Skip to main content

Serendipity crosses open water

Claude Baumann and his students have produced yet another outstanding combination of LEGO engineering, digital hardware prototyping, and innovative programming. Taking inspiration from some of the LEGO boats that have come along in the past, the team set out to make a LEGO boat that could cross a significant sized lake. The result was Serendipity, a autonomous waypoint-navigating craft with a custom GPS sensor.

In their normal fashion, they've provided
a detailed log of their progress on this project, from beginning to end - and it's something I'd really suggest any budding engineer (LEGO or otherwise) read. A lot of people look at an end result and are amazed by it... but the really amazing thing to me is the process to get to it. The inspiration, the wrong turns, the problems anticipated and the surprises learned the hard way. Claude's team has done an admirable job documenting all this, and for anyone who's been involved in such a project it's enlightening to see (and a great way to teach young engineers).

The basic boat was a simple catamaran using two of the stock LEGO motors at the rear on a pivoting mount as a sort of "powered tiller". With a compass to determine the boat heading the only thing they lacked was an absolute positioning system... so they made their own GPS sensor. With this they programmed the boat to do a waypoint navigation on the surface of a large reservoir... it work work flawlessly! To put this in context, the Serendipity is about 38 cm long, and traveled an 800 meter course from shore to shore.
That's the equivalent of a 16' boat traveling more than 16 miles (2,100 boat lengths). Not too shabby, especially considering that waves to not "scale down" nearly as nicely, so while it seems to have been a calm day... those are still significant waves for such a small boat! It also points out the efficiency of the LEGO boat motors: two of them (each running on a single AA battery) had enough power to thrust continuously for 40 minutes. I'm not sure what the total running time is... but it's clearly significant, and that was pushing the boat at good speed!

There's also a nice YT video of it up, if you want to see the "movie version". Now, if I could just get a calm enough lake and a GPS sensor... well, if I didn't have ideas before, I certainly would now :).

PS- There will be a series of boat races again at this years Brickworld event in Chicago, so there may be more of this "risking LEGO inches above the water" coming in the near future.

Popular posts from this blog


2023 is the 25th Anniversary of the MINDSTORMS brand. For 25 years, MINDSTORMS has educated and inspired a generation of robot builders, both children and adults. Unfortunately, the LEGO Group decided to end the line on December 2022. Many ROBOTMAK3RS have been passionately involved with the development of MINDSTORMS through the MUP and MCP programs. Even with the newest Robot Inventor line, several ROBOTMAK3RS were invited to submit additional bonus models that were included in the official app. Regardless of the retirement of a major LEGO robotics product line, ROBOTMAK3RS continue to MAKE-SHARE-INSPIRE using all LEGO robotics platforms available to us. Here is the official statement from LEGO. Since its launch in September 1998, LEGO MINDSTORMS has been one of the core ‘Build & Code’ experiences in the company’s portfolio, carrying with it significant brand equity and becoming a stand-out experience for the early days of consumer robotics and leading to current Build & Code

Celebrating 25 Years of MINDSTORMS

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of MINDSTORMS, we take a trip through history. Please also visit ROBOTMAK3RS Community every week as we highlight different projects all through 2023 in celebration of the anniversary. Some of the early history is based on the content shared by  Coder Shah  in our  MINDSTORMS EV3 Community Group . Some of the text and links may have been edited from his original posts for consistency and clarity.  1984 - Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen watched a TV program called "Talking Turtle," where MIT professor Seymour Papert demonstrated how children could control robot "turtles" using LOGO, a programming language he developed. 1988 - The collaboration between MIT and LEGO resulted in LEGO TC Logo in 1988, which allowed students to control LEGO models using computer commands. The video shows Papert demonstrating TC Logo. 1990 - LEGO TC Logo was hampered since the robots you built had to be tethered to a personal computer. LEGO and MIT

Celebrating MINDSTORMS with a Remix Part 1

In honor of the 25th Anniversary of MINDSTORMS, we asked ROBOTMAK3RS to combine a LEGO set of their choice with a MINDSTORMS set. Here is what these five ROBOTMAK3RS came up with.  MINDSTORMS Chess Assistant by Arvind Seshan Overview: When you are new to chess, it can be a challenge to remember which pieces go where. Now, you can use machine learning and LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor to build a tool to help you learn where all the chess pieces go on the chess board. Sets used: LEGO® Iconic Chess Set (40174) and MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor (51515) Review: I really like how the chess set base can store all the pieces underneath and that the board neatly splits in half for handy storage. The chess pieces themselves are very sturdy and well built. My only criticism is the building of the box itself. It was quite difficult to see what pieces to use and since the entire box is made mostly of thin plates, it took a lot of time and patience. I would have liked the storage area to be sliding dra