LEGO Mindstorms Project | Spotlight

New Center for Energy
and Sustainability
at Cal State L.A.:

Cal State L.A. was recently awarded a five-year $5 million Centers for Research Experience in Science and Technology grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a multidisciplinary science and technology research center focusing on energy and sustainability.

The Center for Energy and Sustainability (CEaS), the second NSF-funded research center on campus, involves a team of five faculty: Crist Khachikian of civil engineering; Frank Gomez and Feimeng Zhou of chemistry and biochemistry; and Darrell Guillaume and Trinh Pham of mechanical engineering.

According to Khachikian, the grant’s principal investigator, the center will encompass four areas:

1. Fuel cells

2. Photovoltaic cells (high-efficiency cells)

3. Combustion (burning fuel sources and looking at efficiency)

4. Carbon Sequestration – capturing carbon from the atmosphere and pumping it into the ocean or the land.

For more details on the grant project, go to
or email Professor Khachikian at

Fuel cells power up LEGO® robot

Alt-energy leader invited to unveil retro-MindStorms at Las Vegas international show

Picture of LEGO® MindStorms running on fuel cell.

A different kind of MindStorms is about to hit Las Vegas.

A robotics project at Cal State L.A. represents what is thought to be the first fuel-cell-powered LEGO® MindStorms Nxt robot.

It rolled out of an undergraduate alternative energy workshop taught by CSULA Technology Associate Professor David Blekhman last summer. Blekhman introduced his students to the principles of fuel cells and hydrogen production, with a particular focus on automotive applications.

A video of the robot, which runs on a Horizon H-20 fuel-cell system, is here: More information is available on the Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies website.

Picture of LEGO® MindStorms and fuel-cell system.

Blekhman said, “It’s perhaps the very first application of fuel cells to power LEGO® MindStorms—and successful to boot.”

The CSULA workshop also included an introduction to robotics, lessons on how various sensors work, principles of programming, program structure and modern methods of programming.

Blekhman has been invited by Horizons to demonstrate the fuel-cell-powered robot at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this coming January.

Definition: A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, with water and heat as its by-product. As long as fuel is supplied, the fuel cell will continue to generate power. Since the conversion of the fuel to energy takes place via an electrochemical process, not combustion, the process is clean, quiet and highly efficient—two to three times more efficient than fuel burning. (source: