Skip to main content

PackBot - Deja Vu all over again

A long time ago (back in Jan 2007) I posted about a robot I had built based on iRobot's Packbot. This morning, I received this wonderful picture. It shows LNE/Packbot next to a military Packbot. Which is just... well, really cool.

Let's just soak in that picture for a moment.

OK, moment's over.

However there's more to this picture than a fun (& really really old... more on that in a minute) robot. This robot isn't mine. I've never touched it, or even seen it in person. It was built by Joe Meno (who writes Brickjournal), using on-line plans I put up on Bricklink. He was having trouble programming it, which he mentioned on Facebook, and we then started emailing back and forth, trading NXT-G programs via YouSendIt. He had to leave for the event he was displaying this at before we were finished, so a portion of this conversation and troubleshooting was done while he was literally on the road. He wanted to show this to some of the folks that work with the real thing, and I couldn't be more happy about that.

The robot cost about $200 in hardware (the LEGO one... you don't want to know what its big brother behind it costs). The fact that I now, finally, years later have a picture with Packbot next to its inspiration is worth far more to me. The fact that all this was done remotely, using commonly available and free tools on-line, in a collaborative process with other AFoLs... is, as they say, priceless. This could have been done with NXC instead of NXT-G, or using plans generated in LCAD or LDD, and presented on-line at Flickr or NXTLog or MindBoards, and the communication could have been via Skype, Google Wave, or community-wide at MindBoards forums or any number of other mechanisms. Joe even mentioned how impressed he was with the way I routed torque through the center of the large Technic turntable to power the "Flipper" treads... which is a trick I was inspired on due to another AFoL, the remarkable Jennifer Clark, who was posting LEGO models of construction vehicles so realistic (in both form & function) that they might as well have been the real things. So this is a collaboration spanning multiple people and multiple years (decades!).

On a slightly different note, this has been a remarkably long-lived robot for me. While testing a program for Joe (the wonders of LEGO... commonly available identical HW platforms are really useful), I pulled out my version of LNE/Packbot which dates back to mid 2007. So it's a LEGO robot that has not had any* parts replaced or changed in at least four years, having been shown for multiple hours on multiple days at various Brickworld events, tested and played with at home, and "torture tested" outdoors in sand, grass, snow, and ice. The motors have never been changed out... yet with all this use (& abuse), it is still running and working hard. LEGO is great for prototyping. And, evidently, for a whole lot more.

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