LEGO Trophies: Year Three

This past Saturday, I had another great time being part of SMaRT Education’s FIRST LEGO League tournament. This year I was able to once again referee on the competition floor. However, hats often change heads as the tournament progresses, and this year I found myself filling in as emcee as well.

But, I get the feeling that’s not why you’re here, is it?

Oh, right! This year, I once again designed and built custom LEGO trophies for the winning teams.

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Updates from the Studio

The Suboken Project has been producing in full force over the past couple months. An eagerness to get things back on track after the loss of the Drobo hard drives has fueled my efforts in finishing up current projects as well as creating new work. So, shall we visit with an update on what Suboken has been doing?

The November gallery show at the Palm Desert City Hall is right around the corner. There’s a healthy amount of work left to get ready for the show, but I’m on schedule, and that’s a huge comfort for Calista and me. The show will feature pieces from The Cartographer’s Dilemma sculpture series, as well as the entire collection from In A Place: Series Two.
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Letting Go.

For the past month, I’ve been hoping I wouldn’t find myself writing this post. However, after four weeks of technical consultation, today I received a text message that made my heart sink.

All of my digital media has been lost.

A major component to my digital studio is my external storage device. I use a product called Drobo.

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The LEGO Infiltration.

Since April, production on new artwork, music and writing has been locked in overdrive. So much so that about two weeks ago I finally hit a creativity levee. Calista and I had so many things on our plates that, for my part, something had to give.

However, the factors that have been pulling my attention in different directions are 100% positive.

Factor One: An Old Friend Returns.

A great friend of mine, Tyler Maxey, landed back in town for a brief time. He and I were philosophy students at the same college, and it was great to have him hang out with Calista and I, waxing philosophic about life, health, the universe, careers and entertainment. The three of us went on many hiking adventures before the summer heat finally baked us into staying indoors. A highlight of our adventures was spending one Saturday morning bombarding our senses with sonic frequencies.

Painted Canyons Painted CanyonsPalm Desert: 6:25am 97°
I’m not much of a new-age soul, but the experience was well worth the drive to Landers, CA.

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2012 Desert Cities FIRST LEGO League Senior Solutions Qualifying Tournament: part 2 with Trophy Build Instructions

More links to see some photo coverage from the tournament.

Suboken as the Mad Scientist (the socks made the costume)

Suboken as the Mad Scientist (the socks made the costume)!i=2198614841&k=Vwzpksw



Here’s a PDF of the building instructions for the robot trophy. I used LEGO Digital Designer to create the PDF. However, LDD has some limitations in regards to unconventional uses of LEGO pieces. Hopefully the images from the blog illustrate how the whole thing comes together. If not, send me a message and I’ll try to fill in the missing steps. Calista and I ordered all of the pieces for building the trophies from


2012 Desert Cities FIRST LEGO League Senior Solutions Qualifying Tournament

Yesterday, I had an incredible day!

In addition to building this year’s tournament trophies, SMaRT Education asked me to emcee their 2012 Desert Cities FIRST LEGO League Senior Solutions Qualifying Tournament at the Palm Springs Air Museum. And what a fantastic day it was.

I was able to experience the tournament from a perspective that, until yesterday, I’ve had very limited involvement: the ROBOT COMPETITION FLOOR! I was tasked with keeping the audience excited while calling out the play-by-play for the FLL teams. What made the day even more exciting was being there to see so many of my former students putting their hard work and design skills to the test by engineering robots that would earn as many points as possible in the three, 2:30 rounds. The day was theirs, and I’m honored to have shared the experience with them.

But wait, there’s more!

Imagine my added joy when, during the closing ceremony, I watched most of those teams I had an impact on receive one of the twelve hand-crafted LEGO trophies I’ve been building over the past three weeks! Plus, every team that had a member who was in my summer camp or after school program are now advancing to this December’s Southern California regional championship tournament at LEGOLAND!

Here’s the promised images of the trophies followed by links to tournament coverage.

Trophies by Suboken

Here’s a PDF of the building instructions for the robot trophy. I used LEGO Digital Designer to create the PDF. However, LDD has some limitations in regards to unconventional uses of LEGO pieces. Hopefully the images from the blog illustrate how the whole thing comes together. If not, send me a message and I’ll try to fill in the missing steps. Calista and I ordered all of the pieces for building the trophies from


LEGO Trophies: Year Two

MOC – My Own Creation. a term used by LEGO building enthusiasts referring to an original LEGO model or design built without official LEGO instructions.

Last year, SMaRT Education invited me to build custom designed LEGO trophies for their FLL regional qualifying tournament. The FLL season’s theme was centered around food safety, and SMaRT Ed’s executive director, Liberty Naud, suggested the trophies also incorporate a strong food related look.

