Friday, June 5, 2015

Can Lego Bricks be Jinxed?

L3-G0 went to a small school's kid's dance last night. Everyone had a great time, and he danced with some of the kids.

Most of the kids at the school knew L3-G0 already, but they were happy that he could join in. Given the environment, there was a lot of touching and stuff, and eventually there was a small accident with his LEFT shoulder, which had to be repaired. And made me wonder if bricks can be cursed?

Is it possible to have unlucky bricks? Cursed? Jinxed? Did I run afoul of a Voodoo Doctor somewhere?

You see, there's a kind of Déjà vu here...

On the completed L3-G0's first outing, to Emerald City Comicon (ECCC), there was a bit of a mishap.  He was driving along and the escalator reached it's rail out to smash him in the right shoulder.  (I'm sure that's what happened, I would have never driven that close to the rail!)  Since the escalator was moving, bricks when flying everywhere.  Huge gasp from the crowd.  Very impressive.  We even got censured by security and prohibited from the escalator for some reason.

Then a bit later we took L3-G0 out to a friend's bookstore for Star Wars Day.  May the Fourth be With You!  Unfortunately there was an earthquake which opened a gap in the sidewalk, tripping L3-G0 and causing a faceplant, along with the right shoulder.  (I'm sure it was an earthquake, this is Seattle after all.  I'm sure it wasn't something so mundane as me trying to outrun the rain and not looking at the crack!)

(Ironically this is one of my favorite pictures of him.  I just love the Tuskan Raider's expression - it was he who invited me, and this is before the event I was supposed to participate in).
Lego Artoo crashed with bricks everywhere and wheels showing in front of a Tuskan Raider.
Wrecked Lego R2-D2
You don't get it, I know.  How is he cursed if those were the right shoulder, but the party broke the left.  Patience young Padawan, I'm getting there...

Next time the curse struck was at Rose City Comicon (RCCC, kinda like ECCC, but smaller).  Things were going well, but one of the vendors shoved his table out into his shoulder as I turned the corner (I'm sure that's what happened, I mean he looked nice and all, and the table was loaded with stuff so it looked like it couldn't possibly move, but there's no way I was inept enough to drive down a 50 foot path and smash into a table on one side).

You guessed it, the right shoulder was destroyed AGAIN!!!!  No pix, sorry.  Of course we're getting better at fixing the shoulder by now.

Mishap #4 was back at that accursed book store.  This time it was an endcap full of books that attacked.  Darth Vader was there and may have used the Dark Side to yank L3-G0 into the books.  This time we were picking right shoulder bricks out from between the books.

We had uneventful trips to Children's and some schools and work and stuff, but then it was time for Star Wars Celebration, Anaheim.  Which I know I still need to blog about, but until then he has some pix on facebook.

On the way down we stopped in Endor (Redwoods park) to take a cool photograph.  Unfortunately Lara stumbled.  I'm sure she was falling away from R2, but at the last instant she jumped towards him and smashed down on the... wait for it... right shoulder!  (You could've guessed by now.  The fifth time we smashed his right shoulder).  Fortunately a couple kind schoolteachers helped get the bricks out of the dirt and a while later we were ready for the pictures.

R2-D2 with smashed Lego Bricks on Endor.
L3-G0 smashed shoulder on Endor (Redwood's National Park)
After several stops (including LEGOLAND) we reached Celebration!  And there was a lot of activity, running around, launching lightsabers and generally showing off, which all went pretty smoothly.

Buttons Front!

R2 Builders have had huge debates and discussions about "Buttons Front" or "Buttons Back".  You see, at the top of his legs, each of Artoo's shoulder has 2 buttons on one side and a hydraulic bar on the other side.  Unfortunately the legs are kind of interchangeable, so in some scenes and movies, they're flipped, sometimes buttons are front, sometimes buttons are back.

At Celebration we met Lee and Oliver, a couple great fellow builders who built R2-D2 for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens!  (Way to go guys, he looks great!)  Anyway, building Artoo for the movie they had to make a decision, and the decided "Buttons Front."

That's all well and good, however L3-G0 was built "Buttons Back".  I don't remember all of my reasoning, but thought about flipping the shoulders.  On day three, we were hanging out by the Sandcrawler, and someone teased us that Oliver had said "Buttons Front". 

I was like "fine", and ripped the shoulders off and flipped them, putting the left shoulder on the right side and the left on the right.  I think I surprised him, most builders are pretty picky about the buttons decision.  They're symmetrical so it was pretty easy and I'd been thinking about it anyway.  I thought it looked a little funny at first, but now I don't notice.

