Everyday Carry (EDC) LEGO with Tiny Sets, Minifigures, and Muji’s Portable Case

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Usually when folks talk about Everyday Carry (EDC), they are referring to preparedness, emergency readiness, and SHTF. It can also mean the kit that one carries on his or her person everyday for whatever reason. I would like to expand EDC to include LEGO.

For me, and I suspect many others, LEGO is a source of imagination, thought, expression, and stress relief. Why not carry a selection of LEGO bricks, pieces, and minifigures with you for any eventuality–thinking through a problem, filling spare time, demonstrating an idea to others, or sharing fun with a friend.

Muji’s Portable Case (64 x 52 x 20 mm) is a very good size for an essentials-only LEGO kit that can fit in a shirt pocket, pouch, or bag (shown above). The Portable Case easily holds two LEGO minifigures, a minifigure with bricks, or bricks alone. I have included photos of sample kits that I built to use with the Portable Case as a LEGO EDC: an off-road vehicle with obstacles, an aeronautics set, an Iron Man set, and a The Last Starfighter set with a Gunstar and Kodan Deck Fighter.

Off-Road Vehicle

Aeronautics Set (with control tower, two rockets, and airplane)

Iron Man Set (with attacking robot and blasted wall)

The Last Starfighter Set (with Gunstar, Kodan Deck Fighter, and asteroids)

Of course, these are only a few of the infinite possibilities for building your own LEGO EDC. An Altoids tin would serve a similarly good purpose to hold a small selection of LEGO bricks, elements, and minifigures for building on the go. I imagine that children (and not just AFOLs) would dig something like this, too.

I picked the Muju Portable Case due to its size and sturdy construction, but Muji has other size cases that would work well if you need to carry additional LEGO in your daily kit.

EDC LEGO kits should be something that bring joy to the work of imagination and building. Carry what you need, and keep your kit fresh for the cognitive and imaginative work at hand. Also, we can spread the joy that comes from this mind-work with our hands to others with customized kits tailored to friends or coworkers’ needs.

If you build your own LEGO EDC, let me know on Twitter!

 

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Posted in Lego, Personal, Science Fiction

Creating an Improved LEGO Iron Man’s Hall of Armor

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As I wrote in my previous blog post, I have been sorting my LEGO bricks. This has helped me organize the LEGO pieces that I have, and it has helped me count the quantity that I have in a given type or color brick. This greater knowledge about the bricks in my collection inspired me last night to build a better Iron Man’s Hall of Armor (above) using the “A-frame” plates or “Plate (A) 4M 45°” from 75137 Carbon-Freezing Chamber.

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My original Hall of Armor (above) was a play-oriented set, but it admittedly required care in its handling. It borrowed heavily from the Malibu Mansion and Avengers Tower sets. The curve of the armor display was accomplished with the central pad locked to the base with a 2×4 plate, each adjacent pad was connected to it with a plate hinge and supported beneath by non-locking flat plates, and the ends were connected to the base plate with 1×1 round plates. It worked, but it was fragile and admittedly very busy in its appearance. I thought that I could do better with a different approach focused on using system and Technics pieces, repetition, and strength.

First, I designed the display bad for each Iron Man armor suit. I based it around a 4×6 plate and leftover translucent blue elements from the Avengers Tower set.

I connected the five armor display pads at the top and bottom of each using the Plate (A) 4M 45°. The center pad and the end pads are built up to 1 brick height to accommodate the 3-hole Technic connector brick beneath the center pad. This is where the platform between the armor pads will connect.

The central platform has a 3-hole Technic brick at the narrow end. It connects to the hall of armor arc with three Technic connector bushings. I used 1×1 bricks with outward facing stud all along the front of the display (both ends of the Hall of Armor arc and the central platform). I affixed flat dark grey plates to these to create a contrast with the light grey of the platform surface.

This new design is more for display than playability. It is a much stronger model than my previous one, and it uses LEGO elements in new ways that I had not experimented with on a MOC before. In particular, I was very happy when the central platform perfectly interconnected with the sweep of the Hall of Armor arc. Also, I was able to build a MOC that utilized repetition in the design of the armor display pads, because I had an inventory and organizing system for my LEGO bricks. Had I not sorted my bricks, I don’t think that I would have been able to come up with this design and implement it as quickly as I did.

While you’re looking at the images, can you spot a spy in the model?

