290 stories
·
11 followers

Working LEGO pinball machine built from 15,000 bricks features Benny in all his Classic Space glory [Exclusive Feature]

1 Comment

Pinball machines bring out the kid in all of us, hanging out in an arcade losing quarters and setting high scores. And the Classic Space era of LEGO sets appeals to so many of us who got our first LEGO sets back in the 70’s through 90’s. The Brothers Brick contributor Bre Burns hits it out of the nostalgia ballpark with a fully functional LEGO pinball machine called “Benny’s Spaceship Adventure.” She spent several months perfecting the design with over 15,000 LEGO bricks, including LEGO Mindstorms NXT programmable bricks to make sounds and count your high score.

Bre has kindly shared loads of details about her LEGO masterpiece, which stands over two and a half feet tall, exclusively with The Brothers Brick. Let’s pull back that ball launcher, flick those flippers, and learn more about this amazing LEGO creation!

But first, let’s take a look at the pinball machine in action as Bre shares its working features and tells us a little bit about the design process in our latest TBB video.

Technical details

The complexity of creating a fully functional LEGO pinball machine is rather mind-boggling to those of us who work mostly with System bricks. What’s truly astounding is that Bre herself is new to Technic — Benny’s Spaceship Adventure is her first major LEGO Technic and Mindstorms project!

Bre tells us that the pinball machine incorporates three LEGO Mindstorms NXT “brain” bricks (one “mother” and two “subordinates”) connected to each other via Bluetooth. These NXT bricks control 9 NXT servo motors, 7 touch sensors, 2 color sensors, 2 light sensors, and 2 ultrasonic sensors.

In addition, the game includes 7 sets of LEGO PowerFunctions lights, at least 10 9-volt PowerFunctions single-bulb lights, a 9-volt double-bulb flashing light, 4 M motors, and 1 XL motor. Light-up features are further enhanced with a 9-volt fiber optics element.

The entire pinball machine can run on three or four PowerFunctions battery boxes, but can also be powered using an old 9-volt LEGO Trains speed regulator plugged into the wall.

Even the bouncing bumpers user LEGO rubber bands (more than 30), and the balls themselves are LEGO! Bre used several LEGO Mindstorms steel castor balls, of which one to four are on the table at any given point in time (depending on your luck and skill).

Build process

Bre tells us that she first came up with the idea for Benny’s Spaceship Adventure after Emerald City Comic-Con (ECCC) in March 2017, and spent the next few months building the first version, with a “mad dash” to finish it ahead of BrickCon in October. She unveiled the current version at this year’s ECCC in Seattle, just over a year after she began building. Overall, she spent between two hundred and three hundred hours to design, build, and program the pinball machine.

For those who played with Benny’s Spaceship Adventure at BrickCon last year, we asked Bre about the differences between the earlier version and the current version. How did the design and functionality improve? “At BrickCon, it wasn’t very functional due to programming bugs and limited strength in building connections that didn’t survive the drive to the Con,” Bre tells us. “At the time, removing the tabletop (or playfield) was the only way to get inside and fix things, which was really difficult.” But today, the machine includes lots of little doors and drawers to get inside and tweak or fix things, as well as much stronger connections to improve stability during gameplay and transportation for display.

Bre entered Benny’s Spaceship Adventure in a LEGO Technic contest called “Amazing Technic Machines,” and it’s no surprise to us that her amazing machine won! LEGO sent Bre several of the components she needed to finalize her creation, including the parts she used to build the movement feature with Benny’s Spaceship on top of the rear panel.

We asked Bre what she learned from displaying her final version at ECCC in March. “At ECC I realized,” she says, “That, like most real pinball pinball machines, leveling issues, realignments, and periodic breakdowns needed to be addressed, but I was able to achieve my goal of giving a couple hundred people the opportunity to play it.”

