Tag Archives: Science

Perijove’s LEGO MSL Curiosity Rover hits 10K on CUUSOO [News]

UPDATE (June 14, 2013): LEGO MSL Curiosity Rover is go for launch!

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Back on August 5th when I first highlighted the excellent Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover project by Stephen Pakbaz (Perijove) on LEGO CUUSOO, the project had been online for about eight months and had accumulated about 1,300 votes.

In a sign that timing is everything (with a little help from a few friends on the web), Stephen’s Curiosity project hit 10,000 supporters this weekend. In fact, the project gained its final 5,000 supporters in less than 24 hours.

LEGO Curiosity Rover with skycrane

(I wanted to use a picture of the model we haven’t already used several times here on the blog. Stephen’s proposed model for the project doesn’t include the skycrane, but how awesome would that be?!)

I used Stephen’s instructions to build the rover myself yesterday, and it’s a really excellent model. The build itself was very enjoyable, and I even learned a few SNOT techniques I hadn’t seen before. The final model includes so much detail and functionality it’s really fun to play with, in addition to being just shy of fully functional (with working “rocker bogie” suspension, stowable mast & arm, and little details like forward and rear haz-cams).

LEGO MSL Rover instructions

However, Stephen’s rover does include a handful of unusual parts, and parts in quantities or colors that I don’t have (especially the Technic parts for a mainly SYSTEM builder like me). Even with my substantial, relatively well-sorted collection, it took me the better part of an afternoon to dig around and gather all the parts, and I still had to place a couple small Bricklink orders to replace parts I don’t have at all in the right colors.

All of this is to say that an official set will be a great way to easily get all of the necessary building materials for a reasonable price — as I’m sure LEGO won’t be charging $2 for the white bracket (of which the model requires two), for example.

Congratulations to Stephen, and I can’t wait to see how LEGO handles this particular project. Specifically, I’d love to see LEGO accelerate the approval of this project, given LEGO’s existing partnership with NASA, the clear educational value of the model, and the current “space fever” gripping the world.

Finally, in case you missed it last week, be sure to check out our interview with Stephen Pakbaz (who worked at JPL as an engineer on the Curiosity project) right here on TBB.

LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover powered by MINDSTORMS NXT (not plutonium)

We’re generally not as quick to blog Technic and MINDSTORMS models here, so with apologies to our readers who’ve already seen this (but in the interest of completeness): Will Gorman and Doug Moran recently built a fairly functional version of the Mars Curiosity Rover, with four of six working wheels, robotic arm, and mast.

According to the builders, “The Curiosity Rover was created with 7 NXT Bricks, 13 NXT Motors, 2 Power Function Motors, and over 1000+ LEGO Bricks. The software was developed using leJOS NXJ.”

The LEGO Group provided all the LEGO, and the rover was featured at LEGO and NASA’s Build the Future in Space event at Kennedy Space Center.

Mission to Mars: An Interview with MSL Curiosity Rover builder Stephen Pakbaz

UPDATE (June 14, 2013): Stephen’s LEGO Curiosity Rover will be the next LEGO CUUSOO set!

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The Brothers Brick has featured the Mars Rover Curiosity CUUSOO project before as one of the more original and stand out projects on LEGO CUUSOO right now. But here is a surprising factoid, the creator of this model, Stephen Pakbaz, aka Perijove, was an actual engineer for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and worked on designing the very same Mars Rover in real life! The Brothers Brick decided to interview Stephen.

MSL Rover 06

TBB: Tell us about your background?

Perijove: I received my Bachelors Degree at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Aerospace and a minor in Electrical Engineering, and then a Masters Degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego in California.

TBB: What was your position at Jet Propulsion Laboratory?

Perijove: My position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a Mechanical Engineer in the Structures and Configurations Group. I also sometimes took on the responsibilities of a Cognizant Engineer.

TBB: Can you tell us about your work on the Curiosity Rover?

PA070020Perijove: The Curiosity rover was the first spacecraft I ever worked on after I finished with school in 2007. Even back then, the rover development was well underway, but there was still a lot of design, assembly, and testing left to do. I took part in all of these activities. I designed parts like brackets and covers and was responsible for their development all the way through delivering them to the technicians that would put them on the rover. Other tasks included writing procedures, assembling, and testing things like telecommunications systems and antennas. Types of testing included vibration, shock, and thermal-vacuum to simulate the different environments that would be experienced by the rover. One particularly fun test was bolting an engineering model of Curiosity to a 50 foot diameter centrifuge and spinning it up to over 20 g’s in order to simulate the forces the rover would experience during entry into the Martian atmosphere.