What do Buttons have to do with this story?

Now that you ask, an interesting thing happened.  A little bit after I swapped the shoulders we had what I call "The Great Parking of the Droids".  We all got together for a group photo.  As you can imagine, it took forever, but it was tons of fun.  Notice the buttons front in the picture.
Lego R2-D2 and Mouse Droids with Steampunk and R2-KT and many other droids.
The Great Parking of the Droids, L3-G0 and R2-KT

Of course there was lots of maneuvering and people getting their droids into place. During all of that activity someone was a little unbalanced and reached for... wait for it.... Can you guess?  L3-G0's LEFT shoulder.  Small pile of bricks on the floor, fortunately not too bad of a fix.

Got that?  His right shoulder was smashed 5 times, then we flipped the bricks around and the next time it was the left shoulder, SAME BRICKS!  They must be cursed.

Which brings us back to the dance.  No picture, but there was a small oops and L3-G0's left shoulder fell apart onto the dance floor.  Now it's twice since moving the bricks to the other side.

So Can Lego Bricks be Jinxed?

L3-G0 is made out of Lego, and all sorts of things happen, his feet have to be snapped back together quite often as that what sticks out the most.  His head gets dizzy and bricks wiggle loose.  The dog's stepped on his head.  We've fried electronics, etc, etc.  But smashed shoulders is one of the most annoying problems and he's had his shoulders destroyed a total of 7 times now.  It's been different shoulders now, but the same bricks all seven times!

The totally random odds of having two shoulders and smashing the same shoulder bricks 7 times in a row is 1 in 128.  Kind of between the odds of rolling double sixes on 2 dice and triple sixes on 3 dice.  I use to think I was just leading with the right shoulder somehow, but now???  I thought it was bad when it was 4 in a row.

I think he's got some cursed bricks.  Maybe they were bought from a seller that runs a Voodoo shop on the side or something.  Somehow his bricks have been jinxed.  Maybe it's just the main ones that connect to the rest of the leg.  Maybe it's the whole thing.  At least I know which side is L3-G0's unlucky one!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Death Star had plans, what about Lego Artoos?

Every occasionally I get asked to share plans for L3-G0.  I encourage everyone to build things they love with Lego, but sharing the plans is hard.  REALLY hard.

L3-G0 had a rough design, however the "plans" don't come close to the as-built model, so there's a lot of work/confusion that would happen if someone started to build another.  It'd probably take me a month of hard work to have something decent enough to share.  Nothing personal, but I don't have a ton of free time.

In addition to the Lego model, there are many internal bits of other materials that add to the complexity of the build.  He has an aluminum and wood frame with laser cut wood bits.  Nothing individually that crazy, but this isn't your normal Lego build.  You could get away without some of that if you wanted a static version, but he wasn't designed to "stand" without some of that structure.

For the dynamic version he also has 3D printed bricks internally and of course wires and motors and electronics.  None of that's a huge deal, but does make things a bit more complicated.

Probably the biggest problem is 16,000 Lego Bricks. 

Very specific Lego Bricks.

Think about that.  16 thousand bricks.  Big Lego sets are 1-2 thousand bricks.  And those are a completely different very specific group of bricks.

So how do you get 16K bricks?  There are places that people part out sets like bricklink and ebay. 

But lets go back to that number: 16K bricks.  Bricklink has 251 million bricks listed right now.  But almost all of those are the completely wrong bricks.  When I bought bricks for L3-G0, I ended up buying several kinds for which I bought all of the only bricks of that shape/color available. 

Now lets consider what happens if I post the plans.  Obviously 10 kids are going to ask dad (or mom) to help build him.  If word got out, then it's 100 or 1000 or more.  Lego sells 7 sets a second.  A quarter billion a year.  Presumably 0.001% of those would consider building a Lego R2 instead (or in addition).  That tiny number would be 2,000 builds started a year.  Let's pretend I'm way off and it's only 20.

Lets look at Bricklink again.  Take those 16K bricks times 20 people.  That's 320K very specific bricks.  That is a HUGE number.  Buying the bricks for one L3-G0 distorted the market price of some bricks for a year. 

I just looked at one of the common bricks.  There are enough for make 2 or 3 Artoos on sale right now.  Most of those however are in small lots, which is going to make shipping fees prohibitive.  Supply and demand would do the rest.  10 people trying to make Artoo would cause the price of those bricks to skyrocket.  Instead of asking $3,000 for the bricks, you'd be looking at more like $10,000 or $25,000.  So most of the people that started wouldn't have a chance of finishing.

