Dear FLL'ers,

you might be fascinated to see the "monster" chess set built by the Hassenplug family:

This chess set is not only IN their living room, it FILLS their living room! Each chess piece is almost a foot square and has its own NXT and motors, and the entire set of 32 pieces is controlled via BlueTooth connected to an electronic chess game. Not only do the pieces move when commanded, there is programmed logic to direct pieces to move out of the way when needed, to remove themselves from the board when taken, and to reset the board for a new game. The set was constructed from over 100,000 LEGO pieces, and built over the course of four years. The site contains more details about the set, and movies too.

I emailed Steve Hassenplug to ask for more details about this monster project. His reply is below. Note that he was one of the designers of NXT!

Ex-coach Mike Blanpied
Reston, VA

Dear Steve,

I found your web site via, as they posted one of your Monster Chess movies. I've enjoyed reading about the chess project and some of your previous work. Very impressive and very fun! I am a former FIRST LEGO League (FLL) coach and will be passing some links along to fellow subscribers to the VA/DC FLL coach listserv.

Thanks Mike.
How many and how old are the members of Team Hassenplug?

That's an interesting question. The chess set was created by a bunch of people.  But, Team Hassenplug was created as a family group with my wife and two sons (9 & 7).  My wife has participated by supporting my habit (I mean hobby).  My boys are just getting old enough to really have fun with me.

 Who financed the Monster Chess effort, and did you receive contributions from LEGO (there's a thanks given to Mindstorms, so I assume so).

100% of the parts came from LEGO.  It's nice to have friends in high places.
How big are the chess pieces? Based on the quoted size of 14.5m^2 and some eyeballing, the bases appear to be about 9-10" on a side, the board squares about 15-16".

Yes, the board is around 12.5 ft/side, and the pieces are around a foot tall.
In a couple of places in the movie, it looks like the pieces do a slight course-correction. What keeps the pieces aligned with the board? Having done some NXT robotics, it doesn't seem like dead reckoning would be sufficient--there'd be too much drift both in position and orientation. Are the pieces detecting edges or colors?

Hopefully, I'll get some more stuff posted soon.  The robots actually each have four color sensors that are used to detect the edge of each square.
The "my LEGO history" page ends with events in 2005, so I'm guessing you stopped updating it at that time. Up til then you were sure keeping busy, and I'm sure that's not stopped!

Actually, in 2005 LEGO came to me and asked me to help with the development of the NXT.  That's when things got REALLY busy.  I do need to go back and add more.
It's great that you've posted so much good stuff on the web. Your work is very inspiring.

Thank you very much.  Your comments are encouraging.  Some days I put stuff out there on the web, and wonder if anyone else really sees it.  :)


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