Lego robot takes a shot at safe-cracking

Robot uses brute-force approach to crack combination locks

Never underestimate the power of a geek with access to a set of Legos and too much time on his hands.

YouTuber rdbahm, a theatrical technician by profession from Sammamish, Wash., has posted a video of a computer-powered, lock-breaking robot built from Legos. The device is designed to open a Master combination padlock by brute force by trying possible combinations in sequence until it hits the right one.

He geared down the robot’s motor to give it more power when attempting to open the shackle after a combination is dialed, and improved the motor mount. The hardware is complete, but “the software is still nonfunctional,” he wrote. “I'm hoping to get into the lab within a few days to load the 'real' software and get it running.”

This is not the first safe-cracking robot to be built, although it might be the first one using Legos. Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Kyle Vogt has posted a blog that describes an autodialing device that he and a colleague configured and programmed to open a high-security safe.

“Combination space optimization is the key,” Vogt wrote. “By exploiting the mechanical tolerances of the lock and certain combination ‘forbidden zones,’ we reduced the number of possible combinations by about an order of magnitude.” The device managed to open the safe in “just a few hours” after running through about 21,000 possible combinations.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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