perspective, a Power Functions battery box runs somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7.4-7.8 volts with NiMH batteries, 9 volts with NiCd batteries. The Power Functions LiPo box runs at about 7.4 volts. All PF battery boxes have current limited to approximately .8 amps before thermal overload protection trips. We should also consider that Lego rates their motors to safely run between .5-.7 amps, and should not exceed 1 amp of current. So when you’re dumping that much current into Lego’s motors, well, you’re gonna do things with Lego that it may not have been specifically designed for, such as getting a weighted disk to whip around at a couple thousand RPM, moving from the category of “children’s toy” and more towards “potentially dangerous weapon.”

WEIGHING YOUR OPTIONS

larry david.gif

There are two things to consider when investing in your controller.

The first one is price. These things can be heavy financial investments. An $80 SBrick costs a little bit less than a $200+ BuWizz. While I only mentioned these two as hardware recommendations, there are other third party controllers out there that may be cheaper. You may even go the route of buying an RC controller or an Arduino. It’s only through personal experience and ease of setup that I recommend the SBrick and BuWizz. I know the Pfx Brick is a preference for some, but I haven’t used it because I don’t believe it suits my needs.

Secondly, consider what sort of robot you want to build. You may find that what you want to design is limited by the controller you’ve bought. Do you want to build a robot that has a passive weapon or an active weapon(a weapon that is only used at the user’s discretion, versus a weapon that needs to be constantly turned on to be effective)? Do you want to design a robot whose strategy is centered around driving/maneuvering or kinetic energy? A robot that uses a clamp to grapple an opponent may use less electrical power than a robot that uses a spinning blade, and may require a controller that gives the user a superior control interface rather than sheer explosive energy.

MOTORS:

This section I will be going over some of the strengths and weaknesses of Lego Motors to the best of my knowledge. I am going to focus on the Power Functions line of motors because they are the most easily accessible and because I am most experienced with the PFs. If you are looking for extremely in-depth charts and power tests on the motors, I’d direct you to this website: http://www.philohome.com/motors/motorcomp.htm

Have a look over the page. It’s an extremely useful resource for everything past and (nearly) present for all things Lego motors. In fact, check out the whole webpage http://www.philohome.com/

-MOTOR 5292 Buggy Motor:

r5292.jpg

Okay, I did say I’d be focusing on PF motors, but 5292 is the supposed Power Overwhelming of all motors that Lego has ever produced.

ima let you.jpg

This thing is so power hungry that the modern standard power sources cannot even adequately feed it the juice that it needs to run at peak efficiency. At its base output, it runs at 1000rpm+, compared to say, the PF motors that run base in the low to mid hundreds. I myself have zero experience with this thing, so I cannot personally verify the claims that those on the interwebs have said about 5292. I also cannot personally speak for its speed to torque ratio, either. What I do know is that I cannot be bothered to put out $90+ for a used, approaching twenty years old motor that does not have any sort of overload protection and might cook itself in an instant if put in the wrong situation. If you can manage to get a hold of one of these motors, cherish it. Its notoriety as an unprecedented and legendary Lego part makes it more of a collectors item rather than something you’d want to dump into a scenario where you risk destroying it. On the off hand that you are considering using it, consider the following points:

Advantages of 5292 Buggy Motor:
-Essentially God Mode
– ∞ RPMs
-Will tear hole in space-time
Disadvantages:
-Underpowered if used with standard, currently available Lego Power Sources. Third party power sources required.
-Rare
-$90-$130CAD for a used one
-16 years old
-No built-in thermal/current protection
-Unverifiable statistics to tell if it’s a viable motor in robot combat

-MOTOR PF Medium:

pf m.jpg

Something you need to consider when designing a fighting robot is its weight as a finite resource. In all robot fighting competitions, classes are limited by weight. Because of this, you should think about how you’re attributing weight to your robot’s subsystems. How strong do you want your drive and weapon subsystems to be respectively? If you want to build a control robot where you are focused on outdriving your opponent, you may want to add bigger and more powerful motors to your robot’s drive. On the other hand, if you want to make an extremely powerful weapon, you need to dump more weight into the weapon drive.

This is where the M motor comes into play. It is the lightest out of the three PF motors at 31g, but it is also the weakest. Ungeared, it delivers the most rpm in the PF line, but is also susceptible to being overworked quickly and cannot move heavy loads without gearing it down.

