Tag Archives: bbtb

Bricks by the Bay 2018

This past weekend was the 9th edition of Bricks by the Bay, the bay area’s local LEGO convention. I was a co-founder and President from 2010 through 2015, until I resigned and skipped the 2016 event. I returned last year to repair my relationship with the local LEGO community and am feeling very happy to have been accepted and welcomed back into the fold.

BBTB 2018 MOCs
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Talks at Bricks by the Bay 2018

For the first time in a few years I gave my Brick Geometry and Studs On All Sides talks at the Bricks by the Bay LEGO convention in Santa Clara, CA. I updated both presentations for this event by adding a few new pages in each one. Here are the updated versions of the files if you’d like to look at them:

Let me know if you’d like to see me deliver one of these talks at an event near you! Enjoy the information, and happy building!

BBTB 2018 Brick Geometry 1

Bricks by the Bay 2017

I attended the Bricks by the Bay convention on August 3-6, 2017, for my first time as an ordinary attendee. It was a great exhibit of LEGO talent from near and far, but the show-stealer was this amazing “California Dreamin'” theme park model from Flynn and Richard which won several trophies including both Best In Show and Public Choice:

BBTB2017 721.jpg

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Bricks by the Bay Just Around the Corner

I’ve been quiet on here recently, and haven’t been building anything in a while, but I wanted to say something about Bricks by the Bay which is coming up in just over a week.

This is our annual Northern California LEGO convention, and I’m the president of the nonprofit that organizes it. It’s coming up at the Santa Clara Convention Center from August 6-9, 2015. We’ve been super busy over the past few months getting all the planning and preparations done, and I haven’t had much time for anything else.

The theme this year is “Monsters” and we’ve got a great event kit which is a dragon designed by Charles Esseltine, and I’m preparing the instructions for building it as we speak. We have a great Guest of Honor this year, Alice Finch from Seattle who is bringing down her collaborative build with ArchLUG, the World of Mouse Guard, and giving a keynote speech. We also have a speech by Megan Rothrock, author of the LEGO Adventure Book series on Thursday night, and one by Tim Courtney of LEGO IDEAS on Saturday.

Convention registration closes this Friday, July 31st, so get your badge now! We will be open to the public on the last day, Sunday, August 9, for a Public Exhibition, so if you can’t make it for the whole weekend at least drop by to see the show.

More information, including convention registration and public day tickets, can be found on our website, http://www.bricksbythebay.com.

Bricks by the Bay 2014

Our annual LEGO convention here in the bay area, Bricks by the Bay, just happened! I was so busy organizing it that I’m afraid I never got around to posting a blurb on my blog about it – hope you heard about it through other means and were there! It was a huge event, expanding to add a second ballroom, and adding an extra day (Thursday) for a new workshop program. We almost doubled last year’s attendance on the public day (about 4500 vs 2500 last year) though our convention attendance was down.

I’d like to announce the dates for next year’s convention, but we don’t have a firm commitment on the dates yet. The most likely dates are July 16-19, but we can’t be sure until we have a contract from the hotel. The theme for next year will be “Monsters” and we will be also making a special effort to highlight models with lighting effects similar to what they do at Brickworld in Chicago and BrickFair back east, shutting off the convention center lights for a few hours in the evening to let people enjoy the lit-up MOCs (My Own Creations). So start planning your monsters, especially ones with light-up effects!

I didn’t take photos at the convention, but here are some links to galleries that others have posted:

If you have some to add, post a link in the comments.

Bricks by the Bay 2013

The 2013 edition of the Bricks by the Bay LEGO convention has come and gone. A fabulous time was had by all, as far as I can tell anyway. Here’s a report of my experiences both running and attending the convention…

This was our fourth year, and each time it gets a little easier to run the event, but we keep adding new things each time making things more complicated. This year the theme of the convention was “Brick Technologies” in honor of Silicon Valley where it is held, and we added a lot of technology around running the convention, especially on the website. For example, for the first time, instead of having attendees edit a wiki page, we had a database where people could list the MOCs (“My Own Creations,” our term for custom made models) they are bringing to display. As the only experienced Perl developer on the organizing team, it fell to me to make all these changes, and over the past few months I’d been spending all my spare time working on the registration system for people to sign up their badges, vendor spaces, MOCs, etc.

