Cover image for Creative projects with LEGO mindstorms
Title:
Creative projects with LEGO mindstorms
Author:
Erwin, Benjamin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston, MA : Addison-Wesley, [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
xxvi, 303 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780201708950
Format :
Book

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Status
Central Library TJ211 .E79 2001 Book and Software Set Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

With its emphasis on building technical skills and having fun, LEGO Mindstorms has become a popular toy for technological tinkerers. This book-CD package helps you build a variety of exciting robots, and in the process expands your programming knowledge, enhances your problem-solving skills, and boosts your creativity.


Author Notes

Benjamin Erwin is a LEGO#65533; Mindstorms(tm) professional who was involved in developing ROBOLAB--the innovative LEGO Mindstorms for Schools software used in educational settings. While at Tufts University, he helped develop an engineering curriculum based on LEGO Mindstorms that teaches middle-school students critical thinking skills. He has taught LEGO robotics at more than ten schools and has given workshops to teachers and professionals in numerous cities in the U.S. and China. He currently works for ATG in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

0201708957AB04262002


Excerpts

Excerpts

The greatest thing about LEGO is that when you are building something and have a problem, you can take some of it apart, change things, and then keep building. --Cale Putnam, eighth grader When the way comes to an end, then change; having changed, you pass through. --I Ching The LEGO Mindstorms product line is a breakthrough in the world of technological toys. With plastic gears, pulleys, beams, bricks, axles, connector pegs, and other building elements, you can create mechanical contraptions that would make Leonardo da Vinci jealous. Combine these mechanisms with motors, sensors, and a programmable LEGO brick, the Robotic Command Explorer (RCX), and your creation can run on its own, interacting with and responding to you and its environment, including other robots. There are limitless possibilities to building and programming with LEGO Mindstorms. Mobile robots, kinetic works of art, toys, robotic animals, and robots that gather data are just some of the types of projects that you will see in this book. It's unfair to simply refer to LEGO Mindstorms as a "toy," however. The robotic devices that you can create can serve very real, practical, and serious purposes. More importantly, building and programming a robot is a rich learning experience. Your creation will never work right the first time you test it, and the process that you go through to figure out what went wrong is when the learning takes place. This book is about that process. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Gene DiSalvatore has this saying on a piece of paper in his office: " Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." Applied to LEGO robots, this statement means that building a robot that works involves building a robot that doesn't work and then figuring out what is wrong with it. The more robots you build, the better your mechanical and programming skills will become. The LEGO Group has been designing educational products for many years. LEGO Dacta is the educational division of the LEGO Group, in the same way that LEGO Mindstorms is the new "robotic" division of the LEGO Group. In the early days, LEGO Dacta models that were connected to a serial interface box could be programmed from a computer with a language called LEGO LOGO (see Figure 0.1). Figure 0.1 The LEGO Dacta serial interface box LEGO LOGO was an extension of the kids' programming language LOGO, developed by Dr. Seymour Papert and others at the MIT Media Laboratory. After the serial interface box came a prototype for a programmable brick, which later became the RCX. More work has been done since the development of that first programmable brick, too. Smaller programmable bricks called crickets are less bulky than the Mindstorms RCX (see Figure 0.2). Figure 0.2 The RCX, the brain of the LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System, next to a third generation programmable brick prototype, the cricket. But Dr. Papert and his colleagues aren't just developing hardware and software; they're developing ideas, philosophies, and theories about the nature of learning and learning environments. Dr. Papert has coined the phrase constructionism to describe his philosophy of learning. The earlier theory of constructivism states that knowledge has to be constructed--put together into coherent understandable pieces--inside of the head, and that knowledge cannot be forced into your head or passively absorbed. Constructionism adds to these ideas the notion that by constructing something of personal interest outside of your head--a robot, a work of art, or a computer program, for example--you're better equipped to construct knowledge inside of your head, using the experience that you've gained from the physical world. Those experiences give you "objects to think with" and become the tools with which you can construct knowledge. Building and programming a LEGO robot is such an experience. For the past four years, my life has revolved around LEGO in one way or another. In 1996 I graduated from MIT and went to Tufts University to work on a project with Professor Chris Rogers to create an engineering curriculum for young students using LEGO. Dr. Rogers and his graduate students had already created a graphical programming environment for the LEGO Dacta serial interface box. Borrowing some ideas from LEGO LOGO, I made modifications to this graphical programming environment and gave it a name--"LEGO Engineer." We showed LEGO Engineer to LEGO Dacta, and they liked the concept. We were then asked to create the educational version of the software for the RCX, which is now called "ROBOLAB." Our