Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Toys Handhelds Hardware

RIMM's LEGO Machines Test Blackberry 69

LEGO - my - Crackberry writes "Matthias Wandel is an engineer at Research in Motion (RIMM), the company that makes the Blackberry. What did RIMM turn to for testing the antenna reception of one of its 900MHz devices? LEGO machines. Specifically a device made of LEGO that could rotate a Blackberry about its horizontal & vertical axis in a pre-defined pattern."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

RIMM's LEGO Machines Test Blackberry

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:28AM (#18716341)
    Check out his site. He's been building amazing stuff for years. I first stumbled on it when I was researching spud guns. He even made his own pipe organ.
    • by Valacosa ( 863657 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @09:24AM (#18717367)
      He is a busy genius - I stumbled across his site when I was told someone mapped the tunnel network below the University of Waterloo. And he did.

      IMHO, the coolest thing he ever built was converting a scanner into a digital camera []. People, if you have a few free minutes, check his site out. Lots of cool stuff there!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I first found him while I was looking for homemade pipe organs. There are very few people who have completed such an undertaking. His isn't the best or biggest, but it's the only one I know of that is homemade to to such a minute degree. Most hobbyists use used pipe organ components somewhere.

      My favorite works of his are the marble kinetic sculptures.
  • Surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VirusEqualsVeryYes ( 981719 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:30AM (#18716351)
    I'm not. It seems like a logical choice.

    Want to test different angles precisely? Use some sort of robot.

    Only going to build it once, and want it to be easy to build? Use Legos.

    Need only rudimentary instructions (e.g. "rotate for 0.2 seconds") to rotate something on said robot? Use Mindstorms.

    Nothing beats the satisfaction of soldering one's own circuit board and programming in C, but for something quick, easy to use, and powerful, Legos are the best solution.
    • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aadvancedGIR ( 959466 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:35AM (#18716389)
      I think the hardest part of using lego for that kind of work is to have the beancounters accept the expense as work related. Usually, I had to use my own personnal stock when I needed to hold prototype boards together.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      It's Lego, not Legos you insensitive clod!
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Isn't it ironic that the same people who are so critical of a senator talking about "the internets" seem to be the same people who talk about "Legos".

        Although strictly speaking, I think the trademark is LEGO i.e. all capitals.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      There is a project at UCLA to test multiple-in, multiple-out (MIMO) performance of 802.11n. They use Lego robots to adjust antenna spacing. Pretty cool stuff. Link to paper: pdf [].

      (I'm not affiliated, just ran into that project while browsing)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FuzzyDaddy ( 584528 )
      I agree that it's the logical choice, but it is surprising - and cool. One of the biggest challenges of being an engineer is realizing when there is a simple solution to your problem - especially when the thing you need was made for another purpose.

      Case in point - years ago I worked in a lab making diodes on 4" GaAs wafers. Unlike silicon, GaAs is very fragile, and the wafers kept breaking. The problem was that you had to immerse them in beakers, and when you let go of the wafer in the liquid, it would

      • by EatHam ( 597465 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @12:23PM (#18719781)

        One of the biggest challenges of being an engineer is realizing when there is a simple solution to your problem - especially when the thing you need was made for another purpose.

        I disagree. I believe that what you have just stated is *the* fundamental attribute of an engineer. It's what seperates us from the retards in accounting - they ask for a shovel, we ask for a hole.
    • Actually, since Mindstorms has buried in it the entire command set of National Instruments' Labview 8.20, you can do a hellova lot better than simple programming.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:31AM (#18716361) Homepage
    We're all familiar with the storm of patents ending with "on the internet." Perhaps now there will be a new storm of patent claims ending with "using Lego."
  • RIM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by What'sInAName ( 115383 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:32AM (#18716369) Homepage Journal

    That really *is* Research In Motion!

