Something is coming…

Posted: September 11, 2015 in News

Quick teaser of what is coming to World Maker Faire 2015. What might be inside?


Want a sneak peak? Stop by and check out the FIRST Robotics booth at Maker Faire Orlando. You might find me and my big box, hanging out with some of the coolest robots in the South!

I was working on my Icom 706MKII a little while ago. I had gotten a new Heil mic for my rig earlier this summer and needed to tweak the ALC on the radio. When I was telling my brother, Tony (KD8RTT), about it, he asked me to make a video to help viewers of his channel. Check out the video above if you’re having mic issues with your Icom 706!

Video  —  Posted: August 14, 2015 in Amateur Radio, Engineering
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About 9 months ago, FATCATLAB posted a Kickstarter for an EV3 cape for the BeagleBone Black, an open source embedded Linux computer created by Texas Instruments. Their product was called the EVB. It was successfully funded and kits shipped out a few months ago. I received mine  a little while back. Generally I prefer using an EV3 brick, but I have loaned a bunch of my EV3s out to a local school district for training for FIRST LEGO League as they were awaiting their shipment of EV3s from LEGO Education.

See my thoughts (that didn’t make the video) after the break. Read the rest of this entry »

Video  —  Posted: August 11, 2015 in Engineering, LEGO, Robotics, Texas Instruments
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Panda APRSI know I have been bad at posting projects recently, but here is one I have done a few times now that is super easy to reproduce. With the super cheap embedded Linux platforms (Raspi, Beaglebone, etc.) and cheap TV dongles, it is really easy to make your own APRS iGate, just like the one in the photo above. This tutorial will give you the steps to get going with an APRS iGate. What is APRS you ask?

APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. It is a 1200 baud RF (mainly ham radio) packet system commonly used to record telemetry. Sometimes it is fun to log a trip or track a robot. APRS is a great tool for these sorts of problems. In the USA, APRS is commonly used on 144.39 MHz. It can be used between radios directly or can be used to log on the internet (via websites such as  via an internet gateway or iGate.

To get started, follow me past the break.  Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Alive!

Posted: May 24, 2015 in News

Wow, it is been a busy six months! In case you haven’t seen my travels on Facebook, I have been all over the country and busy with several projects. This post will just be a quick recap and I’ll focus on sharing the projects this summer!9484_1580717765473637_493469672449590109_n

  • December 2014: LEGO Club Magazine posts my Creep3r and I spend a good chunk of my time researching some power vacuum tube projects.
  • January 2015: Lots of FIRST events, roof work at W4DFU, and a Raspi picture display project for my church
  • February 2015: Intel Edison and LEGO MINDSTORMS interfacing (more to see at Maker Faire NY 2015 in September!), Orlando Hamcation, Creep3r goes to LEGO World, and more FIRST (South Florida Regional).
  • March 2015: FLL State Championship, Orlando FRC Regional, and NVIDIA GTC (and visits to Groupon and Google).
  • April 2015: Southern Maine Gearbots district meet (Jr. FLL), FIRST Championship, and Megacon.
  • May 2015: International ROBOT MAK3R Day (LIVE from the LEGOLAND Florida Resort) and more work at W4DFU

So that brings us to the countless projects (some mentioned above) that I have been working on! Lots of LEGO MINDSTORMS, 3D Printing, Intel Edison, Raspberry Pi (Raspi), just to name a few. Be sure to stay tuned this summer as I work to get all these projects online!

3495OS_Lego Mindstorms Essentials_Mini

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Essentials by Abid H. Mujtaba in a new offering from PACKT Publishing. I was able to review the ebook over the last couple weeks.

PACKT did a good job in publishing the book in color. The book presents the EV3 in great details. It goes over each sensor and motor and includes comments on using NXT electronics with EV3. However, some of the images used were out of focus or looked cropped. The screen captures of the EV3 screen were good quality, which is key to understanding what is going one. That said, if you want a summary of EV3 hardware, there are better books out there. You might consider another option.