Benny's Spaceship Adventure at ECCC

Resources, software, & tools

But before LEGO sent Bre a whole bunch of free brick, she had to gather most of the rest of the 15,000 parts. How did she do that? First, she planned sketched everything out on pen and paper to help estimate what she would need. Next, she turned to LEGO Digital Designer, but that turned out to be rather inefficient, “due to the need to see all the physics in action.” Nevertheless, she designed some of the side panel artwork digitally before she began sourcing various parts from the LEGO Store Pick-a-Brick wall (“at least 20-25 cups”), BrickLink, and eBay.

The mosaic parts were created by overlaying a digital LEGO grid, created by a computer program that Bre’s fiancée uses at work, onto images. The program was then used to place digital bricks into the images to get the right looks and part-counts. Printouts were used as blueprints.

We wondered how she managed the cost of purchasing multiple NXT bricks. “I began purchasing the robotic components on eBay,” she says,”And kept with NXT because I couldn’t afford multiple EV3s.” Bre then used the LEGO NXT-G software to program the bricks, learning as she built by watching LEGO Mindstorms tutorials on YouTube. Here’s a bit of the program Bre built to run her pinball machine.

This early version of a flow diagram illustrates just how complex the interactions are between the sensors and other input devices, the Mindstorms NXT “brain” bricks, and the various motors and other output components.

Challenges & obstacles

Bre set herself a particularly challenging goal — use only official LEGO products. What impact did that constraint have on the process? “No gluing, screwing, fabrication, or modification of any of the parts, including balls, rubber bands, and even the use of the LEGO NXT-G software instead of another programming platform.” We watched Bre build and rebuild her pinball machine during BrickCon and ECCC, and continue to be impressed with how committed she has been to this goal!

Benny's Spaceship Adventure at ECCC

She also tried to build the table itself as close as possible to a 6.5-degree standard pinball grade.

How the heck do you move this from place to place without it falling to pieces?! “I get asked a lot about this,” Bre tells us. “The machine sits on a custom piece of plywood and is moved as a whole unit. It can technically be broken down by taking off the tabletop (which is actually two parts), and sliding the faceplate (the Classic Space logo) through the top. But leaving these in place actually holds it together better, so I don’t take them off during transport. Honestly, it doesn’t transport well, because bumps eventually throw things out of alignment.”

Ultimately, Bre was fighting with the limits of the plastic medium and the laws of physics, which both proved the most challenging obstacles as the table flew apart repeatedly, hammered by steel balls in motion. But she persevered over nearly 14 months, with help from her fiancée Jessie, who designed the little control room and the platform for Benny’s moving spaceship, among other things. But LEGO is a global community, and Bre was able to collaborate not just with local friends and LEGO builders like fellow SEALUG members, but also people far away like Steve Hassenplug, who built one of the earliest LEGO pinball machines.

What is Bre the proudest of? “LEGO is meant to be played with,” Bre says, “And I wanted this to be an inspiration to young builders, so getting people to play it and seeing kids’ faces light up made all the difficulties totally worth it.” Her pinball machine is a wonderful marriage of functionality and aesthetics, with wonderful mosaics on the case surrounding an incredibly complex mechanical interior.

And what did Bre learn from this marriage of System, Technic, and Mindstorms? “Combining these elements is easier than some may think,” she says, “And that really enhances the build. I had only really used System until this point and learned how to incorporate Technic and Mindstorms by teaching myself from scratch. If I could do it, anyone can. It’s meant for kids, after all!”

Our thanks to Bre for sharing so much great information about her amazing Technic machine! See more photos in the gallery below…


Special thanks to Geoff Vlcek Photography for the onsite photographs from Emerald City Comic-Con (photos used with kind permission of the photographer).


The post Working LEGO pinball machine built from 15,000 bricks features Benny in all his Classic Space glory [Exclusive Feature] appeared first on The Brothers Brick.

