Archive for the ‘Robotics’ Category

As I mentioned last week, I want to share a really fun robot. Sorry for the delay in this post, but I needed to make a quick video of the footage for Youtube. The Maker movement is all about fusing different mediums to create something unique. For this ROBOT MAK3R, that means mixing 3D Printing, LEGO MINDSTORMS, Spider Wire, and a GoPro action camera.

Capturing events is always a challenge for me. While I am displaying, I am typically very busy answering questions and meeting everyone. I really wanted a way to document these awesome events that still allowed me to be social. Sounds like a robot to me! With some on-site programming I was able to achieve this goal! While the bot needed a bit of tuning, movement along its wire was smooth and pan and tilt controls worked as designed! Not bad for a quick build! Check out the footage from World Maker Faire 2016 and learn about this awesome bot after the break!

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Remember that LEGO GoPro Gyro Stabilizer I showed in my Make Faires post? If not, check out the picture below!

Now you can 3D print that same GoPro to Technic Mount! I have posted it on Thingiverse. Go Check it out! All you need is 1 EV3, 3 Gyros, 3 Motors and an afternoon to make your own! Have fun!

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September was a busy month for me! The highlights were both Maker Faire Orlando at the Orlando Science Center and World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. You might have noticed a hint of what I have been up to over the past weeks. This post will be pretty heavy when it comes to pictures to help share the AWESOME that is the maker movement.

Never heard of Maker Faire? A Maker Faire is an event put on in conjunction with Make: magazine to celebrate “makers”. What is a maker? Well that is a little more difficult to understand. At its core a maker is someone who makes things. There is no age requirement to be a maker. There are lots of different types of makers. Some are ROBOT MAK3RS or people that make with LEGO MINDSTORMS. However that is hardly an official category. You might make robots, cars, giant flaming robot sculptures, paper models, apps, clothes. Making can use a range of materials from 3D printing to LEGO to metal/wood to fabric. Making is a form of expression and hands-on learning.

You can checkout coverage of the LEGO MINDSTORMS Booth, including some of my bots at The NXT Step!

Follow me after the break for more.

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About 9 months ago, FATCATLAB posted a Kickstarter for an EV3 cape for the BeagleBone Black, an open source embedded Linux computer created by Texas Instruments. Their product was called the EVB. It was successfully funded and kits shipped out a few months ago. I received mine  a little while back. Generally I prefer using an EV3 brick, but I have loaned a bunch of my EV3s out to a local school district for training for FIRST LEGO League as they were awaiting their shipment of EV3s from LEGO Education.

See my thoughts (that didn’t make the video) after the break. (more…)

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LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Essentials by Abid H. Mujtaba in a new offering from PACKT Publishing. I was able to review the ebook over the last couple weeks.

PACKT did a good job in publishing the book in color. The book presents the EV3 in great details. It goes over each sensor and motor and includes comments on using NXT electronics with EV3. However, some of the images used were out of focus or looked cropped. The screen captures of the EV3 screen were good quality, which is key to understanding what is going one. That said, if you want a summary of EV3 hardware, there are better books out there. You might consider another option.

Where this book really shined (albeit a bit unusual approach, by not actually talking about some of the really cool tools of leJOS) is that it provided an overview of Java leJOS on EV3. It goes over some basic Linux settings (wifi among other things) on the brick. It goes over IDEs and Makefiles. The book provides some good sample programs to get you started. It sort of assumes you have some exposure to Java and Linux, but not much on MINDSTORMS.

Overall I would recommend this book if you want to do Java on EV3 and have some Linux exposure. However, there is some room for improvement. Naturally, it is LEGO and MINDSTORMS, not Lego nor Mindstorms. Lastly, leJOS has some impressive tools out of the box that seem to be ignored.

EV3P_cover_new-webProgramming can be some of the most difficult and most exciting parts of working with LEGO MINDSTORMS. Seeing a creation come to life can simply be magical (#mindstormsmagic), but is a daunting task for many. With a slew of books on the market for EV3, few focus almost completely on programming. The Art of LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Programming by Terry Griffin does a good job of making programming something anyone can do.

First the quality of the book is simply awesome! No Starch Press has an excellent pulse on the MINDSTORMS community and the durable book in full color goes a long way in helping you learn how to program a robot. Great content can often be impaired by back and white images or cutting corners in the publishing process. This book, like The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book and The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book, is made well and will last a long time. (Comes in handy since I suspect you will referring to the book more than a few times.)

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The author guides you though building a basic bot and programming it to complete various tasks. These range from things like line following and navigation. Griffin also goes over sensors in both the education and retail kits of EV3, making it a good resource for just about anyone.

Like any good MINDSTORMS reference, there is good discussion on each sensor and how that relates to programming. Griffin also discusses each programming block in good details. This helps create the logical links for any new programmer. One of the unique parts of the book is how practical it is. Most books present turnkey bots and programs. This does wonders for getting you started, but might not be as much help in the classroom or on your FIRST LEGO League team. The author walks the reader through the process of experimenting with some of the basic sensor views as you can see in the picture, left. These sorts of skills work well there is no one correct solution to the challenge.

Overall I was really impressed with the book. My only criticism is that it very much revolves around one robot. Sometimes how you use a sensor in software varies on physical construction of the bot. Take my latest bot Creep3r for example. While I use the IR and touch sensors in a straight forward way, the use of the color sensors detecting the doors and acting as part of the explosion is quite unique. It makes for a slightly more complex program, but makes the bot more exciting. That said, when you begin to use sensors in more unique ways such as sensing internal robot functions instead of the environment, that is a bit more complex. I would say this is a very minor drawback of the book, but would certainly be an exciting topic for a future book to explore.

