Building Your First Robot: A Thorough History and Guide Using LEGO® TechnicTM

Have you ever wondered how robots work? I‘m going to walk you through it step-by-step using LEGO®! This guide will cover everything from the basics of LEGO® robotics to building and coding an advanced bot of your own.

Let me start by explaining the fascinating history of LEGO® robots…

From Plastic Bricks to Programmable Bots: The Journey of LEGO® Robotics

LEGO®, the iconic children‘s toys, have been around since 1949. But it may surprise you to learn that tinkerers were experimenting with motorizing LEGO® creations as far back as the 1960s! Early kinetic sculptures gave way to remote control cars and the first computer-controlled LEGO “turtle” built at MIT in the 80s.

LEGO® itself recognized this demand and launched their Robotics Invention System (RIS) in 1998 – one of the first platforms aimed at educational robotics. RIS evolved into Mindstorms, launching the commercial era of LEGO® robots as we know them today:

1998 – Robotics Invention System allows building/programming robots on desktop PC

2006 – Release of LEGO® MindstormsTM NXT with 32-bit ARM7 processor and interactive servo motors

2013 – Mindstorms EV3 launched with improved hardware, tablet compatibility and mobile app control

Over the years, tens of millions of hobbyists, engineers and students have used LEGO® robotics kits for learning and competition. Several world championships exist purely for youth to showcase Mindstorms bots!

Let‘s look at some ways you can follow in their footsteps and build different types of LEGO® robots.

Methods for Constructing LEGO® Robots

While advanced programmable kits like Mindstorms open incredible possibilities, you can build surprisingly capable robots using ordinary LEGO® bricks in creative ways:

Spare Part Builds

  • Use random bricks with wheels, axles and simple mechanics for basic wheeled/walking bots
  • Can create cool robots like bulldozers or fictional characters on a budget
  • No electronics or coding – imagination is the limit!

Themed LEGO® Sets

LEGO® Mindstorms

  • From motors to sensors to programmable bricks, these kits are designed for robotics
  • Range from entry BOTS sets to advanced Ev3/NXT allowing complex builds
  • Scalable difficulty – coding via drag-and-drop up to actual Python scripts

Let‘s walk through constructing and coding a starter Ev3 robot…

Building Your First LEGO® MindstormsTM Robot

The Mindstorms Ev3 kit is the ultimate starting point for smart LEGO bots. Here‘s how to assemble a basic driving robot:

Parts Needed

  • 1x Ev3 Intelligent Brick
  • 2x Large Servo Motors
  • 1x Medium Servo Motor
  • Wheels, axles and technic frame parts
  • 6x AA Batteries

Step 1: The Base

First construct a solid base structure from which to mount the wheels and brick using LEGO® technic beams. Leave a gap to mount three motors in the middle.

Tip: Build symmetry into the foundations for balance when driving.

Step 2: Attach Wheels and Motors

Now its time to give mobility. Install two large motors on the sides to steer left and right. Place the medium motor in the center to drive the robot forward/backward.

Ensure all wheels are perpendicular and gears/axles are aligned.

Step 3: Complete the Structure

Enclose the motors safely within side beams attached to base. On top, mount the "brain" – the programmable Ev3 brick which controls everything.

Plug in the battery pack, USB cable and turn on your robot!

Step 4: Program Your Robot

Using the LEGO® MindstormsTM desktop app, create a basic program to test driving it around. Connect to your Ev3 via USB or Bluetooth and hit run!

Now onto more complex builds…

Advanced LEGO® Robots to Inspire You

While starter bots are fun, developers have programmed remarkable LEGO® robots over the years. These include:

mini Rubik‘s Cube solver capable of solving the iconic 3D puzzle in under 30 seconds! Built using custom grabber, sensors and intelligent algorithms.

Self-driving car that can intelligently map environments and navigate obstacles using sensor fusion and computer vision techniques. Fully autonomous!

Dog robot named Vernie that walks on four legs, has expressive eyes, responds to voice commands/emotions and behaves like a real doggo!

As you gain experience building, don‘t be afraid to tap your creativity and push boundaries like these engineers. Now let‘s talk troubleshooting…

Troubleshooting LEGO® Robot Issues

With complex constructs things won‘t always work the first time. Before you call for help, try systematically diagnosing issues:

Hardware problems

  • Ensure all structural bricks are securely pressed together
  • Check gears/belts tension and realign any losses axles
  • Check wiring between motors, sensors and main control brick

Coding problems

  • Review program logic carefully for bugs
  • Enable debug modes/logging to check variable values during runtime
  • Reset program to factory defaults and reinstall latest firmware

Motor problems

  • Symptoms: vibration, overheating, weak movement
  • Try operating motors independently to isolate
  • Check supply voltages and gradually increase power

Sensor reading problems

  • Verify sensor mode set correctly in code
  • Re-adjust positioning and sensitivity
  • Recalibrate baseline on standardized surface

Taking methodical troubleshooting steps will help identify quirks when building your own robots.

Now that you know the basics, let‘s look at resources to level up your skills!

LEGO® Robotics Learning Resources

Want to join over 5 million Mindstorms fans worldwide? Here are amazing online communities:

YouTube Channels

  • Sariel – Incredible advanced LEGO® robot tutorials
  • BrickQueen – Great for learning coding basics
  • BotCamp – Tips for preparing competitive tournament bots

LEGO® MindstormsTM Forums

  • LDraw – Active user forum to discuss projects and get help


  • r/LEGOmindstorms – Show off builds and troubleshoot issues
  • r/legotechnic – For LEGO® technicians of all expertise


  • "The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Inventor‘s Guide" – 500 pages detailing advanced NXT builds!

So break out those dusty bins of LEGO® bricks and let your imagination run wild. No prior robotics experience needed – anyone can build their first programmable walking, talking, Rubik‘s Cube solving LEGO® creation!

Trust me, bringing these bots to life is incredibly rewarding. And who knows, it may ignite a lifelong passion for technology and engineering. Now get building!

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