Posts Tagged ‘Robots’

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!

WP_20131005_008This past weekend was the Orlando Mini Maker Faire at the Orlando Science Center. I am not sure of the final attendance numbers, but I was busy the entire time. I brought a total of 15 robots to display. Naturally I had the Shuttle and segway bots, but this event featured a new NXT project in partnership with The MathWorks, makers of MATLAB and Simulink. The video will be coming (due to poor lighting at the event, I am having to shoot the video at home) but the project features control of the NXTs from MATLAB. Navigation is done by processing the image from a camera positioned above the bots, as you can see in the first picture. I will go into more detail soon, but The MathWorks provided a good foundation for the demo and I then added a few enhancements. The code running on the NXTs was written in Simulink and the image processing and control as in MATLAB. The bots communicated with the computer via Bluetooth. I was able to demo both the example The MathWorks provide and my enhanced version, but since the lighting was spotty, I was only able to do it once. (It was very sensitive to people walking by and casting shadows from the overhead lights.)

WP_20131005_001I also brought a long a few EV3 bots. I had a couple of ‘kit’ bots that were built with the instructions (EV3RSTORM and a robotic arm), but I also decided to make my own flyer stuffing robot. I will save the details of that bot for another post as well, but it is safe to say it was a hit with every one in attendance. You can see it right on the corner of the table in the picture below.

WP_20131005_003Below are a few more pics from the display. Everyone really seemed to like the interactive display. Other members of my LUG had displays that ranged from a trick or treating street, motorized technic models, and a BrickPi. We really had a nice showing and attracted a ton of attention.

WP_20131005_002WP_20131005_005WP_20131005_007I look forward to the next event, although I might need to scale it back a bit. 15 bots was crazy! Plus, I wasnt able to bring a few of my other projects. Stay tuned for more updates. I have quite a backlog and I hope to be updating them soon!

This project has kind of been a secret, but it seems to be nearing completion and I really want to share it. For Christmas my parents got me an iRobot Create. I am a huge fan of the Arduino and wanted to get a shield for it. I soon discovered that there were no good shields for the Create so I set about making my own. After several revisions (and some magic blue smoke) I finally have a working board. I have not populated all the features of the latest revision (Rev. C) yet, but I do have status LEDs and basic serial communication working. What does my shield do? This board provides power LEDs for all major power supplies coming from the Create, it also allows the Arduino to monitor the battery level. There are header’s for the Create’s built in I/O as well.

While the board is working correctly, it is not quite perfect. The big issue is that there is a ton of heat coming from the Arduino. This is from the voltage regulator. I am well within tolerance, but linear voltage regulators are known to put off a ton of heat. I plan to add some voltage regulation to the shield so it does not put so much strain on the built in Arduino regulator.

So now for the bad news (or good news depending on how you look at it). Tomorrow I leave to go to Australia. I am going to Rose-Hulman’s Oakley Southern Sky Observatory in New South Whales, Australia. That means I will not be working on this shield for a about a week (or other NXT projects). I will be blogging some of the images from my trip. Another hobby of mine is Astronomy. Last year I wrote some software to control our observatory. Think of it as a really big (super expensive) robot. In addition to doing some work at the Rose-Hulman Observatory, I will also be visiting Siding Springs Observatory, located just a few miles away.

Brickbot

Posted: January 21, 2012 in LEGO
Tags: , , , , , ,

Baz, an MCP up in Montreal, Canada, created one of the coolest robots ever, Brickbot. Brickbot is a LEGO MINDSTORMS robot, hidden under a big LEGO shell. For Christmas/my birthday, my roommate got me a few LEGO containers. Like Marc, I quickly made a robot to fit inside the shell. Using parts from only one NXT kit (but some may be different in color), I created the frame you see here. I put in a ultrasonic sensor that looks under the bigger brick to help it avoid objects. I wrote a quick program in NXT-G and my red Brickbot was born. He roamed around at the Greenfield Brick Expo and will be roaming around today at the IL FLL State Tournament in Chicago. More pictures below!

My senior design project has made some great progress. Besides all the software we have written, we have now officially mechanically integrated our robotic arm with our NI DaNI base. There are still some minor issues to work out, but the majority of the work is done. In the new year, we will be working on creating a demo to show off the robot’s flexibility. We will be posting a video with the new, integrated system working after classes resume in January. Since we have a fair bit of time (about 2 months) remaining, we plan to go hog wild on this project. If its worth doing, it worth over-doing, right?

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We are entering the final stages of robot assembly and test. Last week, DaNI got a line following sensor from Parallax. This sensor is much like the Mindsensors Line Leader for LEGO MINDSTORMS. It has 8 IR light sensors that see the difference between the ground a line. We have a PID loop running on the FPGA on the NI Single-Board RIO to control out line following. Basically a PID loop helps us correct for not following the line correctly by using the error of our sensor measurements to determine which direction we need to move. To learn more about PID, wikipedia has a great article!
Also, Jason, one of my teammates, has finished the Inverse Kinematics for the arm. I have integrated the arm control into the motor drive train. The arm is scheduled to be mounted by Monday. After that we just need to physically validate our software drive model and we are done! Check out our video below!

My Senior Design Project at Rose-Hulman is integrating a kinematic robotic arm on the National Instruments Robotics Starter Kit (DaNI). DaNI is small mobile robotics platform based on NI SingleBoardRIO and Tetrix. We are working with the arm and DaNI as two separate systems right now and plan to integrate it in December. We spent the last few weeks working on constructing and controlling the arm. All software done in LabVIEW! Check out the video below to see our progress!

I love coaching FIRST LEGO League. It is a ton of fun and it is always interesting to see all the different robot ideas. One major challenge for my FLL team was building a strong motor base. While there are many good ideas out on the internet, I wanted to share one that my team really likes. Using 2 Technic frames and 1 1×13 beam, they were able to build a strong base. I have used this design before and I have been very pleased with the results. As you can see from the image, it is just a few parts and you are ready to go.

Actually, I used this design for a small robot I built last month. This robot uses the NXShield from Mindsensors. The video is on YouTube, though it wont let me make it public. I will work to get that sorted out and post again with the video in place. This is an early picture, but you can see the frames and base in the photo. I added a few more sensors for the video, but you can see how small and compact the robot is. In fact the entire robot is about 25 cm long and 20 cm wide. The robot is strong, and while I don’t recommend dropping your design, this one has survived a few falls.

The NXShield uses an Arduino and can easily be programmed in C. It has 4 motor ports and 4 sensor ports. My completed bot used a few touch sensors, a Mindsensors LineLeader, and a MindSensors Sumo Eyes. If you would like to learn more about Mindsensors and the NXShield, SumoEyes or LineLeader, check out Mindsensors.com.

Got an idea on how to make a motor base? Post below! What is your best design?

Miss Brickworld Fort Wayne? Want to see what you missed? Check out this video on all the different robots, models, and artwork on display!

I have updated the examples for the NXTBee on the files page. These updates include timing so the screen shows the correct text and updating it to work with the 2.12 version of the block. If you have any issues with the newest update, please let me know!

Next, I am planning to update a revision to the NXTBee block in the coming week. It will likely be around version 2.20. This update adds a timeout to both sending and receiving. Sending will try 10 times to send and if it does not hear back form the other NXT, it will stop. Receiving will listen for 20 ms before it times out. This should make it so the software is easier to use. If you are interested in testing this, please leave a comment or email me.