philosophy for ROBOLAB was to create software that could be used by anyone from preschool to graduate school. ROBOLAB has easy-to-use programming interfaces that very young students are using in elementary schools, and a high-level programming environment, which includes data analysis capabilities, that is being used in middle schools, high schools, and colleges around the world. Being involved with LEGO spread to the people around me as well. Around the same time that we were working on ROBOLAB, we were asked to recommend people who could design robots that would push the boundaries of what the RCX could do. Among other things, LEGO wanted some "cool" examples of complex mechanical creations on the cover of the upcoming Robotics Invention System box. Dr. Rogers and I recommended my housemate Anthony Fudd, who had designed a LEGO airplane complete with hot-wire airplane wing cutter. Now Anthony is employed by LEGO Mindstorms as a master builder. He is the designer of the LEGO copy machine, ATM Machine, Refrigerator Fred, Card Dealer, a robot that can clean up LEGO bricks from the floor, an elephant that squirts water, and numerous other creations. Because of the popularity of the RCX and the growing online community surrounding it, the LEGO influence spread even further than among my housemates. When looking for beta testers for ROBOLAB, I thought of Dave Baum, a fellow MIT Phi Kappa Theta alumnus1like Anthony Fudd and someone I had met on the LEGO User Group Network at www.lugnet.com. Dave beta-tested ROBOLAB and became one of the first users of the RCX. Although Dave loved ROBOLAB, his first love was C. After learning ROBOLAB inside and out, Dave went on to create NQC, which stands for Not Quite C. It's a C-like programming environment for the RCX. While at Tufts, I also worked toward a master's degree in education. One of my favorite classes was "Technological Tools for Thinking and Learning" with Professor Uri Wilensky. One of the first assignments in this class was to read a little book called Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas , written in 1980 by Seymour Papert. It was a powerful experience to read about ideas that were coming into their full fruition with the preparation of the launch of the LEGO Mindstorms product line. It was inspiring to be a part of it. In Dr. Papert's books and papers, he writes about his and others' experiences as educators working with students on various LEGO design projects. In this book, I wanted to do the same, to convey what it's like to design and build a LEGO robot. I didn't want to write a book full of instructions that show you how to build my robots. I wanted to write a book that would help you build your robots. To accomplish this, I've filled this book with descriptions of problems that were encountered when trying to design various LEGO robots, and how those problems were solved. Dr. Papert calls his stories "learning stories." The following chapters are my "learning stories" for you. There are several reasons why I chose to write a book about LEGO robotics that would be accessible to young adults as well as full-grown ones. In my experience with LEGO robots, I have seen lots of examples of wonderful creations that have been built by adults and kids alike. By looking on the Internet or attending a robotics festival such as Mindfest at the MIT Media Lab ( www.media.mit.edu/mindfest/ ), it's tempting to think that everyone who has used a Mindstorms kit has had success in creating wonderfully creative projects. In my experience of teaching hundreds of students and educators how to build LEGO robots, and talking to hundreds of parents and educators in person and online, however, I've seen that this isn't the case. Students and novice adults usually encounter two problems when they make a LEGO robot. I have seen many of these same problems, frustrations, and mistakes repeated over and over again. First, the largest frustration is when the robot "falls apart." Some people blame the robot's "falling apart" on the robot, without thinking about how they can use the LEGO building elements to make their robot stronger. Parents have told me stories of kids in the home setting who have given up completely on their Mindstorms kit out of frustration because they cannot get their robots to be crash-proof, or even stay together at all. I chose, therefore, to concentrate on construction techniques throughout the book. Second, I have heard from a lot of students and their parents about the lack of inspiration for ideas about what to build with their LEGO Mindstorms kit at home. After building the obligatory bumper car, a lot of Mindstorms kit owners that I have met cannot decide what to do next, and the kit goes unused. I consider this to be a great travesty because the Mindstorms Robotics Invention System kit isn't merely a bumper car kit, but a kit that enables anything out of your wildest imagination to be built. I have tried in this book, therefore, to include example robots that span a wide range of projects from artistic kinetic sculptures to scientific laboratories. One section called "Inspiration" in most chapters is devoted to recognizing the source of the inspiration for the robot. In addition, I have included a concluding section called "Further Work" that suggests improvements or modifications to the design found in the book. My hope is that this book as a whole will serve as an inspiration for you, and that you will take these ideas even further. 1. Ironically, at least three other MIT Phi Kappa Theta alumns have also been involved with LEGO in some form or another: Dylan Glas, who worked on LEGO Engineer and the pilot year of FIRST LEGO League in my after-school Robotics Club in Weston, Massachusetts (see Chapter 6); Brian Silverman, who worked at the Media Lab in its early days; and Bill Silver, who was a parent volunteer for the pilot of FIRST LEGO League. 0201708957P04062001 Excerpted from Creative Projects with LEGO Mindstorms by Benjamin Erwin, Fudd All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

