ROBOTC.net Blog  

ROBOTC News

Archive for the ‘mindstorms’ tag

Announcing ROBOTC 4.10 now available!

with 3 comments

Summer 4.10The ROBOTC Development Team is excited to announce the availability of ROBOTC 4.10 – an update for the both the VEX Robotics (Cortex and IQ) and LEGO Mindstorms (NXT and EV3) robotics systems. This new version includes new features and functionality for all ROBOTC 4.X compatible platforms.

  • Full support for the VEX IQ platform in ‘Robot Virtual Worlds’ – Updated “Curriculum Companion” to support VEX IQ
  • Support for VEX IQ 2.4Ghz International Radios (Requires VEX IQ Firmware 1.10 or newer)
  • Initial Support for I2C devices with EV3 platform
  • Updated Graphical Natural Language with new colors and commands!
  • Support for nMotorEncoderTarget in Virtual Worlds (NXT & Cortex Platforms)
  • Support for motor synchronization in Robot Virtual Worlds (NXT Platform)
  • Initial update of ROBOTC documentation (VEX Cortex/IQ Platforms)
  • Support for Project Lead the Way (PLTW) 2014-2015 School Year Users

Before you can use ROBOTC 4.10, you will need to ensure that your devices are up to date. The instructions to update your hardware will be different depending on what hardware setup you may have…

LEGO NXT Users

  • Simply update to the latest ROBOTC firmware from inside of ROBOTC.

LEGO EV3 Users

  • Update your LEGO EV3′s Firmware/Kernel by connecting your EV3 and select “Download EV3 Linux Kernel” from inside of ROBOTC – This process will take about 5 minutes and will allow your EV3 to communicate with both ROBOTC and the EV3 Icon-Based programming language. After updating your EV3′S Linux Kernel, you’ll be able to install the ROBOTC firmware from inside of ROBOTC.

VEX IQ Users

  • Run the “VEX IQ Firmware Update Utility” and update your VEX IQ Brain to firmware version 1.10. You will also need to update your VEX IQ Wireless Controller by attaching it to your VEX IQ Brain using the tether cable. You will also have to install the latest ROBOTC firmware from inside of ROBOTC.

VEX Cortex Users (with Black VEXnet 1.0 Keys)

  • You will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with version 4.22 from inside of ROBOTC. After updating your master firmware, you will also have to install the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.

VEX Cortex Users (with White VEXnet 2.0 Keys)

  • The new VEXnet 2.0 keys have a specific “radio firmware” that you will need to upgrade to enable “Download and Debugging” support. You can find the “VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility” utility here.
  • Link: http://www.vexrobotics.com/wiki/index.php/Software_Downloads
  • Download the “VEXnet Key 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Utility” and insert your VEXnet 2.0 key to any free USB port on your computer. Follow the instructions on the utility to update each key individually. All VEXnet 2.0 keys must be running the same version in order to function properly.
  • After updating your VEXnet 2.0 keys, you will need to update your VEX Cortex and VEX Game Controllers with version 4.22 from inside of ROBOTC. After updating your master firmware, you will also have to install the latest ROBOTC firmware as well.

Here’s the list of changes and enhancements between version 4.08/4.09 and 4.10.

New Features

  • Full support for the VEX IQ platform in ‘Robot Virtual Worlds’ – Updated “Curriculum Companion” to support VEX IQ
  • Support for VEX IQ 2.4Ghz International Radios (Requires VEX IQ Firmware 1.10 or newer)
  • Initial Support for I2C devices with EV3 platform
  • Updated Graphical Natural Language with new colors and commands!
  • Support for nMotorEncoderTarget in Virtual Worlds (NXT & Cortex Platforms)
  • Support for motor synchronization in Robot Virtual Worlds (NXT Platform)
  • Initial update of ROBOTC documentation (VEX Cortex/IQ Platforms)
  • Support for Project Lead the Way (PLTW) 2014-2015 School Year Users

