Sparking the Fun

A treatise on LEGOs, robotics and why SparkFun is awesome.

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A year or so ago, we had a couple of guys from a certain popular building block company visit SparkFun. I'll admit, I fangirled a bit. Okay, maybe a lot. I have always loved these building blocks; I've always loved pulling things apart and rebuilding them to see how they work. The kits have that "new" factor - the fun of the build, the satisfaction when it's done - and the "Ooo - how can we hack this" is the cherry on top. Plus, the latest kits are SO COOL. My birthday is coming up, if anyone wants to buy me either that Hogwarts Castle or Great Hall kit...just sayin'.

I recently posted my hack of Wall-E - adding a serial controlled motor driver and our gamer:bit with a couple of micro:bits to drive him around. I struggled to find adapters that would fit between my hobby motors and my building block axles. I even tried 3D printing them but couldn't get the precision I wanted. Eventually, I had to go third-party to find the adapters I needed, and I complained bitterly to management about this.

What did SparkFun do? They went out and sourced a bunch of adapter samples and handed me a bunch of other cool stuff to play with. For real - check this out:

Photo of Kits

So now I am sitting at my desk, in the process of stress-testing adapters with a really goofy grin on my face. I'm also building a monster truck to test out some robotics wheels we've got coming up in a few weeks (they drive sideways)!

photo of adapters

I bring this up to point out that a) SparkFun is awesome (you all knew that), and b) we have some really neat things coming up in our catalog. If you've missed some of our recent changes, check out our Artemis SparkX line, which includes an RF module, voice recognition, BLE and a bunch of other functionality packed into a 10x15mm board.

We've incorporated the Artemis board into a number of familiar Arduino footprints (have a look at the BlackBoard, Nano or ATP), but it's also available on its own so you can incorporate it into your own project. We're also constantly expanding our Qwiic line, which are essentially plug-and-play sensors and boards that make project automation a breeze. We've got a bunch of other neat things in the works (hopefully even more building block and robotics fun) - and if I can swing it, you should see those axle adapters on our new product carousel.

I know I'm not the only block nerd out there - tell us about your projects, your hacks and what you could use for your projects!

Comments 3 comments

  • Member #134773 / about 5 years ago / 1

    About 30 years ago, Legos had some nifty, relatively inexpensive (IIRC, <$30) sets that included gears, drive shafts, etc. I'd buy one every year and donate it to a "Toys-For-Tots" program (in hopes of inspiring some "budding engineer"). Unfortunately I haven't seen them in years.

    • Member #782435 / about 5 years ago / 1

      This sounds like the Klutz "Lego Crazy Action Contraptions" book+kit, which has been updated slightly over the years, but still available.

    • Ell C / about 5 years ago / 1

      That is SUCH a great idea. We usually do angel gifts around the holidays - they have the Technics and Mindstorm sets now that we could donate. New tradition! For myself, I've used the Technics to hack Lego sets but I'm finding that unless a set is designed to have those parts, I need something more compact. Hence the use of SparkFun's hobby motors and LEDs and such.

      Sometime back I saw Lego bricks that had connectivity built in, but I'm not sure if those were knockoffs or actual Legos. It'd be fun to play with those though...

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