TBB: How long have you been a Lego enthusiast?

Perijove: I have been a LEGO enthusiast since at least elementary school. My own collection, at the time, was mostly pieces like simple bricks and wheels, but I would often play with friends and their collections too.

TBB: What experience did you have with Lego as a kid?

Perijove: My collection began to include more complex pieces just before middle school. I mostly built minifigure-sized robots and spaceships. Play scenarios often including using all my pieces to build a massive spaceship to move my entire minifigure population to another habitable planet before their current one was destroyed by a huge asteroid or a rogue robot. (Wow, that just brought on some powerful nostalgia!)

TBB: Did LEGO play a role in your chosen career path?

odysseygraphPerijove: LEGO absolutely had an impact on my career path. In high school, I spent much of my free time designing things like manned missions to the moons of Jupiter in graph paper notebooks. I often drew the designs with LEGO pieces so I could eventually create real models. This was also a great way to learn everything I could about space travel from interesting destinations and past missions to new forms of propulsion and radiation protection. LEGO has also been a great tool for quickly making quick prototypes of various mechanisms and other ideas to see how they worked.

TBB: What were your favorite sets/ themes as a child?

newnomadPerijove: Most of the space themes, of course, were my favorite, like M-Tron, Ice-Planet 2002, Exploriens, Roboforce, etc. Technic and Trains were great too, but those kinds of sets were often too expensive for me. I would have to say one of my favorite sets was 6338 Shuttle Launch Pad.

TBB: Did you ever experience a dark age?

Perijove: I never experienced a total dark age, but more like a dim age, while I was at school in Indiana. I couldn’t bring my entire collection with me form California, but I did manage to keep a few choice models and pieces with me. During this time, I also satisfied my LEGO habit as a volunteer and mentor for kids in the First LEGO League, a popular nationwide LEGO robotics competition. I had a lot of fun teaching kids about the mechanical possibilities of LEGO and seeing their robots compete and cooperate with eachother.

TBB: Did having first hand experience on the real Curiosity help with the design of the Lego version?

Perijove: I learn best by seeing and touching, which perhaps explains my affinity for mechanical engineering and LEGO. The rocker-bogie suspension system on the rover was just so cool, that I needed to make a LEGO version that I could play with. Being so close to the real rover all the time, designing a few small parts for it, and working with larger assemblies certainly helped me to understand its features, what they did, and how they worked. I’m hoping the LEGO Curiosity rover does the same for others.

TBB: Did you follow the progress of the rover’s trip to Mars?

Perijove: I kept up on every piece of information about the rover that was available to me. This was the first project where I was finally able to put my years of engineering education to use, so I really wanted it to be successful. I saw the landing live and ate plenty of peanuts beforehand for good luck, a tradition at JPL before critical mission events.

MSL Descent Stage 02

TBB: How did you feel about the landing?

Perijove: The landing itself was a conflicting conflagration of emotion. In my mind, I was confident of the success of the landing. My heart and other organs were filled with excitement, fear, nervousness, anticipation and, of course, curiosity. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep afterwards and spent that time calming down, talking to family and friends, and watching all the events that happened shortly afterwards.

TBB: Any thoughts about the historical significance of this achievement?

Perijove: The landing itself was quite historic. The ability to land such a large payload so precisely will be extremely important to future efforts. Though it’s still too early to be sure of the historical significance of the scientific returns of the mission, I’m sure it will be something wonderful. As for the significance of my own involvement, I think it’s kind of cool to think that long after the Great Pyramids on Earth have perished over time, it is possible that the rover I worked on will still be preserved on Mars (unless, of course, it becomes a victim of space looters).

Mars Curiosity Rover roars through the Martian atmosphere ... and lands safely!

I’m watching live coverage of the descent and landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover, thinking that we should note the occasion here on our little LEGO blog down on Earth as well. We featured Tim Goddard’s LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover a couple weeks ago. I found this great photo by Kooberz:

Nuclear Powered!

Alex points us to a LEGO CUUSOO project by Stephen Pakbaz:

LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover on CUUSOO

As I post this, Curiosity has separated from its cruise stage, and JPL is receiving “heartbeat” transmissions from the spacecraft as it begins its entry into the Martian atmosphere. Good luck, Curiosity!

UPDATE: Mars Curiosity Rover has successfully landed on Mars and is sending pictures. Congratulations!

