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10K Club Interview: Levi and Scott Hasse, creators of the Automated Garbage Truck

We've got one final 10K Club Interview to share with you all before we release the review results tomorrow.

Please welcome the father-son duo Levi and Scott Hasse (aka. MochiMaster and Alexander Hamsterton, respectively) the creators of the Automated Garbage Truck.

Learn more about them below.

 

About Yourself

  1. Who are you?
    MochiMaster: Levi Hasse

    Alexander Hamsterton: Scott Hasse



    ^ Scott and Levi at their booth at BrickWorld Chicago 2019

     
  2. Where are you from?
    Levi: I’ve lived in Madison, Wisconsin USA all my life.

    Scott: I grew up on a family dairy farm in the driftless hills of Wisconsin, USA. I lived in Colorado and California before settling back in Madison, Wisconsin.
     
  3. How old are you?
    Levi: 14

    Scott: 49
     
  4. What do you do for a living?
    Levi: I am a student in 9th grade (Freshman year of high school in the USA).

    Scott: I studied electrical engineering in school, but my day job is software development.
     
  5. What hobbies do you have?
    Levi: I like to draw, code, build in Minecraft, make jokes, hang out with friends, and of course play with LEGO bricks.

    Scott: I’m an active member of our local hackerspace, Sector67. My main interests there are metal working, fixing old machines, and implementing open-source machine control systems for things like computer-controlled (CNC) routers and mills.
     
  6. Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
    Levi: I have a MochiMaster YouTube channel that is mostly videos of the Automated Garbage Truck right now, but as I have new LEGO projects they’ll go there.
     
  7. Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
    None so far apart from the truck and the rolling bin with flipping lid.
     
  8. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    Levi: I can’t remember a time in my life without LEGO! I remember anxiously awaiting the new holiday catalog, just to see all the cool sets, and get inspired.

    Scott: I’ve played with LEGO for as long as I can remember. My mother claims after I was born, she set me next to a pile of LEGO bricks, and 18 years later I went away to university.
     
  9. What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
    Levi: LEGO inspires me to be way more creative. I remember dismantling LEGO sets part by part after a few days after building them. I’d take the pieces and just began creating, it was a very wonderful experience. Playing with LEGO bricks is one of my favorite ways to spend time with my dad. We sometimes download instructions from sets we don’t have and “improvise” our own build from pieces we do have. The confidence and techniques I’ve gained from playing with LEGO have inspired me in so many ways, to not just create in LEGO, but to draw, to paint, to build in Minecraft, and to code in Java.

    Scott: LEGO to me is first and foremost about hands-on creative play. Getting on the floor with my kids, building and sharing. The sensation of growing mastery as you discover a new technique or put something together in a novel way is a wonderful feeling and something that comes very naturally when playing with LEGO.

    But the impact LEGO has had on me definitely goes further than that. As a software development professional, I strive to create things that are simple, intuitive, and modular. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used LEGO bricks as a metaphor for how a software system should be designed.
     
  10. What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
    Levi: Probably the LEGO Ideas franchise! There are so many awesome and cool sets that have come from LEGO Ideas, all with their own unique style and technique.

    Scott: I am torn between Classic Space and Technic. I have so many fond memories of sending missions out from Alpha-1 Rocket Base, but if I had to pick one I’d probably pick Technic as having a bigger influence on my building style.
     
  11. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    Levi: My favourite official LEGO set is the 92176 NASA Apollo Saturn V. For me as a kid, seeing someone as young as Felix Stiessen creating an idea and having it become a set was very inspiring. The video of him demonstrating the set really made an impression on me. I really am impressed by the design of the Saturn V, when I built it I was so astounded at all the new building techniques.

    Scott: The 951 Technic Bulldozer is my favorite set of all time. I received it as a Christmas gift in 1979 when I was 8 years old, and I still have very fond memories of being amazed at what could be done with the “Expert Builder” elements. The set has some very interesting linkages, and there are even echoes of the rack and pinion mechanisms from that set in the compacting ram of our garbage truck project! In fact, we used the actual 1x4 gear rack pieces from this set when building our truck prototypes.
     
  12. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    Neither one of us could come up with an answer for this question in general. There are so many great elements! But, for this project in particular we agreed that the 98397 handlebars were absolutely critical. We scoured our brick stash and Bricklink to find potential elements or combinations of elements that would grab a trash bin from both sides. We probably evaluated a dozen different ways of grabbing the bin, and there may be other workable solutions, but for us the handlebars turned out to be the element that could get the job done!
     
