Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Happy Holidays from the Great Ball Pit

2019 has been a great year for Lego Great Ball Contraption!  There was a large amount of new modules and mechanisms created throughout the year.  Personal highlights were BrickCan 2019, where I was able to meet Lawrie and check out his Mini-Golf modules in person.  Second to that, I enjoyed helping contribute to the largest GBC the Pacific Northwest has ever seen at BrickCon 2019.

2020 will be an interesting "Transition Year" as Lego's Bluetooth initiative takes over and the Power Functions system is discontinued.  Many veteran builders have been stockpiling Power Functions components in anticipation of this situation. 

As for train controllers, they are still available on BrickLink but have increased in average price by approximately $3.00 over the year.  Be sure to grab a couple if you are planning on building GBC in 2020.

Have a great holiday week everyone!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

GBC Observer 👁 Week 52, 2019

Week 52, the last GBC observer post for 2019!  There has been a ton of awesome modules built over the last year.  While I plan to do a 2019 recap post soon, let's look at some of the interesting modules that appeared over the last week.

First up is a new module using a familiar design, a hill climbing bucket.  The nice colour scheme matches the 42055 Bucket Wheel Excavator.

Next up some ball flingers.  Huw released a video of his latest shooter and Dunes had a copy built in only a few hours. He is quite the reverse engineer!

Rohan has built a few mini-golf modules using Lawrie's spec.   I love the Fabuland themed one!

Have a great week, and holidays! 🎄🎁

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

GBC Observer 👁 Week 51, 2019

It's unbelievable that I'm almost finished posting another years worth of Lego GBC here at the Great Ball Pit.  With so many great new modules and mechanisms being created in 2019, will we be able to do better in 2020?

For now, let's observe some interesting Lego Great Ball Contraption videos that have appeared over the last week.

First up, we get the Beyond the Brick layout tour from BrickCon 2019.  There was a lot of new modules this year, and the layout was quite well behaved.

Next up, dunes has created a great double version of the pass circle module that appeared recently.  This design features a double wheel and twice the lift arms to move twice as many balls as the original.

And finally we will end with a great narrated tour of the GBC that was at Swindon 2019 in the UK.  Lots of new modules in here alongside some classics.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

GBC Observer 👁 Week 50, 2019

Welcome to week 50 of the GBC Observer for 2019.  It was a busy holiday shopping weekend here in North America, did you manage to snag some great Lego deals?  Let's take a look at a few new GBC modules that appeared over the last week.

First up, the first 42100 Liebherr ball contraption machine!  It appears that you can simply program the Liebherr to collect balls from an input hopper and deliver them to an output area fairly easily using the built in programming system, very cool!

Next, Ryk has recreated one of my favorite modules from 2014: the Dwarf Mine.  This was one of the modules that I looked at quite a bit before I started building GBC so I'm quite happy to see a recreation of it!

And lastly Pikohan shares some details on his "fan" module which is a nice compact wheel/sweeper that is powered by an unusual 4.5v motor.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Challenge 2019 Winners

The 2019 Great Ball Pit Challenge has come to an end.  Votes were counted and the results have been published in the video below.

Big thanks to everyone who participated!  An archive of all of the entries will be posted here: https://www.greatballpit.com/p/2019-great-ball-pit-challenge.html

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 49, 2019

Welcome to week 49 of the GBC Observer.  Today we will look at some of the modules that were created for the Great Ball Pit Challenge 2019 - Wheels Up!

I've put together this playlist of 13 of the 15 modules that were entered.  It's going to be hard for me to vote when so many great modules were built!

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 48, 2019

Week 48 of the GBC Observer for 2019.  Some great new modules showed up over the last week that really impressed me.  Lets get into it!

First up Rohan has created a module that allows 2 people to interact with it.  The theming is great as well.  This is really taking interactive GBC to the next level, well done!

Now let's take a trip over to New Jersey to see the GBC that was at BrickFair last weekend.  Nice job with the new dozers!

