From Nothing to Something With LEGO

Introduction: From Nothing to Something With LEGO

About: Has code in brain, soldering iron in hand, Art Blakey blaring in the background... transforms techno babble into reality and is strangely fond of the ellipsis.

We love Legos at our house... but my four year old - when he isn't playing with them, he's pouring over the catalog ( I think his 'wish list' has an opening in 2029 ).

Funny story... a few weeks back I bought him the Mandalorian Battle Pack ( ages 6 - 12 ). He could hardly wait to put it together. I promised that we would build it after I got a drink of water. I got side-tracked with a honey-do item... and didn't get back upstairs for fifteen minutes. When I returned, I found him playing with a finished speeder.

Dad: "Sorry... I'm back."
Patrick: "Vroooooom.... pew... pew..."
Dad: "Oh. It's finished. Did your brother help you?"
Patrick: "Nope."
Dad: "Did your sister help you?"
Patrick: "Nope."
Dad: "You put it together by yourself?"
Patrick: "Yep. WEEEEEEEE  pew... pew... pew."
Dad: [ mouth wide open ] "How?"
Patrick: "Dad. I just followed the instructions."

Ready to build?

Step 1: LEGO Digital Designer

If you haven't heard of it yet, the LEGO Digital Designer is a great way to get into LEGO without having to buy a million bricks to make something.

Did I mention it's free?

Step 2: Download and Install

What? You've already seen an -able on the LEGO Digital Designer?

Yes, there was one done back in 2008 ( about a century in Internet years ). A great deal has changed in the tool, bricks available, community, gallery, etc. since then. Seriously... it's worth a quickie redo.

Once you have your Mac or Windows version downloaded... open the archive and launch the installer. When it's done, launch LDD and you'll see something like this.

For this -able, I'll use standard LEGO.

WARNING: Clicking on the other tabs may cause your head to explode; work your way up to Minstorms and the extended designer.

Step 3: Gray Beard... Uh... Board.

This is the most challenging part... what do you fill all that space with?

Think... think. Ah!

"Expeditions to the ocean floor* in the early 21st century paved the way for undersea colonies... thriving communities just like the surface world."

Enter the Undersea Police Force... and the Tiger Shark.

* Any similarity to people, places, or events is entirely coincidental.

Step 4: 60 Bricks or Less

It's easy to let your eyes get waaaaay bigger than your stomach. Let's try to keep this under sixty or so bricks - take a look at what's available in the brick menu ( on the left ) and you'll understand exactly what I mean.

Let's do a ship, a robot for repairs, and a minifig.

Step 5: View, Build, and Building Guide

There are three main 'modes' to the designer.

* view
* build
* building guide

You'll spend the bulk of your time in build... at this point the 'view mode' will only cycle between a couple backgrounds. Not that much bang-for-your-buck there.

Step 6: HTML Building Instructions

I like this feature a lot... the HTML Build Instructions export will create a step-by-step guide for you. The bill of materials (BOM) can be used at your local LEGO store to get all the parts you need. Hit up the link ( below ) for a map with all the LEGO stores in the US.

Step 7: Templates, Communities, and Galleries - Oh My!

The option to upload and buy your LEGO creations in a customized box seems to be missing these days... I'm not surprised. It's a great idea, but I'm sure that the overhead in keeping an operation like that running isn't feasible.

At this point I'd recommend that you sign-up for a LEGO account - the member perks are worth it!

Step 8: How Much Fun Can You Have?

More fun than singing karaoke on a Friday night? You bet... my wife is going to kill me. ;-)

Take a look at the Tiger Shark ( model included ) or download the build instructions ( also included ). That's it - now get out there and make nothing into something!

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