Hands downs this is one of the best programming references on the market. I would say that The Art of LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Programming is a must have for anyone who is getting starting creating robots. Couple this book with The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book and you have an excellent set of references for any new EV3 owner!

 

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A few weeks at Maker Faire I met Eun Jung (EJ) Park and I was asked to review her latest book Exploring LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Tools and Techniques for Building and Programming Robots. I spent the past few weeks (between trips) reading the book and thought I might share my review.

Exploring LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Tools and Techniques for Building and Programming Robots is a fun book. I love the various bots. Animals have always been popular in the MINDSTORMS community and this books introduces a bunny (as seen on the cover), a turtle, and a couple others. Each has their own special attribute and it is certainly fun to bring them to life!

As I said, Park does an excellent job of creating fun robots, but these are more complex to build. There are two things that make these bots more difficult. The first is lack of color images, but I will touch on that later. The second is that use new building techniques and more parts than many other models. I see this as a good and a bad. If you make it though building each bot in the EV3 software, then it is certainly something you would enjoy. You will learn some new ways to construct bots. Best of all, you will create a robot that is just cool to play with. If you are picking up this book before building an EV3 bot, then you might have some trouble.

Where Park really shines is in the programming. This book is more technical: how to use motors and sensors. Park goes into great detail on programming walks you through creating some very cool code. Aside from the black and white images, the programming and explanation is pretty easy to follow. Park does a good job of creating a bot that is exciting and fun to program, but still leaves it open ended to add more. The detail given to how the various motors and sensors function, make this an excellent reference for anyone new to MINDSTORMS.

Exploring LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Tools and Techniques for Building and Programming Robots is a bit strange in that I loved the content, but hated the physical book. To put it simply, the physical book is in black and white. This makes following along (especially building instructions) extremely difficult. The lack of color images probably has less of an effect on the programming images, but it would still make the programming a bit easier to follow. A color version of this book would go a long way and enable the author to do so much more. Hopefully Wiley will release one  in the future as it is the most glaring handicap on an otherwise great book.

Overall I would recommend this book for the programming guidance, but until Wiley releases a color version (maybe in an ebook?) I wouldn’t suggest this for first time builders. If you have been around MINDSTORMS a bit and looking to expand knowledge in programming, then this might be a good book for you.

You can find the book on amazon here.

 

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By now you have likely seen the picture above or my original post. In September I took these guys to World Maker Faire in New York City. These bots were a huge hit, bringing Minecraft to life! Since the original video, I have received one question to no end: does it explode? My answer? See for yourself!

My latest video takes captures some of my favorite moments from World Maker Faire. The event was a team effort bringing employees from LEGO as well as the greater LEGO MINDSTORMS Community together. There is so much overlap between the MINDSTORMS Community and the Maker Community! It was great to share ideas and projects with others!

These Creep3rs will be touring for a bit. My good friend Marc-Andre has one up in Canada. In addition, a couple of these guys will be traveling with me to Brickworld Tampa in a couple weeks!

What are you up to this weekend? Well, I will be in New York City for the World Maker Faire and I am bringing this guy along. Check out the video to see what I made!

Fans of Minecraft are sure to recognize him. This is just a teaser video of what you might see if you stop by the LEGO MINDSTORMS booth. The total project took just under a month and used well over 1000 LEGO Technic parts. Checkout how I am a #RobotMak3r!

This book review has taken me longer than usual. I have had a copy of this book for a while now, but I literally just finished it. The reason is not what you might expect. To put it simply, I got caught up in the book. I cant recommend this book enough. Laurens Valk did it again!

The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book is an essential book for both new and old MINDSTORMS builder alike! First off, the print quality off the book is excellent and this is key. As I spent hours building and referencing the diagrams in the book, it was helpful to have full color and high resolution images. As any LEGO builder knows, some parts are hard to see and the high quality images, coupled with Laurens’s excellent building instructions made constructing each bot a breeze.

If you have read any of Laurens’s other books, some of the bots might seem familiar. (SNATCH3R for example) EV3 is an awesome new platform and seeing the bots upgraded to take advantage of all the updates.  Laurens has bots for everyone, from cars to bugs. Each bot is an extreme joy to construct and program. The book provides excellent programming instructions to get you started, but like any LEGO set, the true excitement comes from building on that idea. For each bot, there were countless moments of “oh I bet I could made it do that!”. For example, I added a marker and had it drawing shapes on the floor (and then had SNATCH3R following the line!).

10346787_10202149765089508_989164222_nFor the seasoned LEGO MINDSTORMS Builder, there are excellent diagram on showing how to build with Technic. This would be super useful for teachers and FIRST LEGO League students.  One of the most innovative things Laurens presents is the use of graph paper with LEGO. As you can see in the image left, the grid really works well for figuring out angles and layout bot designs. This makes building complex mechanical designs or even super large robots significantly easier. Laurens uses this technique for more than just triangles, but you will need to get the book to see those!

In case it wasn’t clear by this point, I have really enjoyed this book. The book is a few hundred pages of LEGO MINDSTORMS awesome. I have been building robots with LEGO MINDSTORMS for well over a decade and a half and yet I still learned new techniques from The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book. I cannot recommend this book enough. Every LEGO MINDSTORMS builder will find something they enjoy in this book.  Don’t be surprised if you spend countless hours building, programming, and playing. It is an excellent reference that I am sure you will be visiting multiple times. In fact, this book hasn’t made it to my shelf yet. I think it might have a permanent home on my desk. Play well!