Read the whole story
trekkie
108 days ago
reply
This is amazing.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Share this story
Delete

PREVIEW: Upcoming ‘Star Trek Adventures’ Miniatures & Supplements

1 Comment

If you love Star Trek, roleplaying games, or our Star Trek Adventures RPG show Shield of Tomorrow (or all three), the latest announcement from Modiphius is sure to excite you. Wave 2 products for Star Trek Adventures, their Star Trek RPG is promising supplements and miniatures for fans to enhance their gaming experience.

To start off,  Star Trek Adventures players and GMs will appreciate how the two new supplements, The Command Division Supplemental Rulebook and the Beta Quadrant Sourcebook expand the game and capture the universe more comprehensively.

Wave 2 Supplements

The Command Division Supplemental Rulebook is packed full of information for players and GMs, with a focus on Starfleet Command and the Admiralty, as well as expanding Social Conflict rules. After all, being brought in front of a table of Admirals, and being slightly insubordinate to them, is as much a part of the universe as holodeck and transporter malfunctions. There are more talents for the Command and Conn Disciplines, as well as a list of departments related to Focuses. Moreover, there are new starships, including the NX class, Oberth class, Ambassador class, Nebula class, and the Steamrunner class.  (Keep an eye out for our full breakdown of this supplement in our exclusive overview, coming soon.)

The Beta Quadrant Sourcebook provides a significant amount of historical information on the Federation and its planets in the Beta Quadrant, as well as the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, The Gorn, and the Orion Syndicate. It will also offer players new alien species to choose from during character creation, from Benzites and Klingons, to Deltans, the Xindi, and Zakdorn. Additional NPC starships mean Gamemasters can bring more ships, such as the mighty Klingon Negh’Var battlecruiser or the Romulan Bird Of Prey from the 22nd century into their games.

Beyond the supplements, Modiphius is also releasing sets of miniatures. Whether you’re a player or collector, the sculpts are enticing and dynamic. The two 10-model sets are The Borg set and the Next Generation Away Team set – 32mm scale and cast in resin.  The Next Generation Away Team set includes male and female figures of humans, Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites, and Denobulans. The Borg set is comprised of 5 female and 5 male miniatures (though there are only a total of 6 unique sculpts in the set.) You can check out individual shots of the miniatures in the gallery below.

Borg-Group-Shot_webresTNG-Away-Team-Group-Shot_webres
 All the products previewed are available for pre-order through Modiphius and will be available this summer at reputable retailers. Want to try to play Star Trek Adventures? Download and play the free quickstart guide from Modiphius’ site.

Want more Star Trek Adventures goodness?

Image Credits: Modiphius/Star Trek/CBS

Read the whole story
trekkie
169 days ago
reply
i can't paint to save my life, wish they'd just release these painted lightly so people who can paint could upgrade them. shittily painted characters would mean i'd never play.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Share this story
Delete

AT&T to Launch New Unlimited Data Plan

1 Comment
Following in the footsteps of T-Mobile and Verizon, AT&T today announced plans to debut a new unlimited data plan that's available to all of its postpaid customers. The unlimited plan will be available starting tomorrow.

AT&T previously offered an unlimited data plan, but it was limited to customers who were also DirecTV or U-Verse customers.

According to AT&T, the new plan will provide unlimited talk, text, and data on four lines for $180, which is more expensive than T-Mobile's ONE data plan for four customers and on par with Verizon's pricing, also at $180 for four lines. A single line is priced at $100.


AT&T is including unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico and unlimited texts to more than 120 countries around the world. Customers are also able to talk, text, and use data in Canada and Mexico with no roaming charges.
"We're offering unlimited entertainment on the nation's best data network where and when you want to enjoy more of what you love," said David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer of the AT&T Entertainment Group.
AT&T's $180 price point is after a $40 credit for the fourth smartphone line, which will start after two billing periods. Prior to then, customers will need to pay $220 per month for the plan.

