Take Lego Power Functions to the Next Level!

Lego Power Functions
Book covers. Images: No Starch Press

I’m like a little kid at Christmas when I receive a new Lego book to review, and the new Lego Power Functions books from No Starch Press that arrived this week are no exception! Author and Lego builder Yoshito Isogawa just released two new titles that are sure winners. The first is The Lego Power Functions Idea Book, Vol. 1: Machines and Mechanisms, and the second is The Lego Power Functions Idea Book, Vol. 2: Car and Contraptions.

Lego Power Functions
Lego Power Functions. Image: Lego

Lego Power Functions, or PF for short, are electronic Technic parts that are added to stationary Lego models, like an Excavator, to bring them to life with movement, lights, and even remote control functions.

I often write about the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot which employs a similar but slightly different set of electronic parts, and Mr. Isogowa also wrote The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book which I previously reviewed. The Technic bricks utilized are the same whether you use Power Functions or EV3 motors, and the concepts presented are universal to both Lego platforms.

Lego Power Functions Angled Gears
Angled gears example. Image: No Starch Press

Both the Machines and Mechanisms and Cars and Contraptions books use a highly visual presentation to convey their content. That is, there are very few words in the books. The instructions and concepts are explained entirely through pictures. Take this angled gear mechanism for example. There’s a parts list, and the mechanism is shown using multiple pictures taken at different angles so that you can see how the parts fit together without needing step-by-step instructions.

Lego Power Functions Camshaft Gears
Camshaft gear. Image: No Starch Press

I spent some time putting this camshaft gear together, and the visual method worked well for me. I only had 6 camshaft parts instead of the 8 that were used in the book diagrams, but I was able to modify the gear to work with the reduced number of parts. The books encourage you to use the parts you have and to experiment!

Lego Power Functions Camshaft Gear
Camshaft gears build. Photo: Maryann Goldman

It’s an amazing feeling when you take the pictures in the books and bring them to life. You know you have learned something! I can’t wait to share the moving camshaft gear with my FIRST Lego League kids!

If you have to pick one book over the other, and I hope you don’t, I would probably suggest the Machines and Mechanisms book. Most of the items in it have 20 or fewer parts. The items are smaller, and they actually make up some of the bigger items in the Cars and Contraptions book. The Machines and Mechanisms book contains the foundation blocks to understanding basic Technic movement concepts. Once you’ve mastered Machines and Mechanisms, then you’ll be ready to move onto Cars and Contraptions. But, by all means, if you have a ton of experience building with Technic Lego bricks already, or you love Lego wheels, then start out with Cars and Contraptions.

Lego Power Functions Differential Gears
Differential Gears. Image: No Starch Press

If you have Lego bricks at home but not necessarily Technic parts, you’ll need to pick up a kit so that you can get the full experience of building the examples shown in the books. Besides the excavator that I mentioned earlier, and the base Power Functions electronic parts, I would also recommend the Tracked Crane or the Mini Mobile Crane. I was able to pull my parts from my EV3 kit, and I’m pleased to report that I had just about every part used in both books. Each book includes a parts list at the back, so you can check what you have against what’s needed before you buy.

The Lego Power Functions Idea Book, Vol. 1: Machines and Mechanisms, and the The Lego Power Functions Idea Book, Vol 2.: Cars and Contraptions are both available for pre-order on Amazon for $18.06 in paperback format.

GeekMom received these items for review purposes.

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