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed issue when deleting graphical blocks and ROBOTC would crash.
  • Improved error messages/status messages for Tele-Op based downloads with VEX IQ
  • Improved Licensing system features to provide more debugging feedback for -9105 errors.
  • Fixed to revert issue causing bad message replies on the VEX Cortex system which prevent downloading user programs. (4.09 only)
  • Updated CHM files and fixed issues in ROBOTC opening the wrong CHM file.
  • Update colors properly with the new document architecture with graphical.
  • EV3 – Casper update to prevent crashing when using VMWare Virtual Machines.
  • VEX IQ Graphical – Add USB ‘Directional Pad/POV Hat’ values for use with armControl with Virtual Worlds for IQ
  • VEX IQ Graphical – Added the ability for Graphical XML Documents to contain “RBC Macro” parameters.
  • Licensing system update to fix “heartbleed” like issues that may be present during activation.
  • EV3/IQ – Eliminate duplicate identical definitions in robotcintrinsics.c for motor commands.
  • Add new EV3 commands for sending I2C messages
  • Fix a bug in compiler generation of ‘string’ concatenation (i.e. “+”) operator.
  • Bug in code generation. Incorrect generation of opcode bytes for “opcdAssignGlobalSShort”; old format using 1-byte global index instead of new format with 2-bytes.
  • Update timeouts for VEX Cortex with new Master Firmware 4.22 for use with VEXnet 2.0 Radios.
  • Renamed DrawCircle to drawCircle
  • Fix Compiler bug with “%” and “>>” opcodes. Most of the “>>=”, “<<=”, “%=”, “&”=, “|=”, and “~=” opcodes don’t care whether the left-hand operand is ‘signed’ or ‘unsigned’. That’s how they were treated in current compiler / VM. However, “>>” and “%” opcodes do care if “signed’ vs ‘unsigned’ where the operand size is either ‘char’ or ‘short’. This change fixes that situation. This problem has been undetected since the introduction of ‘unsigned char’ and ‘unsigned short’ types were introduced.
  • 4WD Support for Natural Language with VEX IQ.
  • VEX IQ Graphical – Changes to “moveMotor” command to allow it to move in reverse if user specifies a negative quantity or speed, not just speed
  • VEX IQ Grahpical – Adjust the Graphical arcadeContorl and tankControl commands to only show channels; adjust armControl to only show buttons; add default values to most commands
  • Virtual Worlds – regulated motor movements for RVW;
  • VEX IQ – Fixed VEX IQ bug where I2C traffic would be considered “timed out” on VM startup.

As always, if you have questions or feedback, feel free to contact at support@robotc.net or visit our forums!

Written by Cara Friez

May 28th, 2014 at 8:12 pm

ROBOTC Omniwheel Article in Design & Technology Practice Magazine

without comments

twitterDT_logo Xander Soldaat, ROBOTC Project Contributor, was recently asked to write a robotics article for the British Design & Technology Practice magazine.  He wrote about the basics of programming a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT omniwheel based platform, and the mathematics behind it using ROBOTC as the programming language.  

You can read a copy of the article here: [LINK].

The D&T Association is the organization that represents the interests of  Design and Technology (STEM) teachers throughout the UK.

 
 

Robomatter Blog Ad LEGO

 

Written by Cara Friez

May 13th, 2014 at 10:26 am

New Robot Virtual Worlds Video!

with one comment

RVWRobot Virtual Worlds just released a new video all about the software!! Check it out here:

 

 

 

 

 

Already using RVW? What do you think? How do you use this software in your classroom? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Setting Up Robots – LEGO Edition

without comments

SettingUpLEGONow that the physical robot kits are in the classroom and ROBOTC is installed and activated, you should be ready to build the physical robots for your classroom. One of the best features of a LEGO Mindstorms educational robotics kit is that they allow students to create a nearly limitless range of robots; the downside of this, however, is maintaining student-created robots in a classroom. To help with this, ROBOTC and their related Video Trainer Curriculum support several standard models to help keep a baseline in the classroom.