Here is one of the entries for Challenge 2019 that I'm hosting which wraps up in a few days.  Ryk's use of the coaster track is pretty cool!

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 47, 2019

Here we go, a better late then never observer post for week 47 of 2019.  A lot of new modules and mechanisms showed up on YouTube over the last week, and there is lots to see!

First up, Aussie Brick Chick shares a layout from somewhere in Perth.  It has a lot of "new to me" modules.  The tilting ramps module with the different cities is quite nice to look at.

Next up a GBC Display from people in LuxLUG.  Lots of "new" modules/mechanisms to be seen in this video as well!

And lastly lets take a look at the dozen of modules that Caz has built over the last year in a well behaving loop 🤫.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 46, 2019

Here we are at week 46 of the GBC Observer for 2019.  These are the latest GBC videos that I really enjoyed!

First up is a new lift mechanism from a Japanese builder.  I would describe it as a tip and shove type movement, very nice.

In this next video, BayLUG member Nonsense Wars shows us his "auto-dozer" module in detail. He explains both the mechanics and the theming, great video!

This clean set of 4 modules can be re-arranged and they are all powered from one PF-L motor.  A great looking shared power system!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Retiring Lego Technic Sets for 2019

Lego news site The Brick Fan has just released a list of soon to be retired sets according to a "very reliable source".  Of interest to the GBC community will be the Technic section of that list, so let's take a look.

LEGO Power Functions Motor Set (8293)
This set is great for people getting started in GBC because it contains everything you would need to motorize a module.  It's a shame it's going away (but it's to be expected with PF being phased out at the end of 2020).  Hopefully it's replaced with something soon, Powered Up simple battery box anyone?

6×6 All Terrain Tow Truck (42070)
This set had an unusual color scheme and high price.  The price was most likely due to the XL motor, IR remote/receiver, and Battery Box which was included.

WHACK! (42072) and BASH! (42073)
These smaller pull-back models have a fun play feature where they intentionally destruct when they hit something.

Racing Yacht (42074)
I'm not sure what you would ever use the plastic sails for.  Has anyone used them in a Lego GBC module?

First Responder (42075)
I purchased one of these with the intention of creating a C-model GBC.  I was unsuccessful so it was parted into my collection.  Maico Arts on the other hand created an interesting tilting ramp module out of it, and instructions can be found here: http://greatballcontraption.nl/bi/42075-C-v1.4.pdf

Mack Anthem (42078)
This set looks like a great parts pack due to all the large panels included.

Heavy Duty Forklift (42079)
This is a 2018 set that didn't really get that much attention.  It does have some wheels that I'm told are great for battle bots or perhaps a GBC dozer.

Forest Machine (42080)
This is the most recent set to include a working pneumatic pump and valves.  It also comes with a PF-L motor and battery box.

Power Boat (42089)
A small set that contains mostly black and red pieces.

Tracked Loader (42094)
This 2019 set could be good for a small conveyor type module.

I'm very curious what types of Technic sets we will see in 2020.  Will there be any more power functions sets?  Will there be some more Control+ sets? 🤷‍♂️

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 45, 2019

Welcome to the Lego GBC Observer for week 45 of 2019.  I've just registered for BrickCan 2020, have you?  I've heard that around half of the AFOL convention tickets have already been sold, so don't sleep on it if you plan on attending next May.  Now onto the videos!

First up NXTChris gives us a behind the table look at his Dozer and Pyramid GBC modules.  The dozer car is EV3 powered and autonomous, very interesting!

For the next video we are off to Korea to see a GBC layout from builder msk6003.  I really like the "GBC 1.5m" module which moves a bucket back and forth along what I assume to be a 1.5m length of track via some conveyor.

Here is a recent layout from South Africa where 9 builders collaberated on 76 modules.  Lots of cool stuff in here, someone even back engineered a copy of my Multi-Path module!

