This year is already starting off pretty well on the LEGO front, I have been invited to take the LEGO Skateboard / Hoverboard to LEGO WORLD in Copenhagen. Super excited to go and catch up with some old friends. This was not a thing I thought I would be going to so I had to rush out a new version of the board.
Just before Christmas I received this fantastic book and over the last few months I have been making my way through it.
I think this is the number 1 book if you are coming from a LEGO MINDSTORMS background and want to know more about electronics and the Arduino platform or are coming from an Arduino background and want to integrate it with an easy to use building framework like LEGO.
The book features nice big colourful photos and building instructions. It features a wide range of projects from a robotic clock to a drawing bot, you can even make a drinks dispenser. The book also covers the basics of electronics, history and in-depth details of LEGO MINDSTORMS and the Arduino platform and how to connect a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT to an Arduino.
I would say the only sticking point that people might find with this book is that it requires a Bricktronic Shield/Motor Controller to build most of the projects. Full instructions on how to make your own shield are provided in the book which is useful if you don’t have one. If making one is not your thing, you can buy one from Wayne and Layne (co-writers of the book) for a fairly cheaply. Wayne and Layne also have some other cool projects on their site including an Arduino Mega Shield that allows you to run 6 LEGO NXT motors and 4 sensors. I will be doing a review of that soon.
As I have already said, this book is awesome if you want to extend the possibilities of your LEGO MINDSTORMS kit or use LEGO with the Arduino platform.
If you would like more information on this book, check it out on Amazon
For Christmas my lovely wife got me a Raspberry Pi Starter Kit. I wanted one of these since I saw that people had made it control an NXT via NXT-Python. I thought that it would be cool to do the same so I found this website and followed what I could. I am a programmer but I have limited Linux and no Python experience.
You will need to install PyUSB, to do this just run “apt-get install python-usb” under root terminal.
I only managed to get this working once I had restored the LEGO NXT 2.0 firmware on to the NXT brick. I also had to make a NXT-Python config file and enter the NXT’s address in to it (you can find this under settings and NXT version on the NXT). Information on making a config file can be found here: http://code.google.com/p/nxt-python/wiki/LocationConfig
All of my NXT’s started with 0016. This should be entered as 2 parts of the address so in the config file you should have something like
The video below shows the Mary example running from the NXT-Python samples.
What next? Well I now have a portable computer driving my NXT which has WIFI support and can run a webserver. It should not be too hard to turn the Pi in to an advance WIFI sensor for the NXT and cost a 1/3 of the price.
Just before Christmas I received the HiTechnic SuperPro Experimenter’s Kit and the HiTechnic MiniScope. I was lucky enough to get some time over Christmas to have a play with the SuperPro and really enjoyed it. The SuperPro comes with an array of electronic elements including a speaker, magnetic sensor, temperature sensor, light sensor and some LED’s. I went through the 9 experiments and felt that I learned more about electronics. I especially enjoyed controlling the array of LED lights as I was soon able to modify the code (I was using RobotC)to make a Knightrider type effect (see video below). The SuperPro comes with a solderless breadboard and a case full of cables to make wiring anything up very easy. The quality of all the parts is very good.
If you are in to LEGO Mindstorms and want to learn more about sensors and start making your own, then this kit is the holy grail. This board has more features than anyone could want. You can even program the board directly using SuperProc C.
If I had to suggest improvements, I would probably ask for more information on how components work and why you need to use them in the certain experiments (e.g why do we use x resister in this example, why do we use a capacitor between these 2 pins). I would also love to see an experiment which uses a non LEGO motors or a servo. I think if you were clever you could setup this board to be many sensors in 1 (temperature, light, LED Array) and free up your NXT ports.
My next plan is to see if I can get a motor or servo working, maybe then moving on to a motor multiplexer.
I would like to thank HiTechnic for giving me this chance to try out this brilliant piece of kit.
So the first of these products allow you to build your own circuits and sensors that can be used with the LEGO NXT (and a whole lot more). It comes with a handy Experimenter’s Kit Handbook to take you through the basics up to some more advance stuff. I will be doing a full review of this very soon and hope to build some very neat things!
The second product which has only been released recently is the MiniScope. This is a full featured dual channel digital oscilloscope with an auxiliary 4 channel digital input option. This is the perfect companion for the SuperPro because it will allow you to see what your circuits/sensors are outputting on your PC
The second of these wise companies was Matrix Robotics. They make a metal building kit that is completely compatible with LEGO. You still use the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT as the brain however you plug the MATRIX Controller (supports 4 motors and 4 servos) into the NXT sensor port (amazing!!). Don’t get me wrong, I love my LEGO and I believe that you can build most things out of it however, sometimes you wish there was a longer/stronger beam, a more powerful motor, servo support or that you want your model to be indestructible.
So what did they send me? 1 of each of their sets!!!! (yes I must of been a very good person this year!). My plan is to build a few small models first and then build something epic!! Matrix Wheelchair, a Terminator? who knows!
So who was the 3rd wise company? The popular blog/magazine MAKE who featured my LEGO Wheelchair a few months back.
So what did they send me? Well to answer that I first need to tell you that for Christmas I hope to get some Arduino stuff including a Mindsensors NXShield which will allow me to control 4 LEGO NXT motors, 4 sensors and 12 Mindsensors servo’s from a single Arduino. Also the Arduino I hope to get will have ADK support so that I can control it via an Android phone. Again, I am not moving away from LEGO, I love it however its always good to know what other options are out there that I can use with LEGO.
The weekend just gone I was on a Christmas holiday with my family at Center Parcs. I decided to take with me the Beginning GPS with NXT Robots workbook by James Floyd and John Cole (Dexter Industries). Now I must point out straight away that a) I don’t read to much and b) I have a short attention span when I do. This workbook was perfect for me, it was simple, educational and fun. It is designed for kids at school who already have the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT set and use NXT-G to program it. I don’t use NXT-G (being a programmer I like to do stuff low level) however this book not only showed off the power of the Dexter Ind dGPS sensor, but also the power and simplicity of NXT-G.
So, what did I learn? Well a lot more about how GPS work and the 2 different coordinates systems (Decimal Degrees and Degrees, Minutes, and Seconds). It showed you how to convert from 1 coordinate system to another and back. I also learned that the dGPS sensor can do more than just give me a Latitude and Longitude of a place (more to come on this in my next project). The workbook contains fun tutorials to actually get you out and about and thinking about how to solve real life scenarios.
I don’t want to give away to much however If you are looking to buy the dGPS sensor and use NXT-G then I would recommend buying this book.