The company's fine print says that AT&T "may slow speeds" during periods of network congestion for customers who consume more than 22GB of data, which is not a surprise as T-Mobile and Verizon's plans contain similar caveats. The unlimited plan also includes the Stream Saver feature, which downgrades video to 480p. Stream Saver is enabled by default, but can be turned off online.

With AT&T now offering an unlimited plan for all of its customers, all of the major carriers in the United States have unlimited data plans available, which is impressive because for the last several years, carriers like AT&T and Verizon have been heavily focused on eliminating their unlimited customers.

Sprint and T-Mobile have offered unlimited data plans since August, and T-Mobile's growing popularity and regular feature additions at an affordable price appears to have inspired AT&T and Verizon to re-adopt unlimited plans.

Verizon announced its unlimited plan earlier this week with inclusions like 10GB of tethering data and HD video streaming, spurring T-Mobile to implement similar changes. With T-Mobile's new tethering offerings and higher-quality video streaming, it continues to offer the best value at $70 per month for a single subscriber (Verizon's plan is $80). Sprint's plan is priced at $55 per month, but its coverage can't compete with T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, and AT&T's plan is the most expensive of the four at $100 for a single line.

Tag: AT&T

Discuss this article in our forums

Read the whole story
trekkie
571 days ago
reply
makes my bill $50 more expensive since the iPads are no longer $10 a month with this plan. we have four phones and two iPads on the account. lame.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Share this story
Delete

Here’s How You Understand “Repeal and Replace Obamacare”

1 Comment

Universal Health Care is most fundamentally a license to live unhealthy with most associated costs being passed off to nameless and anonymous others and not born by yourself or by those with the means to influence you, relieving you of shame, as well. — little ‘ol me

I must say that all this waffling over the pre-existing conditions aspect of the “repeal and replace” debate is utter nonsense.

That is not insurance. A priori.

It would be exactly like being able to buy car “insurance” only after you cause an accident. That is literally, and in every respect, how fucking boneheaded and dishonest this whole load of crap is. Indeed, with that single provision, might as well just have federal single-payer and everyone gets to queue up, undergo triage, and wait just like all those Euro Fucktards are content to do—except the rich ones who fly to America for a procedure.

At least that would save untold billions in admin and the medical billing business make-work scam. Billions on advertising, too—all of which are paid by customers. You’d just know to go to that very ugly building, hat in hand, and stand in line with all the other peons.

If you must deal with pre-existing conditions, then it needs to be something entirely outside the insurance market and indeed, ought to be absolutely bare bones care, such that people who choose to be a Free Rider and not buy insurance, understand that they aren’t going to get Johns Hopkins, but a fully just CubaCare.

…There’s more, here and here. Art de Vany fans might want to click.

Read the whole story
trekkie
596 days ago
reply
Except buying car insurance after a wreck isn't a death sentence.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
kazriko
596 days ago
That would possibly be a good case for universal major medical coverage. Of course, the AMA car insurance plans would cover things like oil changes and replacement headlights, which make it so expensive that people can barely afford it, then you say that the people who have older cars with more expensive maintenance issues can't be charged any more than those who have new cars, then you force people to pay for it even if they don't need which drives the price up. I think I've tortured that metaphor enough though. ;)
Share this story
Delete

My Electoral Prediction, 2016

1 Comment

Here is the map I think is going to happen on Tuesday night, the one that carries Hillary Clinton to electoral victory and Donald Trump into heaving fits of frothing denial. I think it’s a realistic map (I also made pessimistic and optimistic maps, which I will show you a bit later), although I’m happy to concede that at least a couple states here are teetering, and a couple could go red and at least one could go blue. But to be honest I would be surprised if it varies too much from this map.

As ever, it seems, the key to whether Clinton supporters can breathe early or settle in for a long, anxious night will be Florida. If Clinton wins Florida (as I expect she will), then it becomes virtually impossible for Trump to win the election. If Clinton loses Florida but wins North Carolina, once again Trump is in a very difficult position.