And since I forgot to post this on the Blog last week, here is my Setup and Fly Over of the GBC Layout that took place earlier this month at BrickCon 2019.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Lego Powered Up Reference Page

As we move into 2020, Lego will be sunsetting its power functions range of products and moving forward with their connected line of products that fall under the "Powered Up" moniker.  

I've started a reference page of information that may be useful to both Lego GBC and Technic builders which will have key information on the products, part numbers, and where you can get them.

While it will be sad to see Power Functions go, Powered Up is here to stay and I'm hoping this reference page will help you plan and execute your Lego Technic and Great Ball Contraption creations into 2020 and beyond!

The Lego Powered Up Reference Page is here: https://www.greatballpit.com/p/lego-powered-up.html

I will keep this information updated as more information is released or software is updated.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Lego Powered Up Controller Mod by Ryk Field

Australian builder Ryk Field has come up with a clever solution to improve the ergonomics of using the Lego Powered Up bluetooth controller.  He's been kind enough to create instructions and post them here: https://github.com/rykfield/Other-Stuff/raw/master/PU%20Controller%20Rocker%20Instructions.pdf

Why did he create this mod?
Like Ryk, some of the other builders on Discord including myself have recently built small remote control cars for a "Ball Dozer" style GBC module.  We noticed that using the tiny buttons on the bluetooth controller was difficult due to how small the buttons are.  This mod allow you to control the buttons using a more traditional "joystick" that you can toggle up and down, removing the need to press the tiny buttons.

My version of Ryk's mod

If you would like to join in on the conversation, you can jump into the Discord server here: http://discord.gg/YPwm9w7

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 44, 2019

Welcome to week 44 of the GBC Observer for 2019.  A lot of interesting GBC videos have appeared over the last week, here are some of my favourites!

First up, Andre shares with us the latest GBC layout he worked in Austria which had approximately 135 modules.  A large layout with lots of new and classic designs, thanks Andre!

Lawrie has shared the design process and inner workings of his Crane module which is used as a gateway at his GBC exhibits.  I like the playability of the hook with the remote.  The anti-jam mechanism is also a great idea.

Here is Beyond the Bricks interview with Diego about his GBC Tower that was debuted at BrickCon 2019 earlier this month. This module is great because it's reliable, original (stacked Akiyuki's), and well themed/decorated.  The customized Technic Dacta controller was the icing on the cake, I'm looking forward to seeing what Diego builds next!

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👀 Week 43, 2019

Week 43. With less than 10 weeks to go for the year, a few more interesting videos have shown up on YouTube over the last week, let's take a look.

First let's take it over to BrickCon 2019.   Lots of great modules were on display here, let me know which ones you liked best down below in the comments.  Thanks to Adam for the video.

Christen Jerome has built a very smooth ball passing module which has a nice ring loader at the start.  Great use of the Goblet pieces for the balls to sit on.

Here is a video from the latest BayLUG meeting.  You can see several new modules here including the interesting auto-dozer (boat thing).

Have a great week everyone!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Discord Challenge 2019 - Wheels Up!

Welcome to the 2nd Great Ball Pit Discord Challenge!!  This year we will focus on building a "Ferris Wheel" or "Ring" type module.  The module must lift the balls up using some sort of bucket or picker and move them in an up and over "ferris wheel" type motion.  A sweeper like my Solaire module would not be allowed, since it does not actually pick up the balls.

Please view this YouTube playlist for examples of modules and mechanisms that would be allowed in this challenge: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmhP7VKXWbJ2IN_M1kQYSL9Ckm9pSc3Xg

Module Guidelines
- Module may be any size.
- Module must have either a rotating upright wheel, or rotating arms that lift the ball in a ferris wheel like motion. (clockwise or counter-clockwise).
- The lift mechanism should be oriented so that the majority of the motion is visible to the viewer.
- Module must meet the GBC standards for input bin height and capacity (30 balls).  Output speed needs to be "reasonable" which is around 1 ball per second, or 30 batch every 30 seconds.
- Module may be powered by: Power Functions, Powered Up, Boost, or Control+.
- Module should be something that has generally not been seen before.  Existing lift mechanisms are *OK* but try and be original.