List of Asides
I Introduction
Chapter 1 Introduction
Welcome
The Robotics Invention System Kit
The RCX
Other Kits
Programming
The CD-ROM
What Is a Robot?
Organizing the Kit
The Design Process
Come up with an Idea for a Robot
Construct the Mechanics of the Robot
Create a Program for the Robot on a Desktop Computer
Download the Program from the Infrared Transmitter to the Robot and Test It
Modify the Mechanics and Program of the Robot until It Works as Planned
Chapter 2 Getting Started
Batteries, Built-in Programs, and Firmware
Troubleshooting
Saving Battery Life
Getting out of Guided Mode
General Guidelines
Important Web Sites
Chapter 3 Smart Acrobot
Acrobot
The Constructopedia
Building the Acrobot
Testing Which Way the Acrobot Will Go
Programming and Testing
Smart Acrobot
Inspiration
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
A Different Design
Advanced Design Considerations
Advanced Programming
Further Work
II At School
Chapter 4 The Giraffe
Inspiration
Investigation: Deciding on a Goal
Invention: Defining the Requirements
Coming up with Alternatives
Designing and Building
Implementation: Testing
Programming
Further Work
Chapter 5 Walking Mechanisms
Dog
Inspiration
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
Puppy
Bug
Designing and Building
Further Work
Chapter 6 First lego league
Inspiration
The Contest
Bumper-Car Robot
Line-Follower Robot
The Competition
Advanced Programming
III At Home
Chapter 7 Tickle Me LEGO Robot
Inspiration
Research: Taking It Apart
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
Chapter 8 Animal Feeder by John Galinato and Young Engineers from Build-it-Yourself.com
Introduction
Inspiration
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
Chapter 9 CodeMaster by Paul and Julian Kramer
Inspiration
Brainstorming
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
Chapter 10 Painter by Tom and Brendon Kellner
Inspiration
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
IV At Work
Chapter 11 Kinetic Sculptures
Bubble Machine
Inspiration
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
Mathematica
Twisting and Turning
Inspiration
Further Work
Machine with Minifig
Further Work
Chapter 12 Keep On Moving
Inspiration
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
Chapter 13 Flashlight Follower
Inspiration
Designing and Building
Programming and Testing
Further Work
Advanced P

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