Wave to get the Train moving

Wave to get the Train moving

Shortly after Christmas 2018 my good friend Marco (from CODA FabLab and CoderDojo) thought it was a good idea to create an interactive little contraption in the basement of the Apeldoorn public library (Netherlands). The train is heavily inspired by the 1981 set Electric Passenger Train but with a 9V electric motor underneath. So I decided to use the color sensor and 2 touch sensors of the Mindstorms NXT 2.0 set together with the NXT Intelligent Brick because we could not spare any EV3 parts…

Kids (but also a lot of adults) are waving their hand in front of the sensor to make the train move from one buffer stop to the other, showing working headlights while driving. Both buffer stops contain a touch sensor. It has been running in the display case ever since. I only had to clean the track once and had to readjust the color sensor because it moved away from the window a bit, causing it to no longer see waving hands… More technical details can be found below the videos/images.

This is the test phase on my desktop at home:

And this is the setup in the display case in the library:

The code was written using the NXT-G programming software and you can download the CodaTrain.rbt file here. Below is a screenshot of the complete program:

It contains of an infinite loop waiting until something inside the color range from blue until and including red is spotted by the color sensor, like so:

Then motor output A is powered. To be able to adapt an NXT connection to a 9V Train Connection Wire I used a Mindstorms NXT Converter Cable.

So output A is powered until touch sensor 2 is touched, then the power to output A it cut. Again the waiting is for something to move in front of the color sensor (same code is used as shown above). When this happens, output A is powered in the other direction, to reverse the train ride. Until sensor 1 is touched, etc…

The NXT Intelligent Brick is powered by the Rechargeable Battery for LEGO Mindstorms NXT which is ultimately connected to a regular 220V electrical outlet coming from the ceiling of the library


Anatomini’s first Physical Appearance

Last weekend (September 9 and 10, 2017) for the first time in my hometown Apeldoorn “Het Festijn met Bouwsteentjes”, loosely translated “The Party with Building Blocks” was organized at the Americahal. As a member of De Bouwsteen, a LEGO user group in the Netherlands, I volunteered during construction day to position tables and wooden plates inside the exhibition hall and to fix/finish some LEGO models that were broken during transport.

A nice side effect of helping out in your municipality is meeting other LEGO fans that might be living in your own neighbourhood or even street without them knowing you or each other. During the actual event I visited several times as a guest, showing big and small friends around the many LEGO displays and shops.

One of the showpieces was Paleis Soestdijk, a former palace of the Dutch Royal Family. It was commissioned by LEGO and built by members of De Bouwsteen in 7 months, taking 900 hours using 60,000 bricks! Here is a picture of the finished model, which consists of three parts that needed to be transported by lorry.

Paleis Soestdijk in LEGO

Another magnificent model that was on live display for the first time was Anatomini. This anatomically correct skeleton that fits inside an upscaled hollow minifigure has been created by Stephan Niks. He was one of the other volunteers I met during the event. He is an engineer and visualisation artist of (air)ports by profession with a keen interest in science and engineering. He told me he designed this model using LEGO Digital Designer. Please vote for this stunning model on LEGO IDEAS in order to increase the chances of having Anatomini turned into a genuine LEGO set. Also check out its beloning updates page for more pictures and a VR video..!

Here are two pictures I took of the display of Anatomini. One on Friday without the actual LEGO model, the second one with this great model live on stage..!

waiting for Anatomini to appear

Anatomini live of stage

For my Second World War interested nephew I bought this German soldier with parachute and other gear from the BRiCKiZiMO Toys stand.

German Soldier with Parachute

A scan of a local newspaper article (in Dutch) about this event can be found here.

LEGO Idea Book 8888 influenced my Life

The “Expert Builder Idea Book” with set number 8888 (published in 1980) – available as pdf, and via a lot of places as separate images, too – was a real eyeopener for me as a kid in the early 1980s. Its cover might ring a bell:

Cover 8888

I have built the Excavator, the Car Chassis and the Yellow Jeep. But the most awesome model was the punch card-like Programmable Crane, as shown below:

prg crane

prg crane 2

Of course the model itself would not win in a beauty contest, but the mechanism of programming a device using gear racks blew my young mind. I have created several variations of this punch card principle back then. I think this model was one of the reasons for me to start saving money to buy my own home computer and to choose an education, and later on a profession, in the software development field..!

Who Let The Dogs Out
But there is one other model in the book I particularly like, and that is the Mechanical Dog. I will show all instruction pages here, because there are only 4, of which 2 contain the actual building steps:

Showing dogs

Building dogs

I was able to build only one dog in the 1980s but now I have created all three! They walk a bit slowly in the next video.

But when I changed the gears on the legs of one dog from 8 and 40 teeth to 24 and 24 teeth that one outruns the others..!

From Race Plane to War Plane

For his 11th birthday I bought my WW2-interested nephew (the same one I got the soldiers and assembled the ambulance for) the #60144 Race Place as seen below:

race plane

Then I used my own dark tanned, dark and light bluish gray and black LEGO bricks to change it into a war plane for him. And I created and added some matching stickers. The result is shown here:

war plane

Finally I ordered this Panzer Crew Driver with helmet and goggles – now acting as a pilot – from BRiCKiZiMO to complete the scenery…

panzer crew driver

Just build me a Church

Last December, while visiting Mini Billund, a privately owned must see little LEGO museum (plus shop) in Wagenberg, the Netherlands, I took a picture of the following LEGO set of a typical Danish church in one of the many glass cases:


On the Brickset Forum I found the following data about this set. It was made from 1957 until 1962. Its set number is 1309 in Scandinavia and was sold starting 1958 in continental Europe using set number 309.

