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Monday October 1 2012 / Science & Technology - Art & Design - Horology - A Little Levity

By day Hans Andersson is a programmer and business software developer.

But by night, the Swede harnesses the power of Lego Mindstorms to create some astonishing robots, including this fabulous digital clock.

Lego Mindstorms is a series of kits containing software and hardware to build small-sized, customizable and programmable robots.

The kits include a programmable ‘brick’ computer to control the system, a set of modular sensors and motors, and parts from Lego Technics to create the mechanical systems.

Andersson’s Time Twister comprises two Lego Mindstorms ‘bricks’ communicating via Bluetooth.

Time Twister

The master brick keeps track of the time and handles the minute digits while the slave brick handles the hour digits and the second indicator.

Time Twister

Each digit is made up of five layers with black and white tiles laid out in different patterns. Each layer can rotate 360 degrees before it hooks to the next layer.

Time Twister

By having the top layer twist back and forth in a specific pattern, the layers can align so that the desired digit is displayed.

Time Twister

Father-of-two Andersson admits that it was totally by chance that he was bitten by the Lego Mindstorms bug.

“In 2008, I bought a Lego Mindstorms kit for my two daughters in order to encourage them to get interested in technology,”
he says. “But it turned out that it was I who got most interested.

“Building robots has since then become a hobby of mine, which I try to fit in between a full-time job and my family.

“I have always been fascinated with time and clocks and Time Twister is my first clock invention.” “But it turned out that it was I who got most interested.

Andersson has started a website dedicated to his robotic creations, including detailed, downloadable parts lists and step-by-step instructions so you too can try your hand at building one of his inventions.

Andersson’s first machine in 2008 was Tilted Twister (below, left) which solves a standard Rubik’s Cube. This robot’s ultrasonic sensor detects the cube’s presence and starts to read the colors of the cube faces using a light sensor.

Time Twister

The robot turns and tilts the cube in order to read all the faces. It then calculates a solution and executes the moves by turning, tilting and twisting the cube.

This invention was followed up in 2010 with Tilted Twister 2.0 (above, right), another Rubik’s Cube conqueror that this time puts to use Lego Mindstorms’ colour (rather than light) sensor.

This one scans the sudoku puzzle using a light sensor, calculates the solution and then fills in the numbers.

For more information and to have a go yourself, please visit Andersson’s website

Suggested by
Jack Forster