One piece of technology that never did get finished was a custom iPad app for judging. We had a volunteer, Julian Gomez of Polished Pixels, working hard on an app for us to use. The judges would use iPads to select the models they wanted to vote for and upload their votes and take pictures of the models using this custom app, and we also planned to use the app to scan people’s badges as they enter the evening ceremonies so we wouldn’t call any names of people who weren’t actually present. However, due to some technical issues that came up and issues with Apple’s developer license program (and through no fault of Julian’s), the app wasn’t available. Julian’s work is much appreciated however, and we look forward to having it available for next year.

I arrived at the hotel Thursday afternoon and checked in, and we were able to get in to the ballroom in the early afternoon to measure out the placement of all the tables for hotel staff to set up. I spent most of the afternoon writing code, personally, getting the MOC Card system ready to print out the cards. MOC Cards are the little signs that everyone places by their models to identify the name, description, and builder of each model. Each card has a QR code on it, which goes to a webpage describing the model (and which the iPad app was supposed to use to identify the MOC for voting). I wrote custom Perl code using the PDF::API2 library to generate the cards, and sent the results out to Kinko’s FedEx Office for overnight printing. (We also had a color printer and paper cutter onsite for printing additional cards after the initial batch.) I went to bed around midnight, having told FedEx to email me when it was ready. I had sent out a call for a volunteer to run over to pick up the printouts in the morning, but at 3am I got up to use the bathroom and checked my email, and they said that our job was done. I decided rather than have someone slog through rush hour traffic in the morning, I’d just go in the middle of the night. I drove off to Cupertino to pick it up, and had a hard time finding the place, but eventually I did and brought it back to the hotel, leaving it in our office for the other organizers to pick up in the morning. My plan was to sleep in, but I woke up early anyway so I went ahead and went downstairs having had about 3 hours total sleep.

Friday morning I was a bit of a zombie, but we got all the rest of the setup done and in the afternoon I was able to attend some of the sessions. I ran the 101 Bricks game, which is always a lot of fun. We had some very creative models built, with an eventual winner with the theme “RAINY” going to Donna’s “SNOT Cloud” model. After that, I went to Zonker Harris‘s talk on lighting LEGO models using EL Wire and LEDs. I really like what he’s done with those technologies for his movie theater (EL wire to simulate neon lights) and disco dance floor (flashing lights underneath a translucent LEGO floor). There were a few other light-up models at the convention, and hopefully that trend will continue. BrickCon in Seattle has a section called “The Darker Side” where models are displayed in a tented area so the room lights don’t overwhelm the models’ internal lighting, and BrickWorld goes a bit farther having an hour with the hall lights off so everyone can go around and see the light-up models in the semi-dark. Maybe if we get more light-up models we can do something along those lines at BBTB in the future? After Zonker’s talk I went back down to the ballroom, and spent the afternoon working on administrative stuff and more software for the event website. We had a few walk-ups, mostly people who had registered their child but not themselves or vice-versa. Our policy is to close registration a week before the event, but in the future we need to be better prepared for these situations, as they required a fair amount of manual work to process.

Friday night, we had an awesome keynote presentation by Paul Lee, LEGO artist. He does a lot of work for LEGO, drawing comic books and advertising art for them, and it turns out he’s also an excellent public speaker! In past years, we’ve always had someone from the LEGO Group give the keynote speech, but this year LEGO has been scaling back their support for conventions and weren’t able to send any VIP out to us. We took the lead from BrickCon and reached out to the LEGO fan community, and everyone was very happy with the result. Mariann Asanuma recommended Paul, and he got a standing ovation. There’s a video (hand held iPhone video) of the talk on youtube taken by his wife. Next year maybe we’ll get a professional video crew to document this sort of thing…

After the keynote, I handed out the Scrounge Build packets, then went out to the lobby to run the Wacky Racers and Catapult contests, which are always a lot of fun.