cutout_rem_gripper_T_300The first of such robots we will look at is the NXT REMbot (which stands for ‘Robotics Education Model), the standard NXT that is used in the ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS. The REMbot utilizes three NXT motors (two for driving, one for the (optional) arm), a Light Sensor mounted below the robot, a Touch Sensor mounted in the front, a Sonar Sensor positioned above the robot, and a Sound Sensor on the side of the REMBot. This model allows for a variety of tasks to be completed and is designed to work with all of the challenges in the ROBOTC Curriculum.

mantis-cutout-300x275

If your classroom will be utilizing the TETRIX kit, the Mantis Robot standard model would be the build of choice. The Mantis Robot utilizes the TETRIX kit to add two TETRIX DC motors (for driving) and a TETRIX Servo (for the arm), as well as the respective motor and servo controllers; all of which are fully programmable in ROBOTC. Sensors can be added using any of the remaining sensor ports (one of which is used by the HiTechnic Motor/Servo controller chain).

Users of the MATRIX kits are not left in the dark however! MATRIX also has several options to use in the classroom, but the Quick Start Rover stands out from the pack. Combined with The Little Gripper, the MATRIX kits can be quickly and effectively set up for a standard robotics classroom. Like the TETRIX bots, the Quick Start Rover can be outfitted with NXT sensors on any of the remaining sensor ports for added versatility. It uses two MATRIX motors for movement and a MATRIX servo for The Little Gripper (all controlled through one MATRIX controller), all of which is fully programmable in ROBOTC.

Visit CMU’s Robotics Academy LEGO site for more information on the different kits available and to find build instructions.

 
 

Robomatter Blog Ad LEGO

 

Written by John Watson

September 10th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Which Robotics Kit Should I Use? LEGO Edition

without comments

EV3-Cutout-01-copyNow more than ever, robotics educators are faced with the important question of which kit they should purchase and use. This key question has been made even more intricate in the 2013-2014 school year due to the addition of the new robotics kit, LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3. This article will help break down LEGO’s kits, their capabilities and target audiences, and allow you, the educator, to make an informed decision on which kit is best for your particular classroom.

The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 is the all-new robotics kit from LEGO Education (creators of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system). It is fully compatible with previous NXT hardware (except for the battery), including all plastic structural pieces and sensors.

 

 

 

 

  • Compatibility with the MATRIX and TETRIX metal systems is expected in fall 2013.
  • Those starting a classroom from scratch need not worry; the EV3 comes with a total of 541 elements, including a multitude of structural parts (beams, connectors, wheels, gears, etc), 4 different sensor types (color sensor, gyroscopic sensor,  ultrasonic sensor, and touch sensor), 3 motors, and the EV3 micocontroller or ‘brain’.
  • The EV3 microcontroller sports 4 sensor ports, 4 motor ports, a internal Bluetooth adapter, and a USB slot which can be used with a WiFi adapter for wireless connectivity (as well as microSDHC card slot which supports cards up to 32GB in size).
  • It utilizes a Linux-based firmware which allows for on-brick programming and datalogging.
  • The EV3 will be legal in the 2013 First Lego League (ages 9-14) and the 2014-2015 First Tech Challenge (High School) competitions.
  • Recommended use: Middle School (EV3) or High School (with MATRIX or TETRIX kit).

Other-BUG-Robots

Now, let’s take a look at the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT V2.0. Released in 2009, the NXT platform utilizes a plastic snap-fit hardware structure system, with 431 elements included in the base kit.

  • These elements consist of both structural pieces (beams, connectors, and axles, to name a few), three interactive servo motors, the NXT microcontroller, and ultrasonic, light, sound, and two touch sensors included.
  • There are also many third-party sensors available from sites such as Hitechnic, Dexter Industries, and Mindsensors.
  • The NXT is also fully compatible with the MATRIX and TETRIX metal systems.
  • Wireless capabilities include built-in Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity (provided by an external Samantha Module adapter).
  • The NXT is currently a legal microcontroller for both the First Lego League (FLL, ages 9-14) and First Tech Challenge (High School) challenges.
  • Recommended use: Middle School or High School (with MATRIX or TETRIX metal kit).