  13. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    Levi: Like I mentioned before Felix Stiessen has been a big inspiration. Additionally, Jake Sadovich, the creator of Ship in a Bottle, was a big inspiration when I first came across LEGO Ideas. When I met him in person at Brickworld, he took the time to share his experiences with a LEGO Ideas newcomer.

    Scott: I am a LEGO System nerd, and so I have to say Godtfred Kirk Christiansen who came up with the original LEGO brick design over 60 years ago. To create a product so intuitive that a child who has never seen them before will be building within 5 seconds, but still captures the imagination of adult fans, who are discovering and sharing innovative building techniques over 60 years after the basic product was created is really quite a remarkable feat of imagination and engineering.
     
  14. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    Scott: Bricklink is a game changer site for me. I also share the element-level fanaticism that can be regularly found at New Elementary. I visit Beyond the Brick and JK Brickworks regularly for inspiration.

 

About Your Project

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    Levi: When I was a little kid, I loved watching garbage trucks. I would wait and wait for the garbage truck to come to our house Tuesday mornings, peering out our front window. I loved the smooth functionality as the arm picked up the trash can, dumped it, and set it neatly to the ground. When I was around 6 my dad and I built a big working bin arm out of LEGO, and a fascination with that mechanism stuck with me. When I was older, I learned to use LEGO Digital Designer and used it to build creations and make pretend sets. This led me to watch some LEGO set designer videos, which got me thinking about being a LEGO designer as a career. I mentioned this to my dad, and he brought up the idea of a LEGO Ideas collaboration. When thinking about different potential LEGO Ideas projects we could work together on, we remembered the bin arm and thought that idea might be worth refining and submitting.

    Scott: My interest in this particular project mainly comes from supporting Levi to follow his passions. I really enjoy making LEGO creations with Technic, and even ran an elementary after school club called “LEGO in motion” club to teach younger kids some nuances of LEGO Technic building. These interests came together naturally for me for this project.



    ^ Levi and Scott next to one of their local recycling trucks

     
  2. How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
    The process of building the model was around 6-7 months, and making our first video about the truck took another 6 months on and off. We looked at a lot of garbage truck pictures and videos from the Internet to refine our truck design, in addition to the automated side-loading trucks around our neighborhood.

    We went through tons of versions, multiple ram designs, multiple bin arm designs, cab designs, and so much more. We tried hard not to get too mentally tied to any specific aspect of our build, which was good because we ended up changing nearly everything multiple times as we worked to add functions and make the model more compact. Even now, although we love our build, we enjoy seeing how different people have adapted it, and really look forward to the possibility of having a LEGO designer’s take on it if we make it through review.



    ^ An early version of the truck design in LEGO Digital Designer


    When we named our LEGO Ideas project, we called it “Automated Garbage Truck”, because it is an “Automated Side-Loader” (ASL) style garbage truck, and we thought a shorter name would be better than a longer one.  In hindsight, the name was a bit confusing to some people because the truck still requires manual operation. “Automated Side-Loading Garbage Truck” would have been a more clear name.

    We also researched the LEGO Ideas project guidelines closely, and took the advice there to heart about presenting your idea well, for instance by having good quality pictures.
     
  3. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    Working together was a challenge because we had to be mindful of each others’ time and ideas. Another big challenge that we faced was making the model work at city scale. We wanted to make the truck city-scale because a working automated side-loading mechanism at that scale would be something new.

    Fitting a working ram into our design was also quite a challenge. The design we submitted originally does not have a “follower plate” on the ram, and so bricks could get behind the ram if you dump a bin while the ram is extended. Based on feedback from comments on our project page (thanks @Trashmonster26!), we worked to add a follower plate to the ram and were finally able to do so. If you look closely at this timestamp in the JK Brickworks video, you can see that the ram extends four full studs, but when not extended it doesn’t seem like there is enough space for it. Where the ram goes when not extended is a bit of a mystery with our design, and was definitely a challenge.





    The most difficult part to create though was the bin arm. Fitting all the functionality into a tiny build required finding just the right LEGO Technic parts. After many iterations of different designs, we finally got a result we were happy with. Part 32291 (Technic, Axle and Pin Connector Perpendicular Double) turned out to be the critical piece in miniaturizing the dual-action grab and dump mechanism.
     