Saturday, I missed most of the activities as I ended up spending a lot of time finishing up some of the things we would need for the website to make the convention run as planned. For example I spent all Saturday afternoon hacking on the voting system so that the judges would be able to submit their votes and pictures of the winners, and generating the PDF for the award ceremony. I just barely got that code finished in time for the ceremony itself; in fact for the first 1/2 of the ceremony I was sitting off to one side in the theater frantically coding the software to generate the slides, while my faithful minions ran around the ballroom taking and uploading pictures of all the models that hadn’t been photographed yet. But eventually they got all the photos uploaded just as I finished work on the code to generate the slides. But then I ran into an unexpected snag: the PDF is 14 megabytes, and it took quite a long time (I didn’t time it, but I think it was about 20 minutes) to download on the slow wifi. So we had to stall a little bit while that downloaded, but eventually it was done and we managed to get it up on the screen to give out the awards. There were two minor issues – photos showing up rotated (my code was ignoring the EXIF Orientation flag, oops) and Overall trophies showing up in the theme trophy sections (it was showing the winners in the theme they were registered under instead of the theme of the trophies). It was funny watching hundreds of people tilt their heads sideways to look at the pictures! As for the trophies showing up at the wrong times, once I figured out what was happening I skipped over those and announced they would be given out Sunday night.

Saturday night we had something new at BBTB: a no-host bar, called “Brick Saloon.” This was an opportunity for the adult attendees to hang out, play some games (I brought Cards against Humanity, and someone brought some LEGO bricks to play a version of Zendo with instead of the more customary Icehouse pyramids). I don’t drink, so the bar wasn’t my cup of tea (DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) but I hung out and played games a bit. I went downstairs to the ballroom after a while to take photos of MOCs until my camera battery died, and then went back up for more games until it was time to close at 2am.

Sunday is the big public show at Bricks by the Bay. Unlike most conventions we just have one public day. the vendors complain every year, but it’s a lot less stressful this way, and we always make enough money to make our budget (Bricks by the Bay is a non-profit) so it’s not necessary to have two days. I have delegated all the public day operations to other people, so I was able to sleep in and get there around 10am just as people were going in to the show. I hung out at the admin desk for a while, answering questions and such, and then in the afternoon went upstairs for the Large Set Parts Draft. Parts drafts are one of my favorite convention activities, and I had to miss the one on Saturday as I had too much work to do (I sent Bruce to draft in my place, and he got some great parts, but I really would rather have been there myself). Almost any LEGO part is useful if you have enough of them, and a parts draft lets you take all of the parts of a particular shape and color from as many as a couple of dozen copies of the same set. The trade-off is that everyone else participating gets to do this too, so you only end up with a few unique pieces, but many of them. We did some trading (e.g., “I’ll give you 8 of these for 4 of those”) after the parts draft for some parts that each of us wanted but other people got.

After the parts draft I went back down to the ballroom, and finally at 4pm we closed up and kicked all the public out. We had a brief closing ceremony where we announced the overall MOC winners and the results of the games that had happened after the Saturday ceremony, and I had a brief Q&A about the next year’s convention. Finally we tore down all the stuff and everyone went home.

I spent the night in the hotel again Sunday night, and Monday morning got together with Bruce and Loren, the other Directors, to tie up loose ends and take all the stuff back to the storage unit. We had lunch from a taqueria and got all the boxes stowed, the storage locked, and we each went home. I took the rest of the day off work, and went back to work Tuesday (working from home all week). It took a few days for me to catch up on my sleep, and I still had a little bit of coding to finish up, but it’s time to put things away for another year.

Come join us next year!! We’re adding 50% more ballroom space, and a full day of workshops on Thursday before the usual convention activities start.

August 7-10, 2014
Hyatt Regency Santa Clara & Santa Clara Convention Center
Thursday : Workshops & Opening Ceremonies
Friday – Saturday : Private Convention
Sunday : Public Exhibition
www.bricksbythebay.com

See all my pictures of MOCs from Bricks by the Bay 2013 by clicking the image above, or click here for a slideshow.

Last chance for Bricks by the Bay convention registration

I just posted this on the Bricks by the Bay site:

The Bricks by the Bay 2013 convention is almost here! I’m so excited – and busy!

If you haven’t registered for the convention yet, please note that we are in our final week of registration. The deadline is this coming Friday at midnight. After that, no badges will be sold! There is no walk-up registration. All our attendees will have custom printed badges made of LEGO bricks and we are doing the final preparations and packaging of the badges and attendee goodies this weekend (let me know if you want to come help out). Badges are currently selling for $70 each and there are 57 (out of 500) remaining as of this writing. Register today!

See the schedule of events for more information about what is going on at the convention.

