Aug 08, 2005 - (Fort Wayne, IN)


By Eric Olsen

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 12, 2007 at 11:22 AM EDT

Some of us leave our childhood fantasies behind us...others take them to the next level.
Just like a certain friend of ours in 21Country.

The competition was fierce at last year's first Lego League state tourney at IPFW.

Dozens of engineering minded kids using Lego blocks to build working robots designed to perform assigned tasks.

But as fierce as the competition here was…compared to the big boys, this is child's play.

Lego Engineer Bryan Bonahoom says, “I had Lego blocks as a kid...Lego blocks when I was 7-8-years-old. We used to love to play with Lego blocks.”

All grown up now and Bryan Bonahoom is still playing with Lego blocks...sort of.

Bonahoom says, “I come up with the hardware idea. I try to put a hardware piece together and if I can manipulate it by hand or do what I want it to do, then I try to make software to run it. He needs some work.”

Bryan Bonahoom is a programming manager at ITT Industries, but during his off hours he designs and builds computer operated Lego robots.

This one is designed to rescue Lego miners trapped down a three foot mineshaft.

Bonahoom says, “It has to go to the hole, find the hole, go down into the hole, get the cage with the little Lego men out, and when it gets to the surface, timing stops.”

These are sophisticated machines with motors, gears, sensors...all controlled by computers.

Bonahoom writes the computer software himself and programs each robot through an infrared hookup.

This sumo wrestler robot is designed to seek out opponents and push them off a table.

The blue arms detect the edge of the table.

Bonahoom says, “And then they push into these touch sensors, and if its going along the table…as soon as it touches the end of the table, it'll push that switch and tell the computer to back up.”

Lego robots are serious business.

Bonahoom recently traveled to Denmark for a global robot building competition.

He and his partner took first place.

Bonahoom has the Lego trophy to prove it.

Bonahoom says, “It satisfies my imagination. In my work I don't get to use my imagination a lot. It's very regimented process oriented work and here I pretty much get to free form anything I want.”

And what does the future hold for 21Country's Lego master?

More Legos, of course.

Bonahoom says, “I want to find more adults interested in this in Fort Wayne, so that we can get a Fort Wayne club started. Lego will come out with new kits. Lego will come out with new computers. I'll still be doing Lego blocks.”

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