  4. If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
    Levi: You have to wait till you’re 13! In all seriousness, I would tell us that it's not an easy street, you really have to promote your idea and get it out there! You can have the best selling idea in the world, an idea that billions of people would buy multiple of on a daily basis. But if you don’t do anything to get it out there, no one will know about it!

    Scott: You need to learn a lot more about social media old man! Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, etc. can all be powerful tools, but only if you know how to use them well. Get a Facebook page before you submit the project! Also: Keep the faith! You two actually are going to learn a ton and have fun doing it!
     
  5. How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
    Although we’re still making small changes, the model took us about 6-7 months for us to call “complete”. Since we had to wait for Levi to be 13 years old before submitting the idea as a team, we had extra time to work on the model and prepare for the promotional campaign. This felt frustrating at the time, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The extra time allowed us to get design feedback, learn a lot about video production, and experiment with digital renders and photography. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on our initial video, and without that extra time we invested while we were waiting, it would not have been nearly as good.

    The promotion time was longer (if felt waaaaay longer), but definitely less intense than the project design, rendering, photography, and video creation.
     
  6. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    We reached 10,000 supporters at 9:17 am Saturday November 14th. Ours was a long path to 10,000, taking nearly two years. Our theme song for this project was “High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco, and we were blasting that song along with “The Final Countdown” by Europe while refreshing the page feverishly and shouting out the vote count as it updated.

    Levi: AMAZING. I remember that day my dad woke me up around 7:00 am on the weekend, telling me that we were gonna make it to 10k. A huge smile spread across my face, as I realized how far we had come. We wouldn’t have made it without JK Brickworks!

    Scott: I am still in a bit of a state of shock about the 10,000 supporters. We’ve had fun at every step of the project, but we were fairly realistic about our projections to make 10k as the days counted down. The amazing video on the bin arm mechanism by JK Brickworks resulted in a huge influx of support, along with hundreds of positive comments appreciating our build. I’m still mentally basking in the warm glow from that.
     
  7. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    Our digital design files report about 400 parts in our latest version, including two minifigures and some small parts for trash.

    We’ve been able to source parts to build real-world versions of the truck in green, blue, and orange.
     
  8. What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
    The working bin arm is by far our favorite part of the design. We've gotten “loads” ;-) of positive feedback about the mechanism. We’ve had hundreds of kids play test the truck at various events, and we’ve been really proud that the mechanism is so smooth and reliable and that it can be operated by very young kids. You can see a bunch of kids playing with the truck as one of the few hands-on exhibits at Brickworld in our time lapse video. The arm even cleanly lifts and dumps a minifigure.




     
  9. If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
    We started off with a real-world build, and then modeled that in Lego Digital Designer to experiment with colors and ideas. We did a lot of iterations of both real-world building and digital designing, and eventually switched to Bricklink Studio for builds and some renders. We used Blender to create an animation-rigged truck model that we used to create animations for our video and most of our digital photos.
     
  10. If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
    We did use custom tiles, and they are a pretty important part of our design. The custom tiles let you switch the truck to be a trash, recycling, or compost truck. Proper waste stream separation is a huge issue for society today (kudos to The LEGO Group for their zero waste to landfill by 2025 goal!), and being able to run the truck in different modes with different door tiles lets people practice proper waste separation for their LEGO cities.

    The designs for the different waste/recycling/compost tiles came from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. They designed the icons and released them as open source to encourage recycling and composting. To get real-world stickers, we used color laser prints and scotch tape, which worked surprisingly well and is fast and inexpensive. 

    Getting the custom stickers into Bricklink Studio for our digital renders was fairly tricky. We used a tool called LD Pattern Creator to create custom parts, but thankfully custom digital decals have gotten a lot easier to create in Bricklink Studio PartDesigner since we did that.


    Some of the custom tiles Levi and Scott made for this project

 

About LEGO Ideas

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    This is our opinion from our rather limited perspective of a single project, so please keep that in mind. The program is called “LEGO Ideas”, so first and foremost to start you should have a good, unique idea that is in line with the spirit of the program. Read the guidelines a few times. If you are serious about it, you are going to be investing a lot of your time and energy into developing and promoting your idea, so it should be something you feel good about.

    Coming up with a good idea is hard, but unfortunately your great idea on its own is probably not going to go anywhere. Although lockdown has increased the number of people supporting projects, you will still need to do a top-notch job presenting and promoting your idea. Tools like Bricklink Studio are really helpful for generating quality images, so invest some time to tell your story well. As a new project you’ll get a very limited time on the front page of the Ideas site, and similarly for most social media channels you’ll get one chance to make an impression. After that you’re spamming unless you have new content. Don’t spam.