 

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Posted in Lego, Personal, Science Fiction

Sorting LEGO Bricks and Pieces for Larger Building Projects on the Horizon

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One of the important tasks that I had set for myself over the Spring Recess was to sort my LEGO brick collection. For many, many years, I would painstakingly look through my bins of bricks for types and colors of bricks as needed for a given project. While it was fun and relaxing to spend time searching and accumulating the bricks that I sought and discover other useful bricks during this process, it was also excessively time consuming. I have bought and sold enormous LEGO collections, but I have never properly sorted any of them. Now, I have ideas that I would like to attempt to build, but they will require a more thought out and planned approach to building than my previous work. Therefore, I realized that I had to sort my bricks so that I could take stock of what I had and be able to access my brick stock as efficiently as possible. Essentially, I would put in time sorting now to improve my knowledge about what I had, access to that inventory, and efficiency when selecting bricks with which to build.

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Initially, I wanted to use what I had on hand to begin the sorting process. I often recycled shipping boxes for working with LEGO, so I began there.

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My cardboard sorting tray worked well enough to separate bricks and pieces during sorting, but I quickly learned that extracting those bricks and pieces without their intermixing under my makeshift barriers was impossible.

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Thus, I invested in a 44-drawer Akro-Mils storage bin. Manufactured one town over from Kent State University in Akron, Ohio, this drawer system works really well for my novice sorting needs.

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I follow an iterative process for my brick sorting. I have several 12.7 quart Sterilite latch boxes full of LEGO bricks. I pick one box and see what bricks seem to be in greater quantity. I pull out drawers from the Akro-Mils storage bin and being pulling only those types of bricks (focusing on type of brick and collecting all colors of that brick). This reduces the quantity of bricks in this that Sterilite box until it is small enough to dump the remaining bricks into the next Sterilite box. Then, I repeat the process again. However, I focus on different brick types depending on what dominates in a given Sterilite box.

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With those bricks (and plates) that I have more than will fit in the drawers of the Akro-Mils bin, I repurpose the empty Sterilite boxes for those larger quantities. For example, one Sterilite box is only 1×1 or larger bricks, and another is only plates 1×3 or larger. I will use another Sterilite for slopes, another for arches, etc. With my system, I am focusing on type of brick instead of colors, because I can’t afford to purchase enough Akro-Mils bins to separate by type and color.

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Posted in Lego, Personal

Building City Tech’s New Academic Building at 285 Jay Street With LEGO

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Over the past few days, I build a small scale model of the new City Tech academic building at 285 Jay Street. Still under construction, this model highlights its eventual glass-covered transparency (see this PDF for additional renderings of the building’s completed construction) with the model’s approximately 160 clear 1×2 bricks:

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My Serious Change Through Play collaborator Patrick Corbett original gave me the idea to build a model of the new building after we made our first grant-funded LEGO brick purchase. Here is what that first, simple model looked like:

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With only a few LEGO and Duplo bricks, I was able to capture the glass structure, upper floors overhang, and intersecting curve of the auditorium. Eventually, we incorporated this model into the Serious Change Through Play branding logo. While I like this smaller model, I wanted to build one that was larger and captured more detail without breaking the bank.

To begin my larger design and assess what extra LEGO pieces that I would need beyond those that I already own, I copied LEGO brick/plate design grids (see Duckingham Design’s grids, which are terrific) into Microsoft Windows’ Paint and drew in a rough sketch of each side’s elevation:

After these initial designs, I knew that I had most of what I would need to build the base and solid-color aspects. However, I didn’t have any of the clear bricks. Luckily, I saw a bin full of clear 1×2 bricks at the Flatiron LEGO store a week ago, so I returned there to purchase those and spare bricks that I thought might be useful during the build:

After disassembling all of the bricks in the pick-a-brick container (NB: if you purchase a pick-a-brick container from the LEGO store, you should assemble all of the bricks in order to maximize how many bricks can fit and minimize wasted empty space), I used plates and bricks to construct a 20×20 stud base with a height of 1 brick and two plates (one plate level on top and one plate level on bottom):

Next, I began the fun part of the build, which I like to think about as similar to the writing process–brainstorm, draft, and revise. While I had my elevations to work from, I thought of specific ways to put the bricks together that represented the building better and served to make a stronger model. For example, using overlapping joints and interlocking corners in the upper stories look good and make the model sturdier.

The intersecting auditorium provided some of the best challenges during this build, because it has an interesting curve that is like the forward leading edge of an airplane wing. This required a lot of digging through my boxes of bricks to find pieces that conveyed this as best as possible at this scale and appear close to the colors in the building design documents:

You might have noticed a white, silver, and blue structure in the rear of the building. I felt that I would be remiss if I neglected to include the spirit of the building that used to be at 285 Jay Street–City Tech’s previous auditorium with its Klitgord mosaic (see page 8 of City Tech Connections vol. 6 no. 2 here for more information, or speak to Dr. Mary Nilles, who taught me about the history of the mosaics). The original Klitgord mosaics, crafted by Nathiel Choate and Joseph von Tury in 1962 for the auditorium building, look like this (photo by William Avery Hudson):

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Photo by William Avery Hudson.

