NBEL RC 1.0: Integrated computer-aided design of a voice-activated, LEGO-powered, Raspberry Pi-controlled, GoPro-integrated robotic car


LEGO has always been a passion of mine. When I was young, I would spend long hours playing with LEGO bricks, building worlds and bringing my imagination to life. This passion for the LEGO brick has recently emerged once again with my 5-year old son, with whom I find myself sitting on the carpet for hours creating and imagining, combining our two worlds into one.

My world of interest and practice is at the intersection of robotics, electrical engineering, brain sciences, and computer sciences. However, I’ve decided to make the case for integrated computer-aided design, from the perspective of a LEGO designer. After all, engineers and scientists are regularly using the LEGO brick for research and engineering (https://nypost.com/2018/11/27/scientists-ate-lego-to-see-how-long-itd-take-to-poop-them-out/).

The NBEL RC 1.0

In a series of posts, I will share the integrated computer-aided design of a voice-activated, LEGO-powered, Raspberry Pi-controlled, GoPro-integrated robotic car. I named it the NBEL RC 1.0.



This LEGO design was created in NBEL Innovation Workshops and its LEGO frame is based on LEGO’s 24 Hours Race Car technic kit (42039).

Our design stripped some of the car’s original functionality and added motorized steering and driving. Furthermore, we designed a new motorized stage for a GoPro session camera. This design goes beyond LEGO’s traditional power functions control mechanism: we hacked the motors and connected them via a specially designed driving circuit to a Raspberry Pi micro-controller. We enhanced the system by designing a new Android application, which communicates with the Raspberry Pi via Bluetooth, and enables user control via a simple visual interface. Finally, we implemented voice control by connecting our app to Google Cloud-based voice recognition engine.

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I plan a series of three posts:

  • Computer-Aided Mechanical Design. We will dive into the computer-aided mechanical design of the NBEL RC-1.0, while exploring the rationale, tools and methodology of the design process.

  • Computer-Aided Electrical Design. We will dive into LEGO’s power functions, and show our approach for designing the RC electronics.

  • Software. We will explore our Android App and the voice controlled functionality.

Let’s start with the first post: discussing computer-aided mechanical design.