Top 5 Coolest LEGO Machines, Pneumatic Engines & NXT

Karl Is WrightRobotics, Technology

What could be cooler than building it out of LEGO?

When you’re a kid, or just a kid at heart, nothing beats designing things out of LEGO. As a kid I can remember building all kinds of spaceships and structural interiors, it wasn’t until they released the Star Wars Droid Developer Kit with the little Micro-Scout around 1999 that I got interested in Mindstorms at all. I recall getting that one and building some kind of bug…wasn’t a very sturdy bug, I’ll tell you that much, and I had a heck of a time getting the brick to keep from falling off. When I was in Middle School I can recall all the many different LEGO Mindstorms sets for students to build with as part of an after school activity. Growing up, LEGO was one of the few toys I ever really had a prolonged, sustained, interest in. Other toys came and went like a fad, but LEGO was an interest of mine from age 2, on into the beginning of High School.

The things that people are making with LEGOs today are no less amazing to me, than they were when I was in 5th grade. Of course they’ve upped their Mindstorms product line a bit, they’ve gone from the Robotics Invention System RCX (1998) to the Micro-Scout (1999), to the NXT (2006…?) and now the NXT 2.0 (2009…?) programmable brick.

So I figured I’d have a look-see and find out what the kids er…engineering grads, are building these days. Just spent most of my day going through a long line up of LEGO machines and I’ve narrowed my list down to some of the ones I find to be the coolest. Some of these are made with the NXT brick, and some are not.


1. LEGO GBC module : Ball Factory ver.2

What I love about this one, is the fact that it’s nearly 100% mechanical. True, an electric motor is used to get everything going, but it’s optional, towards the end, the guy turns a little LEGO rod with his fingers and you see the whole thing start up again; it’s all mechanically connected. I just find that to be pretty amazing, to think that all those moving parts can be run from a single rod.

2. LEGO Antikythera Mechanism

The most ancient ancestor of the Computer goes back to Greece around 100 BCE. It was an ancient calculator that predicted certain celestial events, namely solar eclipses. This Antikythera Mechanism was designed, prototyped, & built in 30 days, all out of LEGO. The video gives an interesting description of how the mechanism works. Personally I’m amazed that a bunch of LEGOs just told me there will be a solar eclipse in 2024, on the 8th of April, at 4:30pm.

3. LEGO CNC Milling Machine – “3D Printer”

This next LEGO machine, well, I’d say it mostly speaks for itself. 3D computer modeled mesh goes in… 3d printed model comes out. As someone who does a lot of 3d modeling in various Autodesk products, I can think of about a million things to use this thing for. Having one of these things is just so tempting.

4. LEGO Pneumatic Engine Power

This guy’s line up of projects is just so, unbelievably incredible. He builds Pneumatic Engines out of LEGO, and sells them, or sometimes even share instructions to make one. He works under the title, LEGO Pneumatic Engine Power, or LPE for short. There are several car models on hisĀ  youtube channel, many of them with LEGO V8 or V4 engines in them, just absolutely amazing. Check out the LPE website for more.


5. CubeStormer II – The Fastest Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot

There are lots of LEGO robots that can solve a Rubik’s Cube, but none like this. This LEGO NTX bot can solve a Rubik’s Cube in ~ 6 sec. The Android powered Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone, sits atop the machine and analyzes the Rubik’s Cube, then sends the solving instructions to the LEGO NXT brick, and times the whole process. Built by two engineers, Mike Dobson & David Gilday, who simply love doing what they do, their machine has now gone down in they Guinness book of world records.


So there you have it!