We understand that choosing a robotics kit is a tough decision. The number one factor in determining which kit is right for you will come down to the students; depending on the skill level of the students, it may be better to challenge them with a more advanced kit  (MATRIX or TETRIX kits) or they made need to start with a simpler kit (LEGO NXT or EV3 kits). No matter which kit you decide to use, though, you can rest easy knowing ROBOTC will fully support all of these platforms.


 
 

 
 

Robomatter Blog Ad LEGO

 

Written by John Watson

August 27th, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Organizing a Robotics Classroom

without comments

IMG_4201Getting your classroom organized for the beginning of the school year is an arduous task for even the most experienced teacher.  It can be even more demanding for those that teach robotics.  You’ve got the robot kits, you’ve been trained in ROBOTC, but how do you set up your class for the first day of school?  The goal of this article is to help answer the question for both new robotic teachers and teachers that have been teaching robotics for years.

As we all know, a robotics kit is more expensive than a textbook.  Moreover, because robotics kits contain so many small pieces, they can be much more difficult to take care of than a textbook.  As a result, keeping your kits organized is crucial.  If using a Lego Mindstorms or Tetrix robot, one way that I have found that can be very helpful is to name the NXT brick.  Then, give the same name to the kit. Now, assign the kit to the group of students in your class.  If the students know that over-tablethey are responsible for that kit, it goes a long way towards them acting more responsibly with the kit. If using a VEX robot, you won’t have the same ability to name your brick, but you can still able to label your robotics kit.

Which students are assigned to work together is also something that the teacher must put some thought into.  Once again, maintaining the kits is of the utmost importance.  Therefore, I am not going to allow students to work together if I feel that will not take care of the kit.  Some students are more organized and careful with the kits than others.  I always try to have one of those students in a group.  I try to have the kits named and assigned before the first day of school.  If I don’t know the students, then I may have to adjust the groups as we progress throughout the beginning of the school year.

IMG_3290

Once the kits are organized, the teacher can then start to think about how their curriculum items are going to be accessed and utilized.  A math teacher has a plan for when their students have a question about a topic, or when a student is confused about a particular concept.  A robotics teacher has to have the same type of plan in mind.  The beauty of teaching robotics lies in the fact that students are intrinsically motivated to find answers to their problems because they are highly engaged.  Some students will still be conditioned, however, to try to elicit the answer from the teacher instead of reasoning through a problem on their own.  Robotics teachers need to create a plan so the students can work towards being independent and productive problem solvers.

To that end, a good approach to a complex challenge is to examine what needs to be done before the challenge, during the challenge, and after the challenge is complete.  Before the challenge, students should be focusing on create flowcharts to organize their program and writing pseudocode to reflect those flowcharts.  During the challenge, students should focus on commenting their code and debugging techniques.  Afterwards, students should be afforded the opportunity to reflect and respond to what went well, what went not so well, and what they learned throughout the process.

DSC_0183

Giving students a little bit of structure while they engage a challenging task will go a long way towards ensuring that the students’ high level of engagement does not turn into a high level of frustration.  Engagement works both ways in that sense: High engagement leads to students that are focused on their task, but can also lead to high levels of frustration because the students desperately want to finish that task.  To avoid the frustration,teachers should provide a structure that the students can rely on when needed.  Before the school year begins, teachers should spend some time planning students’ work, and then the students can spend time during school working their plan.

The beginning of the school year is always a challenge.  As teachers, we understand that unforeseen difficulties will always arise.  However, going into the school year with as much planned and organized as possible helps us to focus on those unpredictable events that will undoubtedly occur.