    Cool idea, but I wonder how long the device would hold out. LEGO isn't exactly designed for industrial apps. On the other hand, it is designed for small children, who provide perhaps the toughest test environment imaginable!
    • Re:RIM (Score:4, Interesting)

      by aadvancedGIR ( 959466 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:49AM (#18716509)
      It's simple, once you're OK with the prototype, simply superglue it and it will be almost unbreakable.
      • CA super glues have highly variable quality and composition.
        Methyl Ethyl Ketone is what we've used to make LEGO devices (including a waldo for our FIRST robotics controller) permanent.
        It's nasty stuff we don't let the kids use tho. (for instance ABS Weld-On is 60% MEK)

    • by snuf23 ( 182335 )
      It's just for testing not for mass production or extended use. Besides the components are modular. If something breaks you can easily replace it for a nominal cost.
  • RIM (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:37AM (#18716409)
    I figure if you're going to write an article about RIM's activities, you had best get the name right. It is 'RIM', not 'RIMM'. Both the /. article, and TFA have it wrong....

    I am astounded!

  • Lego is for kids. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:41AM (#18716443)
    Real geeks use(d) Fischer-Technik. More possibilities, less colors. I built robots with it 20 years ago ...
  • Lego ROCKS! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScrewTivo ( 458228 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:47AM (#18716483) Homepage
    Got my 11 year old a Mindstorm set. It is incredible both in the mechanics and software. I was at Disney World and saw the robotic plastic injection machine and the display panel looked just like the Mindstorm programming interface.

    Not to diss what RIM has done (old lego set) but I am surprised that we don't read more about Mindstorms at work.
    • other lego research (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @08:00AM (#18716585)
      At my university we build robots out of lego to test pathfinding software.

      It's cheap, and it can house the motors/circuit boards and stick together under a bit of stress, its perfect.

      Meccano is good, but it can take longer to assemble. That's more of use for robots that need to withstand a lot more stress, such as arms.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rsun ( 653397 )
      A couple of jobs ago I used a mindstorms set to debug a hardware/software bug in our network controller - every once in a while when the fiber was unplugged things would go haywire. It got really tiring unplugging the cable dozens of times to reproduce the problem so I rigged up a robot to do it for me and let me know when the error had occurred. Alas, the company went belly up before I got the chance to get them to pay for the Lego....
  • Now I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon thinking of how I can incorporate LEGO into the testing of the products we produce.
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @07:49AM (#18716505) Homepage Journal
    At the risk of being modded down... surely by now everyone here ought to know that if you say "legos" not "lego" when talking about more than 1 lego brick, yet another barely-on-topic flame war about the pluralisation of Lego is inevitable? It happens every single time there is a Lego related story.

    Is it time to start modding people who still use "legos" when they know what the result will be as trolls?
    • I dont know why but the use of legos really annoys me. It's LEGO. I don't know why it winds me up so much, as I'm not normally a grammar nazi. Actually the whole loose / lose thing winds me up too. Maybe I'm just turning into a grumpy old curmudgeon.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @08:25AM (#18716765)
      Or maybe we could just follow the guidelines of modpoints and use the for positive stuff most of the time, and negative stuff sparingly.

      The real trolls are the ones who bother to get upset when they are called 'legos'. First, it doesn't matter. Second, it's still mainly a kid's toy, and kids call them legos. Third... We all grew up calling them legos before we learned to be grammar nazis. And finally... It's pointless to try to get people to stop when they KNOW it simply doesn't matter even a tiny bit.

      And how are you helping the situation by adding in 'mod down the legos sayers' before the flamewar has even started. Isn't that just more pointless noise?

      Here's an old tip for you, and everyone else: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.
    • by asninn ( 1071320 )
      Naw, just mod them "-1, Ignorant". :P

      (And seriously: I know that such a moderation does not exist, but maybe it should. The opposite of "+1, Informative", maybe?)
    • by xero314 ( 722674 )

      surely by now everyone here ought to know that if you say "legos" not "lego" when talking about more than 1 lego brick, yet another barely-on-topic flame war about the pluralisation of Lego is inevitable

      The pluralisation of LEGO is imposible, because not only is "pluralisation" most likely not a word, but also because LEGO is a brand. You can't have more than one LEGO. On the other hand you can have more than one LEGO brand building block, LEGO brand building brick, or even just LEGO brick.

      On the other hand being anal about the term people use to refer to the blocks in a children's toy is a little asinine.