Challenge Details*
- Submissions will only be accepted in the Discord "challenge-2019" channel. Click HERE to join the Discord.
- Submission Deadline is November 25, 2019
- Submission must include a video of the module operating.  This can be either on YouTube or posting a video file to the challenge-2019 channel.
- Must live in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, or Europe (for prize shipping reasons)
- By entering this challenge, you (the builder) are allowing me to post videos and additional content showing your module with full credit to the builder.

Each entrant will vote on their 1st and 2nd favourite module.  1st choice receives 2 points, 2nd choice receives 1 point.  The winners will be selected based on which modules receive the most total points.  You are not allowed to vote for your own module.  I will be allowed to cast a vote in this challenge, regardless of an entry.

First Place Prize
- Brand New Sealed 75951 - Grindelwald's Escape
- 4 x Sprocket Extra Large (Yellow) (Part # 42529)

Runner-Up Prize
- Brand New Sealed 31072 - Extreme Engines
- 4 x Sprocket Extra Large (Yellow) (Part # 42529)

All entrants will receive the new "Challenge 2019" role on the discord server.

* I reserve the right to modify or append additional rules to challenge at anytime

Friday, October 11, 2019

BrickCon 2019 - Just Build It!

I recently attended BrickCon for the second time, and the GBC layout was the biggest it’s ever been!   15 builders provided 60+ modules, and the total runtime was 15 hours over 3 days.  Plenty of familiar faces re-appeared in the GBC pit along with some new ones, was a pleasure to run GBC with everyone there.  🥳

I brought down 20 modules and displayed 14 due to table space constraints.  I provided a 15th as a filler when needed on the other side of the loop.  We ran out of room this year and filled up all of the tables, perhaps next year we will have some more space. 🤔

Several of my modules were “first time public” displays including Money Bin, Multi-Path, my updated Shared Power Circus, and Old Town Road.

Multi-Path showed that it needs a small amount of tweaks but ran wonderfully the entire event which is great news because a path splitter is something I want to keep in my collection permanently.

Money Bin on the other hand had a serious issue the entire event.  Balls would jam up inside the output chute and required unjamming fairly often.  I will have to increase the width of this chute if I decide to keep the module (unsure at this time).

Old Town Road was fine after we shimmed one side of the ring to ensure balls would exit more reliably.

I almost forgot to mention how terrible RISE + RUN performed due to poor piston design on my part.  The module was on the table for maybe 5 minutes before it jammed up, was repaired and continued to jam up.  I removed it from the layout for the remainder of the show.

Splatiyuki and Lawrie’s Compact Cardan which had some run time previously at a local maker faire ran without any issues as well.

Other Interesting Modules

Diego’s GBC Tower.  This 6 foot monster dominated the GBC layout drawing in big crowds to view how the 6 stacked Akiyuki mechanisms all worked together.  Diego’s custom controller was also very cool, it used an older Technic Dacta serial interface to connect to a tiny windows PC where he could control the motor speed through a touch screen.  Diego was on point making adjustments and rebuilding portions of the module throughout the event.  He fixed several issues that were happening in the input area, as well as up at the top near the Cyclodial Drive.

Kevin and his wife Susan built two new Achemedes screws that used 3 coils instead of the usual 1 or 2, and they looked great.

John’s new steppers and overpass.  John built a BVB stepper and another switchback stepper which looked great when running.  The switchback had some issues but was never pulled from the layout, as there was a quick fix for it each time.  Big thanks to John for providing one of the two walk-under overpasses for the event, it ran well for a first-timer and any issues it had were quickly fixed.