Check out how we organize robot parts at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy:


-Jason McKenna

Robotics Back to School Blog Series

without comments

SCHOOL-BUS-DRIVERIt is that time of year again … backpacks on our backs, buses on the streets, and lessons being planned. Yes, we are going back to school! To kick start the school year, we are introducing a six week robotics back to school blog series that highlights the technical and pedagogical side of planning for your robotics classroom. John Watson, from ROBOTC customer support, and Jason McKenna, a K-8 Gifted Support Teacher in the Hopewell Area School District outside of Pittsburgh, PA, will be sharing with you tips, tricks, advice, and recommendations on prepping your robotics classroom and curriculum.

As each blog is posted, the topics below will turn into hyperlinks, so feel free to bookmark this page!

Topics

If you have any questions or would like to start a conversation on any of the topics, feel free to leave us a comment below!

FTC Kickoff 2013 Pittsburgh PA

without comments

FTCicon

Join fellow PA FTC teams at this season’s Pennsylvania FTC Season Kick-off on September 7, 2013 from 11am to 4pm! This season it has expanded to three locations (East/Downingtown, Central/Millersville, West/Pittsburgh), and the three sites will be linked together to form one large virtual Kick-off event. The Pittsburgh event will take place at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

 
 
 

Schedule of Events:

11:00 Registration
11:15 Local Info Sessions / Tours (see below)
12:15 Lunch
1:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks
1:10 Pennsylvania FTC 2013-2014 Season
1:30 Judging / Engineering Notebook Update
2:00 ROBOTC / Robot Virtual Worlds Update
2:30 TETRIX and Matrix Update
2:45 Break
3:00 2013-2014 FTC Game Reveal!
3:15 Local Game Discussion
4:00 Event Complete

Tour Information – Teams visiting the West/Pittsburgh region will have a chance to tour the National Robotics Engineering Center – a research hub of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. Teams will learn about how state of the art robotic concepts are being utilized in commercial, agriculture and military applications. Teams will also get to see the research and development labs for Carnegie Mellon’s Tartan Rescue, creators of CHIMP for the newest DARPA Robotics Challenge. Learn more by visiting http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu.

Written by Cara Friez

August 14th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

NXT ‘Coltar’ Blends Art, Science

with one comment

In years past, the science and art fields were generally considered to be diametrically opposed; if something was scientific it usually didn’t have artistic value, and if it was a work of art it probably didn’t do much for the scientific community. Recently, though, the line between art and science has been blurred and blended in some very unique and interesting ways.

A prime example of this is a color-sensing “Coltar” made by Youtube user PhilippLens. By mixing imagination with ingenuity, PhilippLens created the hybrid guitar using a LEGO Mindstorms NXT brick with a color sensor and two touch sensors (one on the Coltar itself, the other on the ‘pick’). Using the touch sensors to control chords and the color sensor to control which notes are being ‘strummed’ allows the Coltar to emit a surprisingly large range of notes.


YouTube Direct Link 

For more information on this cool project, check out Philipp’s Reddit post. You can also download the code here.

Written by John Watson

August 20th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

New NXT X-Y Plotter ‘Draws’ Attention

without comments

The NXT X-Y axis plotter showcasing some simple shapes it drew.

When you think of a printer, what images come to mind? Generally, printers are considered necessary but frustrating (Office Space, anyone?) pieces of office equipment and like most other cubicle furnishings they are usually pretty boring.

Not so much anymore.

McNamara has yet again created something functional yet stylish, this time by turning an NXT and some Mindstorm parts into a surprisingly accurate X-Y axis plotter. Quite possibly the coolest thing about the plotter, though, is that (taken from McNamara’s blog) “An X–Y plotter is a plotter that operates in two axes of motion (“X” and “Y”)… The term was used to differentiate it from standard plotters which had control only of the “y” axis, the “x” axis being continuously fed to provide a plot of some variable with time.” This mean that the pen itself moves in both the X and Y directions (technically it moves in all 3 axis of motion, but the Z axis doesn’t come into play on this plotter, except to move the pen on and off the dry-erase board) and that the table stays in a static position; very cool.

Don’t take our word for it though; check it out on McNamara’s blog (complete with pictures, video, code, and building instructions)!

Written by John Watson

August 15th, 2012 at 8:52 am