LEGO Mindstorms NXT Turing Machine celebrates Alan Turing’s 100th birthday

Alan TuringToday is pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing’s 100th birthday. Turing was instrumental in developing early computers, and worked during World War II to successfully crack the German Enigma machine. (Sadly, Turing was prosecuted for being gay in the early 1950s and committed suicide soon after, at age 41.)

One of Alan Turing’s key contributions to computer science is the concept behind his Turing machine, “a hypothetical device representing a computing machine” (according to Wikipedia).

Jeroen van den Bos & Davy Landman of CWI in the Netherlands write:

Abstract models are just that, an abstraction of something. In order to really show how simple the fundamental model of a computer is, we have developed a physical implementation of the Turing machine, using LEGO Mindstorms NXT.

LEGO Turing machine

Here’s a videos of the machine in action:

LEGO Turing Machine from ecalpemos on Vimeo.

Read more about the LEGO Turing machine on the team’s website.

Exploring the depths of Saturn’s moons

Sometimes, you start building one thing and it ends up as something else.

R/V Robert Ballard - U.E.F. Science Vessel (1)I’ve been having great fun building micro for the last few months, and got out my bins of orange and medium-blue (yes, I sort some of my LEGO by color) because, well, they’re complementary and I hadn’t built anything with them yet.

I loved my tiny science vessel (right), but wanted to do something slightly bigger, in the same scale.

Instead, what came together was a futuristic submersible, which I’ve decided is an Underwater Autonomous Vehicle like ENDURANCE, designed to explore the icy depths of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. In honor of the composer-astronomer who discovered this moon (as well as the planet Uranus) and the explorer who discovered Antarctica, I’m calling it Herschel-Lazerev.

Herschel-Lazarev AUV (1)

2012 LEGO Friends sets bring brick-based construction play to girls [News]

Since the news is making the rounds on the web at this point, most of you are probably already aware of the upcoming LEGO Friends theme in 2012. The response has been, shall we say, mixed. Since I’m sure there’ll be quite a discussion here and elsewhere, I won’t shy away from sharing my own opinion. Bottom line for me: I’m not a huge fan of the new figures, but they bring much-needed diversity to LEGO people, and the sets themselves appear to be entirely brick-built, with some interesting new colors.

For those of you out there who’ve made statements about gender stereotyping, take a look at this photo of set 3933 Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop:

LEGO Friends 3933

That’s right — Olivia has invented herself a robot in her laboratory through the use of math and science.

The main difference is in the scale and shape of the figures, called “mini-dolls”. Here’s a comparison:

LEGO Friends vs. Minifigs

I’ve heard that the hair pieces are compatible with standard minifigs.

The buildings in the sets are built from standard bricks, rather than large, single-purpose elements:

LEGO Friends 3315

Here’s the official press release:

LEGO Group Declares New Year’s Resolution for 2012: Deliver Meaningful Play Experiences to Girls Worldwide with LEGO® Friends

Company brings classic construction play to the girls’ aisle with first-of- its-kind LEGO® mini-doll figure, three new brick colors and detailed interiors that reflect four years of research in play needs of girls

BILLUND, Denmark (December 19, 2011) – The LEGO Group, the world’s leading construction toy brand, today announced LEGO® Friends, a new play theme that tailors the iconic LEGO construction experience especially to girls ages five and up. LEGO Friends delivers on a girl’s desire for realistic role-play, creativity, and a highly-detailed, character-based world with the core values of LEGO building.

The LEGO Friends collection of 23 products ranges in price from $5.99 to $99.99 USD and the first 14 will be available for sale in select toy, discount merchandise, specialty and online stores beginning December 26, 2011 in the United Kingdom and January 1, 2012 in the United States. A rolling International launch will follow in the spring, with the remaining nine sets launching in the summer months.

“We felt it was time to test assumptions that girls aren’t interested in building and to breathe fresh air into a toy category filled mostly with pre-fabricated play experiences for girls,” said Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO, LEGO Group. “We focused on creating a play experience centered on the joy of creation, while heeding the way girls naturally build and play. We are incredibly proud of the solution we deliver with LEGO Friends, and are resolved to build this platform for years to come.”

LEGO Friends is the first 100 percent LEGO building experience fully optimized to girls’ tastes and interests. Thousands of girls and their mothers worldwide participated in intensive research that validated the desire for more beauty, realistic details, accessories and interior building and role play opportunities in a LEGO offering.