In those days the bricks where nicely displayed in their box as shown here:


The actual building of such a model was a more challenging task, though. That is because this set did not have separate building instructions. The pictures on the box were the only help you got. So the picture on the cover plus the one shown below were supposed to be enough. I guess you needed a lot of counting and guessing back then…


Fortunately, I found a very useful .lxf file on this page. I saved a backup here. It can e.g. be opened using LEGO Digital Designer but can also be imported by Stud.io (which by the way has very nice BrickLink integration). The next image shows the model after importing it in Stud.io, and after I removed two 1 x 2 white bricks to be replaced by windows. I removed those bricks because I finally found one image that showed the church from the back.

Church in Stud.io

Inspired and helped by the aforementioned digital drawing I have recreated this 60-year-old model using my own white and red LEGO bricks. But it took a while to pick the not so much discolored white pieces from my collection. The only parts I had to order via BrickLink were all the windows. Some pictures of the final result are shown here (click on image to enlarge):

church01    church02

church03    church04

LEGO Technic and the Commodore 64 – Part VI

During the Christmas season I found the time to create another project from the book published in 1985 entitled “Make And Program Your Own Robots for the Commodore 64 and VIC-20” I started blogging about here.

I skipped the project called “Card Reader”, some kind of punch(ed) card reader able to translate holes punched in a piece of cardboard into binary code. Maybe I will try that some other time.

This time I created the Mini Arm project. It requires two 4.5V motors and some pretty intricate wiring. I made a copy of the page and used different color felt tip pens to make the schema more readable, as shown below.

Wiring Schema

This time two homemade switches were needed, again constructed using a paperclip, some tinfoil and a small rubber band, as seen in Part V.

Two Switches

The Commodore 64 BASIC program belonging to this project has a “Teach Moves” mode and a “Repeat Moves” mode. While in Teach Mode the keys 1 and Q make the arm turn and keys 2 and W make it go up and down. At the end of each move press key S to save that particular move.

Below are some videos of the working arm. We start with an overview and end with some LEGO brick lifting.

A Brick a Day keeps the Doctor Away

Today the last bricks arrived (ordered via BrickLink) enabling me to finish building the Lego WWII German Opel Blitz Ambulance found on Brian (Fitzsimmons)’s Bricks Instructions YouTube channel. It will be a gift for my nephew, who specifically asked me if I would create this model for him. He is the same nephew for which I ordered the Axis and Allies Soldiers from BRiCKiZiMO. Below are some pictures of the finished model:

Opel Blitz Ambulance (sideways)

Opel Blitz Ambulance (back)

I also ordered this wounded soldier for him to act as a passenger inside the ambulance:

Wounded soldier

Exclusive Microsoft Azure Minifigure arrived on my Wall

Thanks to the people of the great and inspiring company Xpirit I finally have my very own copy of the limited edition Microsoft Azure minifig. I placed it between the famous geek with his laptop and C:\ prompt mug and the gamer wearing headphones and a USB key hanging on his belt. So thanks to René, Alex and Rasmus Hald for bringing, transporting and handing over this LEGO gem.

Azure Minifig on the Wall

Minifig as Promotional Gift or Treat

Today I went to a very interesting so-called Global Azure Bootcamp about Azure Service Fabric hosted by the great and inspiring company Xpirit.

One of its bright employees showed me this awesome promotional minifig:

Azure Minifig

It reminded me of the fact that some LEGO employees have minifigs as their official business card, like these:

Minifig Business Cards

And those business cards did inspire me a couple of times in the past to create some kind of promotional gift, award for special achievements or birthday treats, in chronological order:

In 2008 (for my 37th birthday) I created 50(!) minifigs holding some tool, wearing different hats or having some hairdo, to hand out as a treat to each of my colleagues. It costed a bit, but at least they last longer than a tradional piece of birthday cake 🙂

Twice Training

For this action I printed, cut out and pasted 100 company logos (front and back). This is part of the sticker print sheet I created for that purpose:

Twice Torso

In 2012 (for my 41st birthday) I created over 20 minifigs for all my birthday guests to take home after an afternoon of free gaming at the Bonami SpelComputer Museum.


As a thank you gift for the very nice owners/hosts of this great retro/video/computer/game museum, Naomi and John, I created these two figurines, which pretty much resemble them:

Naomi and John

As a Christmas gift for 2012 I created these little promotional figures for the startup company Jooroon for which I had developed a software proof-of-concept involving a smartphone app that same year.


In 2013 I created this minifig as a special achievement award during a very prestigious training bootcamp for newly hired Microsoft employees. The guy concerned earned his MCSD: Web Applications certification during these training weeks and said jokingly every time he took one of the exams: “I’ll have these MCSD exams for breakfast”. That’s why I gave the figurine a butcher’s knife and a T-bone steak. He loved it. He came from Denmark and had even done an internship at the LEGO company…