Author: Bill

Coastline

Published / by Bill

This is another model that I built 3 years ago but only recently posted the pictures online.

Road Bridge

This, along with the recently posted Road Bridge, was built for the BayLTC train layout in 2003.

The cliff module was designed to come apart into several sections for ease of transportation and storage. Each section connected to the next one using Technic pegs. At one end, I built a peninsula with a space for Russell Clark’s lighthouse. It had an opening, recessed by one plate’s thickness, to accomodate a 16×32 stud baseplate.

The launch ramp road piece, like the road pieces on the bridge, came from LEGO’s 6600 Highway Construction set. It had stairs leading down to a small dock.

The lifeguard tower and beachgoers were contributed to the layout by club member Mark Benz.
[tags]LEGO, cliff[/tags]

Road Bridge

Published / by Bill / 1 Comment on Road Bridge

In 2003 (or maybe 2002) I built a bridge for the BayLTC train layout. But it wasn’t a train bridge, it was a road bridge (for cars and trucks).

Road Bridge

The road pieces came from LEGO’s 6600 Highway Construction set, and the bridge’s structural elements were built of Technic bricks.

Most of the angles in the bridge truss design follow some multiple of the 3-4-5 triangle. This is one of the most useful laws of trigonometry: if you have a triangle with sides 3, 4, and 5, or any multiple of that (such as 30, 40, 50) then they will form a perfect right triangle (a triangle where one of the angles is exactly 90 degrees). Why? Because of the Pythagorean Theorem: in any right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the 90° angle) is always equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. And it so happens that 32 + 42 (9 + 16) is equal to 52 (25).

In LEGO, the 3-4-5 triangle is achieved by attaching pieces in distances of 4-5-6 studs. Why? Because of the “fencepost effect” – if you make the connection on the 1st and 4th stud, that’s actually a distance of 3 (since 4-1=3). The same goes for the 4 and 5 unit length sides. In this model, the center trusses are formed by 3-4-5 triangles scaled up by a factor of 6. So the “4” sides (the vertical) are really 24 (actually 25, because of the fencepost effect) tall. The angled trusses are made by sheer guesswork, however. Luckily, there’s enough slop in LEGO connections to make it not really be necessary to always get it just right. When working on this, I built what I called a “Pythagorometer” – a model of the 3-4-5 triangle at various scales – to try to make the angles work out. I’ll post more about that later.

I recently discovered a batch of pictures of this bridge that had never been posted online, taken at the July 2003 GATS layout. You can see them at a Flickr gallery.

LEGO is Not a Crime!

Published / by Bill / 1 Comment on LEGO is Not a Crime!

Except in Germany, that is. It seems that a LEGO fan was recently arrested for playing with [tag]LEGO[/tag] [tag]Mindstorms[/tag] on a train. Thanks to my wife Holly for pointing this out.

The question is, how could anyone think that a robotics kit made from LEGO could be used to make a [tag]bomb[/tag]? I’ll give the cops credit for being creative, at least. I hope the guy gets his Mindstorms kit back!

Treasure Reef

Published / by Bill

Today’s entry features a creation by a Czech [tag]LEGO[/tag] fan named Jindrich Kubec.

Beach Scene
Underwater Scene
Fight Scene

It’s called the Treasure Reef and is really two models in one. I came across the announcement on LUGNET a few days ago and was very impressed. The diorama consists of two main areas, plus a story in pictures:

First, there is a [tag]beach[/tag] scene with a bar, sunbathers, and volleyball court. I especially liked the sand castle and volleyball game.

But when you lift off the water (represented by blue baseplates) you can access the other part, an [tag]underwater[/tag] scene, featuring a cave of treasures protected by an octopus-like monster. There’s also a whale skeleton which came from an old LEGO set.

Finally, there is also a story in pictures, as a variation of the underwater scene, where divers fight to obtain the treasure from the [tag]sea monster[/tag] in the cave.

All the pics can be viewed by clicking the above links, or view the whole gallery on Brickshelf.

I was very impressed because of the sheer originality of this diorama. Although elements of the set (such as the whale skeleton) came from official LEGO models most of it – and the idea of combining the things together like this – is very original.