    Unfortunately, you can do everything well and still not make 10k. We’ve all seen great projects that we loved that just didn’t make it. We feel like we prepared and promoted well for this project, but no doubt about it, we also got lucky. So even doing everything right, there are elements of timing and luck that matter significantly that will be out of your control.

    Because of that, perhaps most importantly, you need to define what success means for you while keeping expectations realistic. There have been tens of thousands of ideas submitted, and only a handful of them get to 10k or pass review. Our goal for this project was to have fun and learn new things, and so we achieved success by our definition almost every step of the way. With that attitude, every new milestone becomes a bonus.
     
  2. What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
    Neither of us were very savvy with social media, so we figured things out as we went along. We were game for trying a bunch of different things, so we did a lot of experiments. Some paid off and some definitely did not. We had a fairly successful initial post on the r/lego subreddit, and got a positive response on various Facebook groups including the LEGO Technic group.

    We went to local LEGO events with our LUG (WisLUG) to show the truck, get feedback, and ask for support. We made up business cards with the project details to give out to people at these events.

    We signed up for a display table at BrickWorld Chicago 2019 and had a really fun week there getting inspired and sharing the truck hands-on with hundreds of people. We were honored to be nominated for the “Best Mechanical” award at that show, and met some LEGO Ideas community leaders who gave us advice and inspiration. We also did an interview for Beyond the Brick at that show. It was really cool to have a video of our project on a channel we’ve watched for so long!

    We joked about practicing “rejection therapy”, as we reached out to dozens of folks in the recycling, waste management, and garbage truck industries via email and Facebook messages seeking project awareness and support. We did not get a great response rate from most of those, but we were featured in Waste Advantage Magazine, got to do a great tour of the Madison Division of Streets and Recycling garage (so many cool trucks!), and did hear back from a number of people encouraging us and supporting the project.

    We made quite a few updates to our project, including coming up with a rolling bin with a flipping lid that works well with the truck, and posted some video content and instructions related to those as updates. We were also lucky enough to have Jason Allemann (aka JK Brickworks) take notice of our project and make an amazing video featuring our bin arm mechanism.

    When we started, LEGO Ideas did not provide project supporter statistics, so we made a simple Google app script to record the number of supporters over time so we could better understand the impact of various promotional activities. That graph is shown below:



    A graph of our supporters over time. You can see the impacts as Levi and Scott did various promotion activities.


    We kept up promotion and had significant bumps about every six months. The most major impacts for us were our r/lego subreddit post, various Facebook group posts, our LEGO Ideas Staff Pick, our Beyond the Brick interview, and the JK Brickworks video. Looking back, the promotion of this project was really a lesson in the power of and importance of social media.




     
  3. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
    Levi: As I mentioned before, Saturn V is one of my favorites, along with The Flintstones. Big shout out for more support to Boone’s The Magic School Bus and Jake’s 1950s Murray Torpedo Roadmaster Pedal Car. I hope to see those in the next review!

    Scott: My favorite Ideas set for a long time has been the NASA Apollo Saturn V. Building that set is really a joyful process. I haven’t seen the Grand Piano in person yet, but it looks amazing.

    For product ideas that have been overlooked, I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of a LEGO mechanical clock and even built some. The Wall Clock project seems like a fantastic implementation. Unfortunately, though, clock builds are really touchy and I think it would probably be best done with custom parts for the escapement.
     
  4. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    LEGO Ideas as a platform is truly unique. Through LEGO Ideas, the LEGO Group genuinely listens to and incorporates end user ideas into the future of the product. Enlisting end users as product developers makes the LEGO experience even more rich.

    LEGO Ideas enables further exploration beyond just building with bricks. For us, what started as a shared interest in building with LEGO turned into an opportunity for us to learn together about LEGO digital design tools, video editing and production, digital rendering, photography/lighting, LUG membership, Brickworld conference displaying, and social media campaigning. This project has provided a wealth of opportunities for a father and son team to learn and have fun and learn together. This would have never happened without LEGO Ideas.

    Our attitude with this project has been to have fun and learn along the way. And we have definitely been able to do that! As long as you bring that attitude to it, you will not be disappointed.
     
  5. Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
    We don’t have anything actively in the works, but we are definitely keeping our minds open to new inspiration
  • 10k club
  • 10k club interview
  • mochimaster
  • levi hasse
  • alexander hamsterton
  • scott hasse
  • automated garbage truck
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