Using the microscale of my model, I wanted to capture the color scheme and figures despite the terrible resolution of the medium at this scale. Nevertheless, I figured that I could convey that there are six human figures and a color scheme of white, silver, and blue. Therefore, I built this model of the mosaic–perhaps the preserved mosaic will have a home in the new building?

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Posted in City Tech, Lego, making, Personal

Making My Own Business Cards with a Rubber Stamp and Dip Pen

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This Saturday afternoon, I wanted to make something useful by doing something fun, so I made a small batch of custom business cards using a rubber stamp and one of Y’s nib or dip pens.

First, I assembled the materials for my business cards. I picked up “Message Card” packs in white and kraft from Muji in Manhattan.

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Next, I found a cute neko hanko/pottering cat rubber stamp that I liked at Kinokuniya by Bryant Park. This particular rubber stamp shows a cat brushing his teeth with the message おはよう (prounounced as ohayo), and translated as “good morning.” (NB: Y told me that the trick to properly inking the stamp is to hold the ink pad upside down and bring the stamp into contact with the pad from below in an upward motion–tap tap tap.)

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Since I wanted to write each card’s message by hand, I figured that using a dip pen would lead to a more interesting end product due to my being a novice using that kind of pen. I knew that there would be more variability with my writing than if I used a ball point pen, which is the look that I wanted each business card to have. (NB: Y instructed me to dip the nib into the ink well and then to dab off excess ink on the rim of the ink well before beginning to write.)

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With my materials gathered, I cleared a bit of desk space and put a scrap piece of paper down to catch any stray ink from the ink pad and stamp or the ink well and nib pen. Also, I used the scrap paper to plan out what exactly I wanted to write on each business card, which in this case was:

Jason W. Ellis

Science Fiction
Computers
LEGO

dynamicsubspace.net
dynamicsubspace@gmail

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With this first batch, I made ten business cards to give out to special contacts. Each card is slightly different. Because each is handmade, each card is unique. Perhaps this uniqueness and care put into each card will itself represent something important about me and my work ethic to those persons who receive one of these cards.

Also, I found this work to be enjoyable and relaxing. Inking the stamp, pressing the stamp, dipping the pen into ink, dabbing excess ink on the edge of the ink well, carefully writing with the nib are all satisfying activities. I found stamping and handwriting to be pleasurable during the act of making the cards. It was gratifying to see the finished cards peppered all over my desk.

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If you make your own business card, share it with me on Twitter!

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Posted in making, Personal, Science Fiction

Workshop on Communication, LEGO, and Serious Play. Led by Patrick Corbett and Me: Wed, Apr 5, 12-1pm

scholars-exchange-legoIf you’re around City Tech tomorrow and would like to learn how Patrick Corbett and I are building students’ communication skills with LEGO and Serious Play activities, stop by the Faculty Commons in N-227, Wed, Apr 5, 12-1:00PM. We’re only talking for about 5 minutes. The rest of the time will be hands-on activities with the same LEGO kits that we use with our students, but the workshop will be fine tuned for the faculty participants. We welcome participants’ feedback, questions, and ideas.

More information about the workshop is included below:

What Is Serious Play? How Does It Work? Who Learns What?

Our research introduces City Tech students to “serious play” as a way to think about how they communicate in a variety of situations. In our serious play workshops, small groups of students complete structured LEGO-based challenges that require them to design, and then share, their solutions with each other. Each challenge builds on some aspect of their identities as communicators as a way to productively highlight and discuss differences in communications needs and styles of individuals in group contexts.

What Can You Expect If You Show Up?

An interactive and fun Scholars Exchange event! Following a brief introduction outlining our approach to learning, research methodology, and workshop design, we are going to demonstrate several of the modules from our student workshops. Come prepared to play with LEGO bricks, discuss what you create, and share your ideas with each other (and us)!

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Posted in City Tech, Lego, Pedagogy, Personal

My City Tech Nucleus Article, “Multimodal Writing and Sci-Fi” with OpenLab

ellis-openlabI wrote a brief article titled “Multimodal Writing and Sci-Fi” published in the Winter 2017 issue of Nucleus about how I use City Tech’s homegrown, open-publishing platform called OpenLab in my teaching and professional collaborations, such as the Science Fiction at City Tech initiative and the City Tech Science Fiction Collection. You can find the article here on page 18 or click on the image to the left.

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Posted in City Tech, Pedagogy, Personal, Science Fiction
Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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