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!

I want to share something I have learned in life. I hesitate to call it “wisdom” as I am not sure I have enough life experiences to make that claim. Whatever we call it, just consider this advice next time someone asks for help.

I have many things to be proud of, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, the various academic awards during high school and college, success at finding a job, etc. All those things are special and I am grateful for the recognition. However, something always seemed missing to me. I can’t say any of that recognition motivated me. I can’t say any of it defined me. Something just seems missing.

Yet tonight, I have something to be proud of that surpasses everything. Tonight we recognized 11 high school students for an amazing FIRST season. These kids er… young professionals came together to do something remarkable. They raised over $30,000, they built a 100 lb robot, they created a team culture, and best of all they succeeded by winning the Rookie All Star Award at the Orlando FRC Regional. These 11 young professionals have a lot to be proud of. I was honored to be part of the journey: to see the dream become a reality. And tonight, I too am proud.

I have had this feeling before. Back in Terre Haute, Indiana after starting FIRST LEGO League Team, Team Storm. I have it when I attend any FIRST event, especially the FIRST World Championship. And most recently tonight, recognizing the achievements of FIRST Robotics Competition Team 5145, Wolfbotics.

So what is that bit of information I want to pass on? What I have learned from all this?

The things you’re most proud of in life will be the things you inspire others to do.

 

As this journey of life continues and new experiences present themselves, I know what actions define me as a person. I know that “an hour a week” will end up being so much more. But that time will pay in other rewards that I can’t even imagine. I may never be financially rich and that is okay. I am rich in happiness. I am living the “American Dream”. And most of all, I have the honor to be a source of inspiration for others. I have been blessed.

Tonight as I go to bed, I know that I changed the world. Maybe I didn’t bring world peace or cure cancer, but maybe I inspired the next young mind that will. And for that, I am most proud.

The Rookie All Star trophy the team gave me and the signed picture of the team.

The Rookie All Star trophy the team gave me and the signed picture of the team.

It is no secret that I bring LEGO robots all over the country. When I travel I usually bring a stock of EV3 flyers and stickers. What is a secret is that I used to spend countless hours putting a sheet of stickers in each flyer booklet.

With EV3, I thought I might go about optimizing this process. FLY3R is a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 bot that will put a sheet of stickers into a flyer booklet. The robot is simple: walk up, press button, receive flyer + stickers. Check out the video to see it in action!

The icing on the cake is that this entire bot can be constructed out of a single EV3 retail kit. Call it a “one kit wonder”! Over the next few days I will be working on some building instructions as I have a few people already asking to build the bot. The code is posted on the Downloads page of my blog. You can open it with the EV3 retail software. If you’re interested in building the bot, be sure to leave a comment below so you get notification of when the instructions are posted.

Port layout:
Motor A: Medium Motor – Sticker stuffing wheels
Motor B: Lare Motor – Flyer opening arm
Motor C: Lare Motor- Flyer opening roller wheels
Motor D: Open
Sensor 1: Button – Start stuffing flyers
Sensor 2: Open
Sensor 3: Color – Flyers present/in correct orienttion
Sensor 4: IR Distance – Detecting when the flyer is open

Video  —  Posted: May 8, 2014 in Engineering, LEGO, News, Robotics
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This is not my first post about FIRST, and it certainly wont be my last. In case you missed it, I was a mentor/coach for FIRST Robotics Competition Team 5145, WolfBotics. I have to give a shout-out to NASA here as they were our title sponsor and without them our team would not exist. As a coach/mentor, I helped the students design, build, test, and compete with a robot. At the Orlando Regional, WolfBotics won the Rookie All Star Award and was invited to the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. As a boy from the Midwest (I am from Ohio and did my undergrad in Indiana), I couldn’t wait to share some of the sights I grew up with. Naturally the St. Louis Arch and some of the amazing food. (Although they are yet to try Skyline Chilli.)

The first video above shows our pit setup on Wednesday night. It took a few hours, but I have it condensed to about 20 seconds for your enjoyment. Below is the trip from Gainesville, Florida to St. Louis, Missouri. We had a motor coach to drive us (thank goodness!) for the 13 hour drive.

Now everyone wants to know what the robot looked like, so below is a picture of our bot. I am super proud to say that it was all design, built, programmed, and operated by the students. When things went wrong, the team sprang into action and did an amazing job of fixing the bot. It was an excellent learning experience and I am looking for ward to the next season!

WolfBotics Bot

Finally, if you want to stay up with the latest from Team 5145, check them out on Twitter @WolfBotics!

Some of you who follow me on YouTube might have already seen this (as it has been there since April 15th), but I am just getting around to post this now.

I know my blog attracts a lot of LEGO fans, Makers, and engineers. And most of us in those communities have heard of Atari. (Some of us even have games by them or one of their consoles!) I wanted to do a new EV3 project that was a throwback to the Atari days, yet still something kids today might recognize.

Enter Lunar Lander. This classic arcade game remains popular today due to ports on cell phones and even TI calculators! So what better way then to user in EV3 than with a modern take on a retro game? Lunar Land3r brings the video game into the real world. There are a few different settings, but you control the lunar module and have to land it before you run out of fuel. Sounds easy enough, right? Check out the video from the premier of this game at the Southern Maine Gearbots. It also ventured with me to the FIRST Would Championship. It already has a few hours with crowds and both old and young like it!

Video  —  Posted: May 2, 2014 in Engineering, LEGO
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On April 6th, I premiered a new bot at the Southern Maine Gearbots District Meet! Lunar Land3r, is a new EV3 take a retro video game. Here is a quick (3 second) timelapse of setting up the bot shot on my new GoPro. The full video will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

Video  —  Posted: April 9, 2014 in Engineering, LEGO, News
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Arduino 101 Class

Posted: February 22, 2014 in News

WP_20140222_002As some of you may know, I have been spending some time at the Gainesville Hackerspace lately. Much of it has been dedicated to work for the Gator Amateur Radio Club roof project, but I have also gotten involved in a few other things. One of those ‘things’ is teaching an Arduino 101 class. There seemed to be significant interest in Arduino, but little experience. I taught a class that focused on the basics: digital I/O and analog I/O. The class ran for 2 hours and it was very a success! We had 9 people in this first class and everyone seemed to walk away ready to start a new project. There have been requests to teach the class again for people who were unable to attend, as well as teach a slightly more advanced class, Arduino 110, that goes more into UART, I2C, and other standard, but more complex features.

I have posted the class material to the downloads page. However the files are encrypted (for now). I may open them up in the future, but I would like them to go through a few more revisions so that I am not having to support all the various revisions. If you’re in Gainesville and want to learn more, head on over to their website and get involved. They have open houses every Tuesday night.