Lego Power Functions Hacking – Intro

PowerFunctions_Logo

Hacking LEGOS! Seriously, who doesn’t like Legos?

One of my current problems is how to get more people interested in microcontroller programming and robotics. Microcontrollers are cheap through the likes of the Arduino but until you attach cool things to them they are quite boring left alone. But how do you start someone going when the things you attach are complicated and often expensive… LEGOS! Few are the households that don’t have access to standard Legos. Add to that a Lego Power Functions motor and gear kit which can be had for as cheap as $10 on ebay and you’re up and running!

I’ve started a project to hack Lego motors for easy attachment to an Arduino. The benefits of this are two fold:

  1. Ease and Low Cost of Lego robot platform building
  2. Massive Arduino code library and documentation availability from all over the internet

My goal is to create a project anyone with Legos and an Arduino could put together to use as a robotics platform. My plan is to start with simple motor control and move on to more advance control.

Here are a few of my possible plans:

  • Wire project with no destruction of Lego motors or attached cables. (Hacking extension cables for Arduino connection)
  • Basic Motor Speed Control using Arduino and cheap motor driver from Pololu.com
  • Remote control over Arduino serial terminal
  • Remote control over WiFi using CC3000 Wifi shield for Arduino from Adafruit
  • PC Interface for WiFi robot control using C#
  • Android Interface for Wifi Robot control (possibly using Basic4Android, we’ll see)
  • 3D Printed Lego Compatible mounting blocks for Arduino (entirely dependent on me getting a 3D Printer, hint: watch this blog)
  • Addition of webcam stream using Raspberry Pi or upcoming Arduino Tre

Some of these are stretch goals but you can never plan to big as long as you keep your priorities in order! So here we go! Hopefully I’ll have Part 1 up soon which deals with starting equipment and hacking the Lego Power Functions cables for connection to a motor driver.

Series Contents:

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5 thoughts on “Lego Power Functions Hacking – Intro

  1. Pingback: Lego PF Hacking – Wiring | Scuttlebots

  2. Pingback: Lego PF Hacking – Wiring the Arduino | Scuttlebots

  3. Hello, I’m just in the research phase regarding motorizing Lego projects. The Arduino looks really cool, but I’m wondering regarding the wifi shield, can that be replaced by a more simple receiver controller? Most Arduino/lego motor info I find on the net is regarding how to get nxt or evo motors working with Arduino, but I would rather use the newer power function motors. Any links or information to help me get started would be appreciated.

    • You can put any communications in that your heart desires! You could even replace the entire Arduino with a standard hobby RF transmitter and PWM receiver module. The only important part of this project is really specifying each of the lego wires and how to hook them to a a motor controller. The Power Functions motors are just standard DC motors with a proprietary Lego hookup wire.

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