Worse, look at the Lego clubs and exhibitions around the world.  Where do they get their bricks?  What if someone wants to build a really cool white castle?  Then we've totally messed up their ability to get bricks as well.

All that sounds pessimistic, and, to be frank, it sounds like I'm making excuses for not wanting to share the plans.  Mostly though I don't have the time to create usable plans, and I don't want to set up a bunch of kids for failure.

At this point our best bet is Lego Ideas.  You may want to follow me there... is another project I tried.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Attempting to build a Lightsaber Launcher

Working on a Lightsaber Launcher for his dome.  Man this takes up a TON of room!  I plan to stretch the lever arm a couple mm because the servo is rubbing, but this would probably work if I needed it to.
Lightsaber Launcher for Lego Artoo, Mark I Overview
The main mechanism is an inner chamber that latches onto the knob on the bottom of the .707 scale stunt Lightsaber.  This shows the clamp in it's latched position.  The spring would be compressed.

Closed Position Lightsaber Launcher Clamp
And here's a picture with the saber loaded.

Loaded Lightsaber Launcher
To launch, the inner chamber slides over to release the item.  The lever arm in the 1st picture redirects the vertical motion of the servo to horizontal.

Open clamp position
The mount bolts to the aluminum T-slot in L3-G0's frame, but I'm going to tweak it a bit before installing it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Some bits of L3-G0's Innards

I was poking around looking for some of my pictures to show off and couldn't find them, so I've uploaded them to an album on Flickr... 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

R2-D2 in Star Trek Redshirt Costume

Well, L3-G0 decided to crash a Star Trek convention.  And, of course if you're gonna mix canons like that, your gonna need a costume:

Lego R2-D2 wearing Star Trek Redshirt
Lego R2-D2 wearing Star Trek Redshirt
Our daughter has been collecting signatures, so we wanted to see some of the stars, and Lara thought it would be a good idea to bring L3-G0.  I wasn't so sure, but she had the idea for the red shirt.  Of course we put off actually making the costume 'til the last minute.  Anyway it turned out pretty fun.

Artoo wasn't the only cosplayer there:

R2-D2 with Star Trek Cosplay Cosplayers
R2-D2 with Star Trek Cosplay
Of course, there were scarier things than Klingons:

Borg Cosplay with Lego R2D2 in Red Shirt
Borg with Artoo Red Shirt
Artoo did get to meet some of the Star Trek talent.  Some of them left early and missed him, but Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Denise Crosby and John De Lancie all got a chance to say hi to him.  They also had some talks that were pretty enjoyable with funny anecdotes, their an entertaining crowd.  (I guess that's their job.)

Marina was really funny.  She saw R2 in his red shirt and whipped out her phone... a Blackberry... asking if she could tweet a picture.  There was lots of tapping and phone wrangling, but finally she held it out to take a picture... Whoops, another one... And another.  Finally she apparently has a picture and taps a bunch more (all the while insisting she loves her Blackberry).  Viola, she announces that she's done it and posted the pix to twitter.

Curious about this 5 minute picture taking of course I check twitter when we move on:
Hilarious, all that and no photo :)

Later in the day the talent had no visitors, so we went back and let her know about the faux pas.  It didn't take as long this time:
I know she likes that phone, but maybe she wants one with a better camera, just sayin'.  Anyway, thanks a ton to Marina for providing us with such a fun story and memories.

Another hilarious bit was when the talent first arrived.  Apparently they had been told to bring photos, but Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes apparently hadn't been listening.  Marina was like "men".  Brent was griping and grouching, digging around his bag and pulled out the only shot he could find, all bent and torn, turning around and asking the fans if they'd buy that.  (Someone did scrounge up some stills for them eventually.)

In short, we had as much fun as Lara predicted, and he was better received than I expected, considering that we had the wrong genre.  I guess we're all just geeks. 

L3-G0 (in costume) saying hi to famous people
L3-G0 (in costume) saying hi to famous people

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brickcon 2014

Back to Brickcon!

This time L3-G0 brought a friend, MCK-Y, the Lego Mouse Droid.  We spent so much time running around the hall interacting with the kids and folks that we don't have a lot of photos, but here're some decent ones.
L3-G0 and MCK-Y, the Lego R2-D2 astromech and MSE-6 mouse droids.
Above you can see that MCK-Y has some glowing undercarriage LEDs that provide a nice effect, if not canon.  MCK-Y has his own set of bleeps and noises, we'll try to post some video later.  MSE-6 Mouse Droids also go by the name "Baby Box Droid."  Here's a close up of MCK-Y.
MCK-Y the Lego MSE-6 Mouse Droid

We Win!