      • by Pluvius ( 734915 )
        The pluralisation of LEGO is imposible, because not only is "pluralisation" most likely not a word, but also because LEGO is a brand. You can't have more than one LEGO. On the other hand you can have more than one LEGO brand building block, LEGO brand building brick, or even just LEGO brick.

        Fair enough, though it doesn't work for Lego any more than it does for Coke, Kleenex, or Band-Aid. The biggest problem I have with Lego zealots, though, is when they insist that something is "made out of Lego." No, it'
  • RIM not RIMM (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Powertrip ( 702807 )
  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @08:18AM (#18716713)
    I once had an engineer working for me who could have designed that in no more than 6 weeks. At the very least he would have used PTFE for all the bearings, glass filled nylon for the articulating parts, industrial grade stepper motors and a couple of networked industrial controllers for the program. He would probably have designed a cover made from a single sheet of vacuum formed Makrolon to ensure nobody touched any rotating parts while it was in use, plus some sort of optical scanning system to stop it moving if anything came too close. And there would probably have been change out of $100000.

    Engineers today, what do they know? Make it too simple and too cheap and the boss will think anybody can do it.

    • by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @09:48AM (#18717617)
      Hey! You worked with Biff too?

      Biff loved his Pro-E. We needed an enclosure for a manufacturing test fixture. He contracted a CNC machine shop to build a custom box about 8" x 10" x 10" ... out of a solid billet of aluminum. The thing was pretty - had all sorts of recessed vent panels and integrated mounting bosses. But damn, this is a test fixture. The operator connects a cable to the UUT (Unit Under Test) and presses a key on the computer keyboard. We must've spent a couple thousand bucks on that one bucket. I'm not a big fan of Bud boxes [], but they certainly have their place.

      (background: At a staff meeting, Biff stood up to extole his credibility and the virtues of Pro-E. And I quote, "I may be big, I may be ignorant, I may be fat ..." we didn't need to hear any more. Y'all can figure out what the second "f" stands for.)
  • Come to think of it, I'm surprised one of the Mythbusters haven't used Lego robots in their test rigs. Maybe they're biased toward combat-capable machinery.
  • Where do I find a hacker to give my stack of LEGO Mindstorms so he can combine them with my Bluetooth Roombas for a home automation army that I can lead around town with my mobile phone?

    I'm not kidding.
  • According to Research in Motion's web site (, the correct acronym for the company name is RIM.

    RIMM is the company's NASDAQ stock symbol.
  • Lego's are awesome (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 )
    I bought some for my last job for surgical device prototyping. Sometimes to mock up mechanisms or as test stands. But a few times we made working devices. No, never used on humans. Lego's are fun, but not FDA approved.
  • My brother built something like this LEGO panoramic camera mount [] using Mindstorms. His digital camera screw-mounts to it, and it turns a precise number of degrees and pushes the camera's shutter button, then turns again... A lot of other people have done similar things. I'm in the midst of building a LEGO-based robotic arm to grab rings and feed them into a spotwelder. LEGO is a great prototyping tool and with the addition of mindstorms you can build amazing things: the LEGO rubik's cube solver [] is prett
  • You go RIM! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Meorah ( 308102 )
    BES still won't work with a native Exchange 2007 environment, but hey... they have more important things to do, like make lego robots!
  • by TomRC ( 231027 ) on Friday April 13, 2007 @11:54AM (#18719343)
    Seems like there's a market for a modular rapid prototyping kit, that gets past a few of the Lego limitations.

    You'd want it to be stronger - with modular connections that lock together rather than relying on friction joints at any point in the structure.

    You'd want more flexibility of orientation - e.g. parts that can be connected at any planar-rotated angle with respect to each other, and then locked at that angle.

    You might prefer to give up the ability to completely re-use parts, in exchange for being able to easily cut parts of the precise length needed, from longer stock - no need to fit your design to the limited lengths available, also reducing the number of fewer component types you need to keep on hand, and eliminating the problem of needing "just one more part".

    What else?
  • I'd bet one big advantage of Lego is that it helps avoid any RF interference caused by metallic structures. That's a big deal if your goal is to test the strength/efficiency/pattern of the radiation. In fact that may have been what gave him the idea to begin with.

Veni, Vidi, VISA: I came, I saw, I did a little shopping.