Bay Area LEGO Train Club at Pleasanton Train Show in Nov. 2005

Published / by Bill
Bay Area LEGO Train Club at Pleasanton Train Show in Nov. 2005

Last November, BayLTC participated in the Pleasanton, CA, Great Western & Atlantic Train Show at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The event was held on the weekend following Thanksgiving. View the pictures on Flickr or on Brickshelf (once moderated).

Our next show will be at the TCA Cal-Stewart Meet in Santa Clara, which will be open to the public on Sunday, March 12.
[tags]LEGO, BayLUG, BayLTC, Train Show[/tags]

Bay Area LEGO Users’ Group Meeting on Jan. 22, 2006

Published / by Bill
Bay Area LEGO Users' Group Meeting at Dave Porter's house on Jan. 22, 2006

Yesterday I attended a BayLUG club meeting at the home of one of our members, Dave Porter, in Woodside, CA. Dave sets up a [tag]LEGO[/tag] train layout in his upstairs loft every year around the holidays and it is going to be torn down in a week, so he invited the club to come to his house to see it while we still could. [tag]BayLUG[/tag] members brought their latest models to show off, and there was a lot of buying and selling of parts, including “Uncle Dan” and his bulk LEGO by the pound. View the pictures on Flickr or on Brickshelf (once moderated).

It all starts with LEGO

Published / by Bill

When I was a little kid my great passion was building things (usually spacecraft) out of LEGO. When I was 10 I learned about computer programming thanks to the Commodore PET computers at my school. I really think that the mental process is much the same, and that my experience with LEGO led directly to my ability to pick up computer programming skills.

The basic idea is that with LEGO bricks, they fit together to build some kind of creation. And they can only fit together in certain ways and not in others. For example you can’t fit two bricks together stud-to-stud, or bottom-to-bottom (at least, not without other pieces to hold them in that position). Similarly, there are syntax rules with software that limit the ways you can put statements and expressions together. And just as you can create a given shape using a wide number of possible arrangements of various LEGO bricks, you can implement a particular software feature using any number of different combinations of statements and expressions. So if a LEGO creation is like a software program, a LEGO element is like a variable or an operator.

For years when I have talked to parents at train shows and BayLUG meetings, I have been telling them that all the years I spent building LEGO etched certain pathways into my brain which prepared me for computer programming, and that’s a reason they should encourage their kids to do LEGO. And I think the fact that we’re based in Silicon Valley is not the only reason that many of our BayLUG members come from software, engineering, or other technical backgrounds.

Today, I came across a link to an interesting article by one of the foundes of Macromedia Flash on Jake McKee’s blog. His story is basically identical to mine through his childhood years – except that he got into Apple ][ and Mac computers and I was a Commodore guy.

Kellogg’s LEGO Sculptures at Williamsport Airport

Published / by Bill / 8 Comments on Kellogg’s LEGO Sculptures at Williamsport Airport

My wife and I visited her family in Williamsport, PA last September. There is a very small airport there which just has one gate, served by US Airways Express turboprop planes. So imagine my surprise when I saw LEGO on display there! They had a glass display case with LEGO sculptures of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam characters, along with some of the Kellogg’s product boxes.

I don’t know why these were there, or if any other airports were included in this program, but I was very impressed with the models and very surprised to see them in such an unexpected location. As far as I know, neither LEGO nor Kellogg’s have any particular connection to Williamsport.

Display case at Williamsport Airport

LEGO models at Williamsport Airport

Bay Area LEGO Train Club at San Jose Train Show in Sep. 2005

Published / by Bill
Bay Area LEGO Train Club at San Jose Train Show in Sep. 2005

Another long-delayed set of photos from a club event. This time, the BayLTC layout from the Great Western & Atlantic Train Show is featured. The show was held at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San José, CA. View the pictures on Flickr or on Brickshelf (once moderated).

Our next show will be at the TCA Cal-Stewart Meet in Santa Clara. Perhaps you can come see us there! That show is open to the public on Sunday, March 12 only.
[tags]LEGO, BayLUG, BayLTC, Train Show[/tags]