Posts Tagged ‘LEGO’

DSC_0830It’s hard to deny that “STEM” is the new buzzword in education. We need more STEM education! With the focus on this buzzword, schools are scrambling to figure out how to put STEM classes into their curriculum.

Robotics for me was the hook; it got me to explore, to question, to discover.

One of the most common ways schools are “adding STEM” is introducing robotics classes. I have seen countless schools that have introduced VEX IQ or LEGO MINDSTORMS as a way to address the need for STEM. These classes are “teaching” robotics, which as an engineer I don’t really understand.

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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…)

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!

It is no secret that I bring LEGO robots all over the country. When I travel I usually bring a stock of EV3 flyers and stickers. What is a secret is that I used to spend countless hours putting a sheet of stickers in each flyer booklet.

With EV3, I thought I might go about optimizing this process. FLY3R is a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 bot that will put a sheet of stickers into a flyer booklet. The robot is simple: walk up, press button, receive flyer + stickers. Check out the video to see it in action!

The icing on the cake is that this entire bot can be constructed out of a single EV3 retail kit. Call it a “one kit wonder”! Over the next few days I will be working on some building instructions as I have a few people already asking to build the bot. The code is posted on the Downloads page of my blog. You can open it with the EV3 retail software. If you’re interested in building the bot, be sure to leave a comment below so you get notification of when the instructions are posted.

Port layout:
Motor A: Medium Motor – Sticker stuffing wheels
Motor B: Lare Motor – Flyer opening arm
Motor C: Lare Motor- Flyer opening roller wheels
Motor D: Open
Sensor 1: Button – Start stuffing flyers
Sensor 2: Open
Sensor 3: Color – Flyers present/in correct orienttion
Sensor 4: IR Distance – Detecting when the flyer is open

Some of you who follow me on YouTube might have already seen this (as it has been there since April 15th), but I am just getting around to post this now.

I know my blog attracts a lot of LEGO fans, Makers, and engineers. And most of us in those communities have heard of Atari. (Some of us even have games by them or one of their consoles!) I wanted to do a new EV3 project that was a throwback to the Atari days, yet still something kids today might recognize.

Enter Lunar Lander. This classic arcade game remains popular today due to ports on cell phones and even TI calculators! So what better way then to user in EV3 than with a modern take on a retro game? Lunar Land3r brings the video game into the real world. There are a few different settings, but you control the lunar module and have to land it before you run out of fuel. Sounds easy enough, right? Check out the video from the premier of this game at the Southern Maine Gearbots. It also ventured with me to the FIRST Would Championship. It already has a few hours with crowds and both old and young like it!