Advantages of the M motor:
-lightest at 31 grams
-physically takes up the least volume/smallest footprint
-highest direct rpm
-lowest current draw
-Lego stud mounting base
Disadvantages:
-Susceptible to overheating and dying during overusage
-somewhat underpowered. Useful only in specific applications.
-Only 4 Technic mounting points

-MOTOR PF Large:

rpf-large.jpg

I’ve found the L motor to be a decent balance between torque, speed and weight. Additionally, it also has 14 mounting points–the most out of any of the PF motors.

Advantages of the L motor:
-significantly increased performance in every way over the PF M
-14 Technic mounting points
-42 grams
Disadvantages:
-Not good enough to be used for kinetic energy weapons
-Can be a power suck. If this motor stalls, you risk tripping the thermal overload on your battery box.
-For some reason this motor costs more than the XL motor

-MOTOR PF XL:

rpf-xl.jpg

It is possible to mistake the XL motor as the weakest because its rpm is the slowest. This is not the case. The XL motor is by far the strongest of the PF line and quite possibly the best motor Lego has produced. This motor needs to be geared in order to be used properly due to its rather low RPM. A single XL Motor can be geared up to 1:7.5 to give you an excess of 1000rpm+ with a weighted load. For instance, Lego Nightmare is geared to 1:7.5 while pulling a 180 gram, 20 stud wide disk with ease at approximately 1350 rpm at 4 amps. I have tested an M and an L motor with the same 1:7.5 gear configuration. Both the M and L struggle with that load compared to the XL.

nightmare profile view.jpg

If you combine two XL Motors, you can gear them to 1:15.At that point you start moving into the physically dangerous weapons territory of things.

Kinetic energy weapons are not the only application XL motor can be used for. I use one on a 1:1 gear ratio on a lifter and 2 XL Motors on a 1:4 gear ratio to power an overhead swinging hammer. If you can manage to allocate weight and space into your robot design, then the XL is for you.

Advantages of the XL motor:
-Most versatile motor and has multiple applications
-Highest amount of torque out of all three PF motors
Disadvantages:
-69 grams. One of the heaviest Lego motors and the heaviest PF motor
-Very bulky. It’s nearly as wide as it is tall. Its overall shape and placement of mounting points makes it hard to place into a machine.
-Gearing this motor to fit your application is going to take up additional space
-So power hungry you can only attach two to a single modern Lego battery box at once
____________
This concludes the primer to basic electronics in regards to their usage in Lego robot combat. In the next part, I’ll go over the thought process on designing your fighting machine from the ground up.

-WilF

Posted in Front Page News | Leave a comment

Matt’s Flushing Toilet GBC (Great Ball Contraption)

Matt is a new this year member to the VLC, and a talented and prolific GBC creator. He posts these videos to our public forums, but I hope to get more exposure for his creations by posting them to our Front Page. While this one has been out for a short while, I thought it would be a fun one to start with.

 

For more of his creations, head to this public forum thread.

http://www.vlc.ca/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5172

Posted in MOC Announcement | Leave a comment

The VLC represents at BrickCon 2018

October 4-7 at BrickCon in Seattle the VLC showed up, make their presence felt, and walked away with all sorts of hardware.

In the games portion of the convention, VLC members won a number of the games played, proving they’re the fastest, most creative, and best while blinded… The winners were

Team Speed Build
John Kwok
John Langrish

Master Build
Finalists:
Keith Reed
David Gagnon
Dave DeGobbi

Champion: Keith Reed

Blind Build:
Heat A Fastest Time – Andrew Delbaere
Heat B Fastest Time – Keith Reed
Heat B Fewest Errors – David Guedes

Unbuild
Keith Reed

On the building side of things, VLC members picked up a whopping 7 trophies for their excellence in MOC creation. The winners spanned a wide range of categories and showed what the VLC has to offer. In no particular order those winners were:

Architecture – Leaves and Grass
Paul Hetherington – Palace in Wonderland

Super Heroes – Infinity Award
Chris Strebly – Teen Titans GO!

Great Ball Contraption – Rookie of the Gear
Dave DeGobbi – Water Wheel

Town/Train – Best Rolling Stock
Will Fong – BCER Interurban 1223

Art/Mosaic/Sculpture – Best in Art
Paul Hetherington – Sunday Afternoon Tea Train to Tetley

Town/Train – Best Scene
David Guedes – Let it Be

Dystopian – They Blew It Up
Allan Corbeil – Red Rocket

The VLC would like to thank the team at BrickCon for another amazing event, and we can’t wait to be back next year.

But before then you’ll find most of us at BrickCan! This year it will be May 4th and 5th at the River Rock Casino in Richmond.  Learn more about it here: http://www.brickcan.com/

Posted in Front Page News | Leave a comment

You have a Friend in….Space

VLC member  Tyler Sky is at it again with his Friend-ly takes on the Star Wars Universe. His latest creation is the BFF B-Wing which joins his impressive roster of ships which also includes:
BFF Y-Wing
Stephanie’s T-70 X- Wing

and many more that can be found at his Flickr page.