Amanda’s Hungry Caterpillar.  Amanda had been working on BVB’s rainbow wave last year, and this year it pupated into the Hungry Caterpillar.   This module looked great when running, however it  was plagued with issues for the first two days.  By day 3 it appeared to be dialled in and ran well, it was a crowd pleaser for sure!

Newcomer Caebin brought a real monstrosity of a module called Patchwork.  It did not meet the standard and had various different mechanisms inside to move the balls around.  

In order to integrate it into the layout, Dave De Gobbi provided a small chain lift which was able to get balls into the machine.  Caebin was working full time on this module during the public hours since it had a tendency to get clogged up.

GBC Theme Winners
New Balls on the Block - Patchwork (Caebin Robinson )
Can’t Stop Staring - Hungry Caterpillar (Amanda Payton)
Physics Buster - The Throne (Matt Norman)
OMG GBC! - GBC Tower (Diego Baca)

Overall it was a wonderful event, and I’m looking forward to the BrickCon GBC 2020!

You can read my previous report from BrickCon 2018 here: https://www.greatballpit.com/2018/10/brickcon-2018-hidden-worlds.html

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Updated Module - Shared Power Circus

Here is a video showing my updated shared power circus which ran flawlessly during BrickCon 2019.  New to the shared power circus is Lasse Deleuran's Stackable Wheel module which sits at the front.  The remaining 3 modules have had their positions swapped to fix a few issues that were happening during BrickCan 2019.  (Balls dumped from DROP into Whirligig would spill occasionally.)

I am very happy with how this setup has been performing, the only thing I may change in the future is rebuilding the modules with a more cohesive colour scheme.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 42, 2019

Welcome to week 42 of the Lego Great Ball Contraption Observer for 2019.  The one *after* BrickCon 2019.

We had a great GBC layout this year at BrickCon this year, with over 60 modules on the table and 15 or so builders participating.  I had 14-15 modules on the table at any given point throughout the event.  More details and videos from the event will be posted soon.

Now let's get to this weeks GBC videos that appeared on YouTube over the last week.

First up is a "follow the blue ball" through Skaerbaek's layout that took place recently.  Thanks for the video Maico!

Next Caz shares the layout from the LondonAFOL's @ the Caterham Model Show.  The "White Elephant" module is... large!

And lastly here is the layout from BrisBricks that took place this weekend.

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

BrisBricks GBC Live Stream

The coordinators of the GBC at BrisBricks have informed me that the GBC layout will be live streamed on the BrisBricks YouTube channel this weekend!

Stream Schedule

  • Saturday 5th October 9am to 5pm (GMT +10) (Friday 4pm PST)
  • Sunday 6th October 9am to 5pm (GMT +10) (Saturday 4pm PST)
  • Monday 7th October 9am to 2pm (GMT +10) (Sunday 4pm PST)
There will be mostly static shots of the layout, but I was also told there may be some Q&A in the chat.

Stream URL: https://www.youtube.com/user/BrisBricks/live

I will be busy at BrickCon running my own GBC modules, but I hope to catch some of the stream from the hotel when I get a chance!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Lego GBC Observer 👁 Week 41, 2019

Week 41, the one before BRICKCON (and BrisBricks!)

My modules are packed, and ready to travel to Seattle.  Be sure to follow me on Instagram where I will be posting from the convention and GBC loop.  https://www.instagram.com/greatballpit/

Now on to this weeks Lego GBC videos that I found interesting on YouTube.

First lets head to Skaerbaek Fan Weekend where GBC heavyweights Akiyuki, Arts and Atkinson joined up with other great builders such as MindStork, Huw, and BlockheadUK to create a great layout.

Next up we get a closer look at a module I've been fascinated by, having only seen it briefly in a few GBC layout videos.  I really like the spillways for the extra balls when certain  sections of the module are already full.

Now let's look at Diego's GBC TOWER! This masterpiece takes 6 Akiyuki mechanisms and combines them in an unthinkable way, STACKED!  Diego plans on bringing this to BrickCon, and I hope to get some up close footage of this 6 foot monster in person!