None of this is news, of course; despite constant Clinton supporter panic over the months, Clinton has always been in the lead and Trump has always been the underdog. There are rather more ways for Trump to lose than Clinton. Clinton in fact can lose Florida and North Carolina and even New Hampshire, and still win, as evidenced by this pessimistic version of a Clinton victory map:

This isn’t a very happy map for Clinton supporters, since it will leave the Trump supporters howling and possibly riotous on Wednesday, but 270 is what you need, and this map gives it. And again it also illustrates Trump’s bind: He’s got a hell of an uphill climb to victory.

Having now just given the Clinton supporters here angina with this worst case scenario map, here’s what I think is the most optimistic Clinton map, short of a stunning blowout repudiation of Trump and the GOP, which to be honest I don’t see happening:

In addition to moving Ohio and Arizona into the blue, this map also gives Utah to Evan McMullin, a thing I currently find unlikely but not impossible given the general LDS dissatisfaction with Trump. Clinton fans would love to have Trump and McMullin split Utah and have her go right up the middle for the win, but, folks, listen to me: It’s okay to settle here. A McMullin win still deprives Trump of electoral vote oxygen.

I’ll note that my own “realistic” map is more optimistic in terms of Clinton electoral votes than either FiveThirtyEight (which as of 8am this morning, has Clinton at 292.5) or the Princeton Election Consortium, which has her at 312. In both cases, however, it’s important to note that they both have Clinton taking the election. At this point in time, there is basically no reputable estimator or poll aggregator that doesn’t have Clinton ahead in the electoral vote count.

Can Trump win? If you take my “pessimistic” map and give him Colorado or Wisconsin, then he can win outright. If he wins neither but takes Nevada (which after this week’s surge in early voting seems unlikely to me, but 538 still has it leaning red), then it’s an electoral vote tie, and the election goes to the House of Representatives, which realistically means Trump wins. It’s possible Trump wins. It’s also unlikely.

I feel pretty confident Clinton’s going to take it, but if you’re a Clinton supporter and still feeling edgy, I’m okay with that, too. Get out there and vote, and take all your other Clinton-friendly (or at least Trump-unhappy) friends with you. And while you’re at it, remember to vote Democratic down ballot as well. As I’ve noted before, Trump’s not the only problem here.

Again: Don’t panic, but don’t take anything for granted. When Trump loses — and I’m pretty sure he will lose — he’ll whine and complain and stomp his feet and continue to suggest the vote is rigged. He’s already doing that, complaining that the perfectly legal policy of letting people already in line when a polling time passes actually cast their vote constitutes “rigging,” rather than ensuring citizens their ability to exercise their right of franchise. If the vote is close, you best believe Trump, his people and the GOP are going to work the refs. So better if Clinton wins walking away.

That being the case, you know what to do: Vote, and this year, vote Clinton.

(Maps made with Vox.com’s electoral map maker: Click here to make your own map.)


Read the whole story
trekkie
658 days ago
reply
kinda funny reading news way behind in time, boy was he wrong.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Share this story
Delete

MacDailyNews: ‘Apple to Deliver iMessage to Android at WWDC’

2 Comments

From whoever the hell it is who writes MacDailyNews:

Apple will announce that iMessage encrypted text messaging is coming to Android users at WWDC next Monday at WWDC 2016, according to a source familiar with the company’s thinking.

A lot of people are skeptical about this, but I’m not. It’s a little surprising if true, but remember that Apple is now boasting about its prowess as a services company. Messaging Message is a service. And it makes even more sense if, as rumored, there’s a payments component coming to iMessage.

Read the whole story
trekkie
804 days ago
reply
fun part about being behind on your news reading is coming across gems like this.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
satadru
833 days ago
reply
iTools... .Mac... MobileMe... iCloud... amazing how amongst all this iMessage is the one cloud service Apple has managed to keep simple and NOT fuck up.. except for the fact that Apple's cloud outages remain a giant black box of "it'll be up when it's up."
New York, NY
Next Page of Stories