Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Turning lego into an AR experience

Wind them up and let them go

I have a bit of a reputation around school as the VR and AR guy (I don't know why?) so it was no surprise when a grade 10 student came to me asking for help with his MYP Personal Project. He was in a bit of a panic and sent me this email


He had created several Lego models of buildings in Kuala Lumpur in the Lego Digital Designer program. He has examples of old style buildings and new buildings. The problem was that the Personal Project Exhibition was fast approaching and he didn't have time to order the bricks and build his model. He was hoping he could turn his model into an AR experience.

When I met him I checked out his models (he had put a lot of work into them) then explained that I didn't have a clue how to turn these models into AR. 

We sat together and started searching online for possible solutions (it was a strong example of me being able to model my searching techniques and show me being a learner) after a rather tedious and long search, we came across this post AR augmented reality Lego. There were some sketchy details of how to do it.

We played and finally worked it out
  • we had to open the .lxf (lego digital designer) file in the Mecabricks.com website
  • download the file from Mecabricks as a .stl file
  • on a computer download the edrawingsviewer app and open the .stl file
  • save the edrawings version as an .eprt file
  • download the edrawings app on an iPhone
  • transfer the file to the iPhone (the files can be rather large) open the file in app
  • using the downloadable mat from the website bring your model to AR reality
The effect was pretty cool, you could walk around it, zoom in and out, it was AR, while it took a while we did it. The only real issue was that is wasn't a colour version and we needed the mat. The student went away pretty happy. As the AR guy I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself, as per usual when you start getting over confident a dose of humility soon follows.

The best bit

A couple of days later I got this email from the student.
Hi Mr. Derry,

I have been playing around with the different formatting when exporting the files as I had found out that the .stl format takes all the colours out (which was the main problem). After looking through a few ways - I have successfully transferred both my buildings from the Lego Digital Designer, into AR, with colour (it doesn't even need a QR code!). I found another website which supports 3D modelling called Sketchfab, and uploaded the files through a .dae format from Mecabricks, and got Sketchfab on my phone as well, which allows it to be seen in AR and VR. I have attached all the pictures of how they turned out. 

I am very excited to show you everything in school soon (perhaps in innovation tomorrow right after break time), and would like to thank you for all the help you have given me. I wouldn't have managed to pull this out without it! 

Have a great day,
Jordan. 


On his own, he found another way to do it, a better way with colour and no need for a mat or a QR code. You could even go close up and inside the AR model and check out the interior, something you couldn't even do in real life. This is what I love about empowering students with technology, as a teacher I showed him a thing or two and showed him how to search and what is potentially possible. He then took this knowledge and skill and built on it.



I like to call this "wind them up and let them go" get them enthused and excited and watch what they create.

I love doing this with programs like Scratch and GarageBand, just the other day after showing all the grade 5 students live loops,  I had a grade 5 student say to me "Mr D I love live loops in garage band on my iPad. I can't stop playing with it, my parents don't believe I am making such cool music".

We are also doing this in a big way at school through our innovation time, which is 2 blocks per week (the same as every other subject) of passion project time in secondary school, we certainly are winding them up and letting them go. That is a whole other post and we have some great examples to share.

Long may schools and teachers empower students with knowledge, skills and the time to explore their passions.

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