I know we win because I have a picture of the trophy to prove it :)  We one the "Sublime Shape" artistic category in Brickcon 2014.  That's one of the art categories.  We're honored, there are tons of amazing MOC's at Brickcon.  And, as you can see, the trophies themselves are pretty cool.  This is our second trophy, the Lego Disney Wonder won a microscale contest a few years ago.
"Sublime Shape" trophy for the Lego Droids, Brickcon 2014
We had a few mishaps, L3-G0's front foot took a beating, I think the hinges are getting looser so it falls apart more readily :(.  MCK-Y is new, so had teething problems.  The light is a battery hog, and his wheels are funny rubber bean bags (Lego tires filled with real beans), which make him have a cute wobble, but also make the wheels fall off.  Definitely need to figure out how to get better wheels in the future.  His wheels are also pinned on with 3 technic pins, so we were able to keep repairing the wheels until the pins actually broke!

Anyway, we'll leave you with a photo of the droids:
Lego R2D2 and Mouse Droids

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rose City Comicon

I've been remiss in posting.  L3-G0 has visited a school, Children's Hospital, and a few conventions, and attended a Unicode Technical Committee meeting (last post was backdated).  He's also gotten a new friend, MCK-Y the Lego MSE-6 Mouse (aka Baby Box) droid.

Anyway, here he is at Rose City Comicon.  Roaming the halls we met lots of folks, including Master Chief from Halo!

Hey, Master Chief!

It wasn't as crowded as ECCC, so we were fairly free to roam at will, though we always attracted a crowd.  Some weren't very well behaved though, vandals!

Vandal Attacking Lego R2D2 With a Bat!
And, of course, there was tons of other cool stuff.  Here L3-G0 poses on the red carpet with a Back to the Future Delorean replica, and a Doctor Who Tardis.

L3-G0 with Tardis and Delorean
This hexacopter was flying around the celebrity area, Artoo took offence and tried to tell him that it was a no-fly no-camera zone!  (I'm still hoping to find his video of this confrontation).
L3-G0 tries to fend off a Quadrocopter

While we were in the celebrity area, Wil Wheaton took notice.  He was nice.
Garrett Wang was also hilarious on the red carpet.  He saw L3-G0 while talking to a fan and flew over his table to run up to L3-G0 and take his photo.  Startled us terribly.  I heard him apologize to his fans when he went back.
Oh, no, L3-G0's lost his head!   We also participated in the R2-D2 Builder's Club talk about building Astromechs, where we showed off some of our droids and how they are built.  It was a talk like this that helped me decide to make L3-G0, lots of folks get there start building by seeing the other droids at a 'con and seeing such a talk.
L3-G0 at builder's talk with head off.
And we all posed together in the lobby.  Group photo time.
Astromechs in the Lobby at Rose City Comicon

And of course everyone wanted to pose with L3-G0 and the other droids.  I don't think he minds.
L3-G0 likes her R2-D2 skirt
It can get quite crowded though....
Crowds of picture takers
Things went pretty well this time around, I guess we're getting better at this.  We had two problems: the drive wheels keep slipping on the driveshaft.  The chain turns a sprocket which uses a bolt as an axle, but the set screws (on all 4 shafts, he's 8-wheel drive) keep slipping.  I tried drilling a notch in the shaft for the set screw to grip, and broke the bit.  That seems to have helped the most, having the ground up bit mashed in there to keep it from slipping!  Anyway we had to fix it several times.

I also drove ineptly (again) and mashed a shoulder (same one) into a vendor's table.  The right shoulder's smashed itself 3 times now!!!

The lights died right before seeing Wil Wheaton, so we had to come back for a better pix.

The other problem is an odd electrical thing.  He started freaking out and spraying his mist all the time (he can startle folks with canned air), and his dome started spinning madly.  We'd had a similar problem where the mist freaked out, so we unplugged it.  Then his dome refused to move.  But we thought it was fixed before the con.  Last day we had to leave early though.

When I got home I checked EVERYTHING trying to repro the problem, but it wouldn't happen.  Eventually I replaced the fuse on that circuit (it's the car-type fuses) and he was great.  I left his head spinning for a half hour to prove it.  What happened is that the fuse was apparently weak.  Eventually the dome motor controller got it hot enough that the volts dropped (from resistance), but it didn't blow.  That confused the motor controller which was also reading the RC signals, and sent gibberish to the Arduino controlling the mist, and of course it confused itself about the dome's movement.  What a freaky problem.  What a relief to have figured it out.

We had tons of fun at Rose City Comicon, we'll try to see if we can make it next year!