Introducing the LEGO mini-doll figure

Anchored by the introduction of a new mini-doll figure, LEGO Friends introduces a new LEGO minifigure platform tailored to girls’ requests for a more realistic, relatable and stylized figure. Designed to the same scale of the classic LEGO minifigure, the mini-doll figure stands roughly 5 millimeters taller than its minifigure sibling, yet features similar constructability, shares the iconic “claw” hand to hold the same accessories, can wear the same hair and headpieces, and is compatible with all LEGO building sets. A total of 29 different mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012.

“LEGO Friends is one of the most researched LEGO projects ever and is a culmination of years of anthropological research with girls around the world to understand what they expect from a construction toy,” said Nanna Ulrich Gudum, senior creative director, LEGO Group. “In talking with girls and their moms, we understand that girls really want a LEGO offering that mirrors what the boys experience, but in a way that fulfills their unique desire for remodeling and redesign, combined with realistic themes in community and friendship.”

“Unlike previous LEGO toys for girls, LEGO Friends, at its core, does not apologize for being a construction toy and delivers, for the first time, a building experience in the same scale as our classic offerings,” Nanna Ulrich Gudum continued. “What LEGO Friends does differently is deliver the beauty, details, accessories, real world themes and need for strong interior play that the research revealed would make all the difference for girls ages 5 and up.”

Welcome to Heartlake City

The LEGO Friends story centers on the everyday lives and personalities of five girls in a fictional hometown called Heartlake City. Each of the friends—Olivia, Mia, Andrea, Stephanie and Emma—has a distinct personality and interests, such as animals, performing arts, invention and design, that are reflected in the models. Building sets reflect different parts of town where the girls’ adventures take place—downtown, suburbs, beach, camping grounds and mountains.

The product collection

Half of the launch collection includes construction sets themed to introduce girls to each of the “Friend’s” personalities, including: Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery, Emma’s Splash Pool, Andrea’s Stage, Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop, Stephanie’s Pet Patrol, Mia’s Puppy House and Emma’s Design Studio. Girls are also invited to construct the Friends’ favorite locations in Heartlake City with larger building sets, including: Stephanie’s Cool Convertible, Olivia’s Tree House, Heartlake Dog Show, Butterfly Beauty Shop, City Park Café, Heartlake Vet, and Olivia’s House. The remaining nine sets launching later in the year deliver the same range in price and theme.

Immersive brand experience

Children will be immersed in the new world they can create with LEGO Friends through a variety of brand experiences planned for 2012. In addition to providing product information, the LEGO Friends website will allow children to explore the personalities of each of the five Friends and the different spots in Heartlake City. The site will also feature an avatar creator, mini-movies, games, video building tips, story extensions, contests, news and an events calendar. Also planned are Interactive building events and road shows, promotions, magazines, digital content, a mini movie, in-store experiences, books and more. Check www.LEGOFriends.com for more information.

So, what do you think? Sound off in the comments.

LEGO in the White House

This is such a great photo. President Obama casually sits on a desk talking to three beaming winners from a science fair, each proudly holding their trophies built from LEGO.

P100311PS-0481

Official caption: “President Barack Obama congratulates Google Science Fair winners, from left, Naomi Shah, Shree Bose, and Lauren Hodge in the Oval Office, Oct. 3, 2011.”

Thanks for the tip, Bruce!

LEGO minifigs going to Jupiter on NASA’s Juno spacecraft! [News]

As part of Lego’s partnership with NASA, three aluminum minifigs will be placed aboard the Juno spacecraft! The minifigs will represent Jupiter, Juno and Galileo.

Lego Press release:

Three LEGO® Minifigures leave earth on the Juno deep-space probe today on a five-year mission to Jupiter to broaden awareness of the importance of planetary research.

The specially-constructed aluminium Minifigures are the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and ‘father of science’ Galileo Galilei. The LEGO crew’s mission is part of the LEGO Bricks in Space project, the joint outreach and educational programme developed as part of the partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The LEGO Minifigures will help get attention for Juno’s mission to improve understanding of our solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter.

Juno and the Minifgures’ journey will be featured on www.LEGOspace.com, the website that gathers together educational and fun material about space. The site also houses a number of downloads, videos, a LEGOnaut game, and various facts about space exploration. Later this year it will also have videos of experiments conducted with LEGO Education models on the International Space Station.

From the NASA website:

NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft will carry the 1.5-inch likeness of Galileo Galilei, the Roman god Jupiter and his wife Juno to Jupiter when the spacecraft launches this Friday, Aug. 5. The inclusion of the three mini-statues, or figurines, is part of a joint outreach and educational program developed as part of the partnership between NASA and the LEGO Group to inspire children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

See full text of NASA article here.