Archive for the ‘mindstorms’ tag
Now 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).
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.
Getting 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 they 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.
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.
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:
It 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!
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!
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:
11:15 Local Info Sessions / Tours (see below)
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
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.
Tarek Abdelwareth, an undergraduate studying Computer Engineering at Nile University in Egypt, shared with us a very cool ROBOTC project he put together with his team called Human Vs. Robot: Tic Tac Toe Challenge.
The robot was designed using only LEGO MINDSTORM parts and a white board pen then programmed in ROBOTC with more than 1500 lines of code. We asked Tarek to share some information about the robot …
“It took me and my team about a week to build the design and a month to complete the code of all programming stages we set. We participated in the WRO (World Robotics Olympiad) with this robot in the Open Category (Senior-High) last year. Our team got the first place in Egypt and the 10th place worldwide.
The robot in the video is actually an old version by the way; there has been much improvements in the programming that made it faster and efficient. Plus, the algorithm of thinking and playing has improved that the robot simply never lose now.”
Ray McNamara is relatively new to ROBOTC, having only really started to seriously use it within the past year, but already he’s come up with some interesting projects that caught our eye. The “Monster Ball Sorting Factory”, which he shared with us on the forum, is definitely a cool project we had to share.
The Factory is a cooperation between two robots Ray’s designed. One is an NXT Forklift truck, which uses a special non-standard part: a pair of Omni Wheels in the back to replace the standard single rotating wheel, which makes the Forklift’s turns a lot more reliable.
The other is a long, conveyor belt and claw arm robot that sorts balls piled onto a conveyor belt based on their color. It then puts them into containers, which the Forklift periodically takes and places in a slot so that the robot can dump it into a bigger bin. This robot is a combination of an earlier project, the “Bin Emptying Machine,” that takes the balls out of their container with a rail mounted crane that does the sorting.
We asked Ray about the project and his motivation for doing it and he replied:
“My Monster Sorter is still a work in progress, much to my wife’s annoyance due to the amount of real-estate it has been taking up in the lounge room since early December 2012. I hope to have it all running on a single NXT (excluding the Forklift), by means of 2x Mindsensors Motor Multiplexers and 1x Mindsensors Sensor Multiplexer. If my calculations are right, the single NXT Brick will control 8x Motors and 10x Sensors.
My motivation was the challenge to learn how far I take the standard Colour Sorter model. It really started back in 2010, when I convinced Rotacaster Australia‘s GM to turn his industrial rollers into Omni-wheels for my LEGO Models and robots. After almost exhausting the possibilities of Holonomic Platforms, I looked into other uses for the Rotacaster Wheels, resulting in my Forklift Truck.
Once I had my Forklift Truck, I needed to put it to work. The Ball Sorting Factory was what evolved over a few days. Since then I have been fine tuning the hardware and the ROBOTC code used to control it. In the process, I have also been Beta Testing some Mindsensors Sensors and Multiplexers with it.
I always try to include a detailed description, photos, video, code and CAD files for my robots when they are published to my blog. Although it takes a lot of time to put my blog posts together, I feel it is worth it. I get a lot questions and praise from many people who use my resources. I especially enjoy helping out students with their queries.”
Thanks to Ray for taking the time to respond to our questions! Visit Ray’s website at www.rjmcnamara.com to see more projects, pictures, codes, videos, and much more.
Do you have a cool project or video you want to share with us? If so, send us an email at email@example.com.
Original article here: [LINK].
When Melanie Steiner contacted me some time ago with a question about using joystick control in combination with the Mindsensors NXTServo controller, I got curious. What was she making? It turned out she is one of the members of a small group of students in Switzerland who were taking part in a contest. The task was to make a system that could transport as much “building materials” to the top of a simulated mountain side. Materials were placed in hard-to-get-to places so they had to develop a mechanism that allowed them to get to these. Additionally, the system had to weigh less than 3.5 kilos and had to be installable in 2 minutes! Said Melanie:
Our team decided to approach this task with a multifunctional intake mechanism, which is able to gather every kind of the materials and at the same time represents the vessel to transport them.
This lead us to a “shovel and wiper” system. To change the altitude of it, we chose a frame-work. The advantages are: achieving a long range and at the same time being able to shrink drastically so we could place it in the valley station. Furthermore a frame-work is very stable and light at the same time due to it’s design. To reach the right and left side of the terrain, we used a rail as guideway. To move the system along it, we installed a rope which pulls it in the desired direction. We used 3 NXT Motors and 3 Servos to achieve the movement. Motor A moves the rope of the rail. Motor B changes the altitude of the frame-work and Motor C moves the Cogwheel in the intake mechanism. Servo 1 moves the shovel, Servo 2 the rack, so we could change the altitude of the wiper. And Servo 3 moves the wiper itself.
We used a PS3 Controller to steer our system. The software is written with RobotC. Steering the Servos was only possible with the 3rd Party Driver Suite programmed by Xander Soldaat. At this point, our team would like to express our gratitude to Xander, who kindly helped us with a special and very essential function in the Software…
Here are some pictures of their awesome system:
|Frickin’ laser beams to cut the parts.||It looks like a very complicated puzzle, but then the Swiss are well known for their precision machinery.|
|The grabbing mechanism||The assembled cart and grabber||Two team members assembling the cart|
|The team members (in no particular order): Michael Schmalz, Timon Brändli, Manuel Dangel, Tamara Weissenbach and Melanie Steiner.|
I am sure by now you’re probably very curious to see the whole thing actually working. The good news is that they’ve posted a video on YT and you can watch it right here:
While scouring Vimeo a couple weeks ago, I came across a “Vimeo Staff Pick” time-lapse video featuring beautiful landscapes, lakes, mountains, and skies called “Hdr Skies.” When looking in the description for more details, I noticed that ROBOTC was listed! I sent the creator, Tanguy Louvigny, an email to learn more about his process with ROBOTC and time-lapse photography. He was nice enough to answer some questions for us …
- When did you start using ROBOTC?
I started using ROBOTC some 3 years ago, when I started my TETRIX based time-lapse rig project.
- What made you decide to program your time lapse rig with ROBOTC?
Version 2 of my rig used three motors to move the camera on three different axis, and was thus more complex to program. That’s when I decided I needed something more convenient and powerful to be able to control the TETRIX encoders and synchronize the motors with the camera shots. ROBOTC was the solution to my problems and worked like a charm.
- What did you use to build your rig?
My goal with this project was to construct a motorized base for my camera to add movement in my time lapse clips. The first, one axis version of the rig simply used a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 kit to support the camera. For version 2, I needed more robust parts and powerful motors to be abled to sustain the weight of new and bigger cameras, so I went for a TETRIX kit that I would couple with the MINDSTORMS brick to control the motors.
- How long was this video in production?
The ”Hdr skies” video was a compilation of one year of time lapse shots. Since then, as I shoot more, I try to achieve a new video every six months or so.
- How has your experience been with ROBOTC?
I had a great time programming with it, I already knew a bit of C, so I found it very easy and natural to use, in fact so simple I was rapidly able to code all my ideas with ease!
- Do you have any other projects coming up that you are using ROBOTC with?
My next project is a new TETRIX based five axis rig using a motorized jib. I’ll use ROBOTC to control the motors and build a new MINDSTORMS interface to program the moves. I’m also exploring new possibilities to use ROBOTC to fire the camera directly, thus simplifying the robot/camera synchronizing part.
Tanguy also mentioned that all his time lapse videos are made with the rig.
Thank you so much Tanguy for sharing your awesome project! Do you have a cool projects that you created using ROBOTC? If so, let us know! We’d love to feature it here.
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.
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)!