If you’re not coming to the convention please come to our Public Exhibition, Sunday August 11. Tickets are on sale now for $8 per person (ages 2 and under free). Buy tickets today.

Thank you and hope to see you at the convention or exhibition!

William Ward
President
Bricks by the Bay, Inc.

Rainbow Connection

My latest creation is a life size model of Kermit The Frog with his banjo, as seen in the opening scene of the 1979 film The Muppet Movie, when he was playing “Rainbow Connection.” I haven’t done a photo shoot of the model on its own, so for now you will have to be satisfied with pictures from Bricks by the Bay 2012. I will update this post when I have more pictures to add. I was very pleased to have this model voted “Supreme Sculptor” (best sculpture) and “Greenest” (best use of the “Green” theme for the convention).

On Display at Bricks by the Bay
On Display at Bricks by the Bay
Kermit's Head at BayLUG meeting
Kermit's Head at BayLUG meeting

I built the head first and showed it at the February BayLUG meeting. There was a building contest with a theme of “Movies” based on the fact that the Academy Awards were held near the time of the meeting, and I won the adult competition with the head alone. But for Bricks by the Bay I wanted to at least do a bust if not the whole body. My dream was to have a log made of LEGO bricks for him to sit on, based on the scene in the movie, and I may yet do that….

Kermit’s head started with his eyes. When the new movie The Muppets was in the “coming soon” phase, and I kept seeing ads for it, I started thinking about how a partial Lowell sphere would be a good way to model his eyes, and thought about how a 2×2 round tile can be mounted centered on a 1×4 plate (If you haven’t seen this before, try it! The 2×2 round tile is one of the most versatile pieces LEGO makes.) To make the shape of his head come out right, I had to mount the eyes at an angle, which is done by some interior clips, and then build up LEGO slopes to try to make it fit in as seamlessly as possible. There are even some 1×1 “Henrik” (cheese) slopes that are sandwiched in between parts but not actually attached to anything, just to fill in the gaps!

This part used a huge number of green slopes. I quickly ran out and had to buy more from club members and BrickLink to complete the model. Thanks to Paul Sinasohn, Jayson Cabuag, and Pete Woulfe for helping me to get the parts in a timely manner. I bought parts from Paul at the February BayLUG meeting, and the Monday before the convention, I made a trip up to San Francisco and picked up some more from Pete, and then (after a brief detour to do some dancing at Shades of Blues) took a trip to San Jose to pick up my BrickLink order from Jayson. The lime wedge plates that make up his collar, and more of the green slopes, were mostly from various BrickLink sellers over the course of February and early March, and I choose not to contemplate how much I had to spend to get those…

Kermit's Head at BBTB SNOT Panel
Kermit's Head at BBTB SNOT Panel

A week before the convention, all I had was his head and collar. The rest of the body, arms, and legs, were built during those few days before the convention. The body is pretty straightforward construction, but the arms and legs were trickier. I used the Technic click hinge joints to articulate them, and though they aren’t strong enough to hold up the arms and legs in a pose, they do allow the range of movement needed (well almost – his hands don’t quite reach where the strings on the banjo should be). The arms and legs are octagonal in cross-section, but because inverse slopes in green are much less common, I built them by constructing each segment studs-out and then mounting them together back-to-back using various methods. The hands and feet are simple assemblages of green plates. I wish I could have made the fingers articulate but I didn’t have the parts in green to do that.

But by far my favorite part of this model is the banjo, and that was done in a day from parts I had on hand. I made the circle out of 1×2 log bricks interspersed with 1×1 round bricks, with a wall of white 1x bricks to form the face of the banjo. The neck and other details came together out of basic bricks and plates in a straightforward manner. The round part of a banjo is basically a drum, and so there are tightening screws all the way around it to adjust the tension. I simulated those using grey LEGO bars mounted on clip plates, and think it comes off looking quite realistic. I did not string the banjo, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get the strings taut enough to look right. I might see if I can add strings to improve it later though.

I used the head of Kermit as a demonstration model in the SNOT (Studs Not On Top) panel at Bricks by the Bay, and plan to post some more detailed pictures of the construction techniques used in the future, so watch this space.

If you missed Bricks by the Bay, I plan to bring Kermit to the Bricks Cascade convention in Portland in June, so look for him there.

All the photos of Kermit are in the Rainbow Connection photoset on Flickr (click any of the photos in this post, or view as slideshow).