The fine folks at The Brothers Brick have also done a profile on the BFF B-Wing, which can be found here.

Posted in Front Page News | Leave a comment

New Westminster Museum & Archives – People Gotta Move

We got some excellent coverage on the CBC Vancouver News tonight about our newest display People Gotta Move.  But one viewer noticed that the details weren’t mentioned as to when and where they could see the work that our many builders put into it:

It opens tomorrow, Thursday July 5th, 2018 at 6pm at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster, 3rd floor.  The exhibit will run until November 16th, 2018.  Admission is by donation.

For more info:  https://anvilcentre.com/attend/

The list of builders and helpers are as follows:  

Dave DeGobbi, David Guedes, Allan Corbeil, David Gagnon, Will Fong, Tim Tosino, Lee Wager, Clay Wager, Shane Weckstrom, Peter Trotter, James Hargrave, Kenmore Thompson, Andrew Robertson, Keith Reed, John Kwok, Dawn Paczynski, Andrew Delbaere, Kyler Storm, Daniel Watson, Stephanie Reid,  Melinda Moore, Darren Ma, Thanh Le, Emily Tepper and Pierre Chum

 

Posted in Front Page News | Leave a comment

VLC TV – Radiator Springs by Keith Reed

VLC TV takes a look at the massive 15,000+ piece Radiator springs by Keith Reed.

See more of his work here:
Instagram: www.instagram.com/hamslice44
Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithreed

 

Posted in Front Page News | Leave a comment

VLC TV – Ballder Springs by Jason Von Innerebner

VLC TV takes a closer look at a fantastic GBC/historical MOC created by VLC member Jason Von Innerebner.

See more of Jason and his partner in crime Sarah’s creations on their social media pages.
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/therebrickers/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jasonvoni

Posted in Front Page News | Leave a comment

BrickCan 2018 is nearly upon us!

If you turned on the CBC Our Vancouver this morning you would have seen this segment with Canada’s one and only, LEGO Certified Professional, Robin Sather talking about BrickCan 2018.

 

And if you haven’t purchased your tickets to attend one of the six available, two hour time slots, then what are you waiting for?

 

Posted in Front Page News, Media | Leave a comment

Sarah’s Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Library at BrickCan 2018

Typically, I don’t want to spoil what you’re going to see at BrickCan but perhaps to tease you with a glimpse of what you might see will get those people on the fence about going to get off their butts and book their tickets which are rapidly selling out.

Tickets

Last year, for Vault 604 based on the Fallout Shelter standard that Keith and a few members decided upon, Sarah took her take on it, by including her version of the Beauty and the Beast library.   Her Flickr gallery can be seen by clicking on the link below  the photo, but you really want to see this in person to appreciate it in it’s full glory.

Way to go Sarah!  Can you tell she used to be a librarian?  Her husband Jason (TheRebricker and the other half of this AFOL couple) is much less hairy than the Beast, and more muscles than Gaston. 

Posted in Front Page News | Leave a comment

BrickCan 2018 – Happening Soon! – April 21st/22nd, 2018

BrickCan 2018

BrickCan returns to the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond on April 21st & 22nd, 2018!

BrickCan is the largest public exhibition of LEGO® creations ever held in British Columbia! We invite guests of all ages to check out hundreds of models built by LEGO fans from all over the world, shop with dozens of unique LEGO vendors, and let your imagination run wild in the BrickCan Creation Station!

Come see our public displays on April 21st or 22nd at the family friendly River Rock Casino Resort!

All ages welcome! General admission is $15. Children 3 and under do not require a ticket. No strollers or wagons. Wheelchair accessible.

Tickets will be available for 2-hour time blocks throughout each day during which you will…

  • See hundreds of unique LEGO models!
  • Meet LEGO builders from around the world!
  • Browse vendors selling both new and used LEGO as well as LEGO-related products including minifigure accessories, jewelry, and more!
  • Cast your vote for the People’s Choice builder’s award!

Before and after your ticketed time kids of all ages (adults included!) can…

  • Explore interactive experiences in the Creation Station!
  • Let your imagination go wild and build with a huge collection of Duplo and System LEGO Bricks!
  • Answer trivia questions and win prizes!
  • Enjoy multiple dining options within the River Rock!

Note that this area will open at 9AM and close at 4PM.

 

Get your tickets here: http://www.brickcan.com/tickets/

 

Posted in Front Page News, VLC shows | Leave a comment