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Unformatted text preview: This article was originally published in The Robotics Practitioner: The Journal for Robot Builders , volume 1, number 2, Spring 1995; [email protected] The Art of LEGO Design Fred G. Martin 1 March 15, 1995 There is a real need for better resources for both fledgling and intermediate LEGO builders. The plans that the LEGO company distributes with its kits are very good at showing how to build specific models, but not so good at teaching how to design from one’s own ideas. At the MIT Media Laboratory, we’re working on a project we call the LEGO Constructopedia , a hypermedia resource for LEGO designers that will include LEGO building plans, design principles, textual descriptions, and rendered animations, all interlinked, indexed, and browsable. The project is just beginning and is still in the conceptual stages; this article is my attempt to present some of the content of our proposed LEGO Constructopedia in a more traditional form. The article begins with an analysis of the structural principles of the LEGO system, continues with a discussion of gears, gear reduction, and geartrains, and finishes with a visual assortment of various building tricks or “clich´es.” Interspersed throughout are numerous diagrams and sample models to illustrate the ideas being presented. I hope that LEGO aficionados at all levels from novice to expert will find something of interest here. Structure The Vertical Dimension Relation Let’s begin by examining the LEGO brick in detail. Most people realize that the LEGO brick is not based on a cubic form. The height of the brick is a larger measure than the length and width (assuming the normal viewpoint of studs on the top). But few people know the secret relationship between these dimensions: the vertical unit is precisely 6/5 times the horizontal ones. Put another way, a stack of five LEGO bricks is exactly equal in height as a six-stud LEGO beam is long. The origins of this obscure relationship remain shrouded in mystery, but it has real practical value: by building structures with vertical heights equal to integral horizontal lengths, it is possible to use beams to brace LEGO constructions. This technique is greatly facilitated by the one-third-height plates, which allow a number of vertical spacing possibilities. The most common trick is to create two horizontal units of space in the vertical dimension by separating two beams with two plates (Figure 1). This 1 2 3 vertical measure is two units of horizontal measure since 1 2 3 times the conversion factor of 6/5 1 The Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 20 Ames Street Room E15–320, Cambridge, MA 02139. E-mail: [email protected] . This document is Copyright c 1995 by Fred G. Martin. It may be distributed freely in verbatim form provided that no fee is collected for its distribution (other than reasonable reproduction costs) and this copyright notice is included. An electronic version of this document is available via anonymous FTP from...
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