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

GBC Observer 👁 Week 40, 2019

Good morning fellow builders!  There hasn't been many new modules this week, so only two videos today!

First up, Pinwheel shows us the latest version of his "emmet's red crane" module.  Pinwheel has been kind enough to provide instructions so that you can build your own.

And in this second video Lawrie shows us his "Ball Return" module, explaining how all 3 components work.  The rotating sign is quite clever!

Have a great week everyone!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Lego GBC Modules for Beginners

I'm frequently asked, "What are some good starter modules" for newcomers to Lego Great Ball Contraption?

To help answer that question, I have compiled this list of 5 modules that are small, easy to build, and reliable.  I have personally tested all of these modules and keep them in my collection.  These modules use different lift mechanisms: Conveyor, Tipping Ramp, Ball Pump, Wheel, and Cardan Lift.

WM01 - Small Conveyor


BrickWorld 2018 Pump

Stackable Wheel

Compact Cardan Lift

All of this information now lives on it's own page here @ https://www.greatballpit.com/p/lego-gbc-for-beginners.html as a part of my "Discover GBC" information section.

Have you built any of these modules?  Which one do you like the most and why?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

GBC Observer 👁 Week 39, 2019

Welcome to the GBC Observer for Week 39, 2019.  The one 2 weeks before BrickCon 2019!
I've been busy doing some module cleaning, module repairing, and module packing for the upcoming trip to Seattle.

A lot of interesting Lego Great Ball Contraption videos appeared on YouTube over the last week, here are my favourites.

First up, Pinwheel shares a video from a recent TwinLUG meeting where they put together a small GBC layout.  I like the wacky sea life module, and also the friends mini-dolls helping out in the Akiyuki cup-to-cup.

Builder Riku Katsumata shows us his "Moduled Module", a ball piston type input/loader that has 4 different output attachments.  Lots of module abuse in this video, beware!

In this next video, Nonsense Wars shares his G-Model of the 42071 Dozer Compactor.  He explains why he built it and how it works.  I'll be building this one at some point.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, September 13, 2019

What's in my GBC convention kit?

As I prepare for a few upcoming events I thought I would share what's in my GBC parts/repair/utility kit that I bring with me to conventions.  My current kit is stored inside a small Plano fishing tackle organizer, adorned with some various Lego/Convention related stickers.

Inside everything is somewhat organized with different tools/parts stored in their own section.  From top left to bottom right is the following:

  • New Spare Motors: 1XL, 1L, 1M.
  • Larger Technic Bricks & Beams, Technic Plates
  • Spare Gears (2+ of each type)
  • Technic Pins, Bushings and Telescopes.
  • Various Technic Beam Variants (Dogbones, T's, Biscuits, HassenPins, etc)
  • Technic Connectors (all sizes)
  • Axles (2+ of most sizes), Spare Sprockets (1 of each size)
  • Smaller Technic Bricks
  • Tools, Larger Pieces, Sharpies, Labels, Pocket Knife, Brick Badge & Promo Bricks.

Here's a closer look at some of the parts stored inside.

One essential item I would also recommend you bring is Masking Tape.  You can use it to label various things like train controllers, wires, or modules.

What is inside your toolkit, and what do you store it in?  Am I missing some essential items?  Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

GBC Observer 👁 Week 38, 2019

Welcome to the Great Ball Contraption Observer for week 38, 2019

Lots of new GBC and layout videos have popped up over the last week, and here are some of my favourites.

Nonsense Wars brings us a small layout from their latest BayLUG meeting.  There is a few new to me modules in here including the interesting ball batter, I like how there is a catch mitt for it.

Next up, Andre shares a layout he worked on with Lasse D and Peter.  Lots of familiar modules in here along with some new ones.  I like the output ramp using the orange technic wheel arch panels.

Ryk has decided to 1up me, after I 1up'd Pinwheel. Here is his Triple Splat module.