Board members from SMaRT searched high and low for LEGO food creations and came upon some fantastic looking cupcake MOCs. The builds were created by a LEGO artist named edubl31216. No instructions were available at the time, and the tournament was approaching fast. After studying edubl31216 images, I reversed engineered similar cupcake designs which won the approval of SMaRT’s board of directors. 12 trophies were built to honor the teams achievements at the tournament.

“The Sweetest Trophies EVER!”

Here we are a year later, and SMaRT Ed has again asked me to build this year’s trophies. But, rather than hunt for an already available design, I jumped at the chance to build my own creation. The theme for this year’s FLL season is entitled Senior Solutions and the official artwork from FLL uses a retro 1950’s look. The idea of a jukebox or 50’s diner aesthetic was discussed early on. But there are some really amazing looking LEGO jukeboxes already created, and a diner theme might come across as being more related to last year’s food theme.

So I began building variations of vintage toy robots. The teams are using LEGO Mindstorms NXT robots to run on the game board, and the senior citizens they are interviewing for their projects would recognize the retro look of the old metal wind-up toys, so this seemed like a great way to appeal to both, if not all generations.

I’m now waiting for the last few orders to arrive so that I can finish the trophies. As soon as they are done, I’ll share some images for everyone to see how they turned out.
Update with image:

Yes, as much as it pains me, I’m required to glue the LEGO trophies together!

X-Treme Team Sends Everyone to the Moon!

The First Lego League / Moonbots team I help mentor presented their Phase Two entry for the 2012 Google Lunar X-Prize LEGO Mindstorms Challenge at the Southern California Energy Summit this last Thursday and Friday (Oct 4th & 5th).

I am immensely proud of this year’s team. Their hard work, struggles and triumphs have made participating in this season’s entire project a transformational experience. I am certain the experience we have shared this summer will serve as a strong inspiration to persevere through any hurdles that arise in my own future creative endeavors.

X-Treme Team’s ambition in presenting imaginative and entertaining projects has been an exciting catalyst for me. Phase One centered on a video project that addressed the competition’s requirements. X-Treme Team wanted to make something truly memorable. After brainstorming what was possible, I helped teach the team how to shoot and edit a fun and challenging video involving green screen techniques and miniature videography. For three weeks I facilitated an intense yet fun film workshop to teach the team how to pull off the video project. We even crafted a low budget green screen studio in my backyard to shoot the miniature sets and props, all built out of LEGOs! Check out what they were able to create:

Phase Two involved creating an obstacle course for a LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot to navigate through, while meeting point objectives within a five minute time limit. The team once again reached for a logistically ambitious goal that redefined my expectations on what the kids are capable of. Instead of settling for a traditional flat game board, they chose to create a board that involved multiple levels of terrain for the robot to travel through. Committed to impressing the judges with this “out of the box” approach to the Phase Two challenge, the kids and I spent two weeks building a massive four level game board, mapping out how a standard robot design could run through the course. If that wasn’t enough, the robot building team put together four different robot variations for them to use in their presentation at the Southern California Energy Summit.

Here’s some highlights on what the kids experienced at the Energy Summit!

I can’t express how meaningful my time with X-Treme Team has been. Next summer is so far away.

X-Treme Team’s presentation made front page news in our local newspaper, The Desert Sun!

The Desert Sun: Thumbs up: Indio robotic team shoots for the moon

Unfortunately, the article got some of the details on the team and the competition mixed up. But, at it’s heart, the article focused on how great X-Treme Team is, and how their ingenuity and creativity are inspirational for our community. This meant so much for the kids read!

Working with LEGO and SMaRT Education

Two big hobbies of mine are creating music and building with LEGO.

The music aspect I suspect will be covered in later posts. For now, everything music related to The Suboken Project can be explored here:

LEGO on the other hand isn’t something that has worked its way into an official Suboken art project (yet). However, building with LEGO has become a major part of maintaining my creativity. The bricks are the perfect mix of fun and flexibility matched with the challenges of shape limitation. They have taught me how to problem solve and except a certain level of compromise that keeps me focused in all my other creative projects. And, by far the most important thing about LEGO, they’re FUN!

Whenever I hit a creative block, (pun intended) out come the LEGO bricks. Sometimes I build from official instructions, but more often I create my own designs. I only wish I had started building with LEGO when I was younger.

LEGO has also lead me to share my experiences with others. There’s a great nonprofit organization where I live, SMaRT Education, whom I volunteer for on a regular basis. Their focus is on teaching math and science to children, and a major component of their curriculum is the use of LEGO Mindstorms Robot kits. Over the past three years I’ve volunteered as a judge at several robot tournaments, and in the past year I have become one of SMaRT’s teachers for their Mobile Robotics Lab program. Looking for a source of inspiration? Just sit down with some talented kids and watch their unbridled minds build robots. The very definition of Awesome.