LEGO Mendocino Motor

Energy & Sustainability Fun & Games Science Technology

Here is a variation on the Menocino Motor project. The Mendo Motor is a solar-powered magnetically levitating motor invented by super maker Larry Spring, of Mendocino California. This is a great project to do with high school kids. The Motor incorporates woodworking, electricity, magnestism, troubleshooting, and can also be used as a way of teaching computer-aided design.

What solar energy projects do you do in school or at home? How do you show solar energy? How would you explain the function of this motor? How do you use LEGOs to prototype designs? What is the best project you have done with LEGO? Join the conversation in the comments and add your photos and video to the MAKE Flickr pool.

22 thoughts on “LEGO Mendocino Motor

  1. Brent says:

    About 15 years ago when I was in 3rd grade we even worked with solar energy. It’s amazing that we had a project to build a solar panel remote control car back in the early 90’s and the technology still hasn;t become mainstream.


  2. Mr. Peepers says:

    Why do people think that a flashlight makes a youtube vid better? Why not just have good lighting?

    I didn’t bother watching the vid.

  3. Matt says:

    Mr. Peepers: I hope your comment is supposed to be ironic! However, on the assumption that you aren’t trying to be funny, the flashlight is obviously there to provide energy to the SOLAR powered motor.

  4. zof says:

    considering enough ambient light would start the motor with out him wanting it to start, its amazing people can come to the conclusion of the videos relative suckyness based on the light source. Next time watch and use deductive reasoning before you make yourself look like an ass (this comes from personal experience of being the ass).

  5. Squirt says:

    This project incorporates three things that i like best magnets/levitation, motors, and solar power. I would really like to see some instructions to build this

  6. Squirt8500 says:

    This is sweet it combines a lot of things that i like motors, magnets, and levitation. I would like to see some instructions on how to build!

  7. Mr. Peepers. says:

    After watching the vid, I now understand the flashlight’s purpose. However, why not just make the video outside? There’s a lot of bright light outdoors, especially during the daytime- the flashlight creates an overexposed area in the image, and it’s hard to see what’s happening.

    Daylight from the sun would solve this issue by lighting the whole area evenly.

    I feel a little like an ass though.

    1. Chris Connors says:

      Well, I guess you can’t judge a video from its’ preview frame….You might find this video helpful.

      My apologies for the lighting ;) Actually lighting is an interesting subject with this project. Most of the time the motor won’t run in flourescent light, but will with incandescent light. LEDs probably won’t work, but sunlight is definitely the best.

      One problem with sunlight is that it is so variable. In a classroom situation, artificial light works best, and then kids can take them home and light them however they want. They can put them on a windowsill and the motor will start on its own each day if properly calibrated. Amount of sun is another variable to watch for. Bright sun is different than cloudy. With the artificial light, it is actually easier to do trouble shooting because you can turn the light on and off.

  8. lee says: has a cool hack to make a lego DC motor.

  9. outdoor solar string lights says:

    Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my

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