Where this book really shined (albeit a bit unusual approach, by not actually talking about some of the really cool tools of leJOS) is that it provided an overview of Java leJOS on EV3. It goes over some basic Linux settings (wifi among other things) on the brick. It goes over IDEs and Makefiles. The book provides some good sample programs to get you started. It sort of assumes you have some exposure to Java and Linux, but not much on MINDSTORMS.

Overall I would recommend this book if you want to do Java on EV3 and have some Linux exposure. However, there is some room for improvement. Naturally, it is LEGO and MINDSTORMS, not Lego nor Mindstorms. Lastly, leJOS has some impressive tools out of the box that seem to be ignored.

EV3P_cover_new-webProgramming can be some of the most difficult and most exciting parts of working with LEGO MINDSTORMS. Seeing a creation come to life can simply be magical (#mindstormsmagic), but is a daunting task for many. With a slew of books on the market for EV3, few focus almost completely on programming. The Art of LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Programming by Terry Griffin does a good job of making programming something anyone can do.

First the quality of the book is simply awesome! No Starch Press has an excellent pulse on the MINDSTORMS community and the durable book in full color goes a long way in helping you learn how to program a robot. Great content can often be impaired by back and white images or cutting corners in the publishing process. This book, like The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book and The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book, is made well and will last a long time. (Comes in handy since I suspect you will referring to the book more than a few times.)


The author guides you though building a basic bot and programming it to complete various tasks. These range from things like line following and navigation. Griffin also goes over sensors in both the education and retail kits of EV3, making it a good resource for just about anyone.

Like any good MINDSTORMS reference, there is good discussion on each sensor and how that relates to programming. Griffin also discusses each programming block in good details. This helps create the logical links for any new programmer. One of the unique parts of the book is how practical it is. Most books present turnkey bots and programs. This does wonders for getting you started, but might not be as much help in the classroom or on your FIRST LEGO League team. The author walks the reader through the process of experimenting with some of the basic sensor views as you can see in the picture, left. These sorts of skills work well there is no one correct solution to the challenge.

Overall I was really impressed with the book. My only criticism is that it very much revolves around one robot. Sometimes how you use a sensor in software varies on physical construction of the bot. Take my latest bot Creep3r for example. While I use the IR and touch sensors in a straight forward way, the use of the color sensors detecting the doors and acting as part of the explosion is quite unique. It makes for a slightly more complex program, but makes the bot more exciting. That said, when you begin to use sensors in more unique ways such as sensing internal robot functions instead of the environment, that is a bit more complex. I would say this is a very minor drawback of the book, but would certainly be an exciting topic for a future book to explore.

Hands downs this is one of the best programming references on the market. I would say that The Art of LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Programming is a must have for anyone who is getting starting creating robots. Couple this book with The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book and you have an excellent set of references for any new EV3 owner!



A few weeks at Maker Faire I met Eun Jung (EJ) Park and I was asked to review her latest book Exploring LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Tools and Techniques for Building and Programming Robots. I spent the past few weeks (between trips) reading the book and thought I might share my review.

Exploring LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Tools and Techniques for Building and Programming Robots is a fun book. I love the various bots. Animals have always been popular in the MINDSTORMS community and this books introduces a bunny (as seen on the cover), a turtle, and a couple others. Each has their own special attribute and it is certainly fun to bring them to life!

As I said, Park does an excellent job of creating fun robots, but these are more complex to build. There are two things that make these bots more difficult. The first is lack of color images, but I will touch on that later. The second is that use new building techniques and more parts than many other models. I see this as a good and a bad. If you make it though building each bot in the EV3 software, then it is certainly something you would enjoy. You will learn some new ways to construct bots. Best of all, you will create a robot that is just cool to play with. If you are picking up this book before building an EV3 bot, then you might have some trouble.

Where Park really shines is in the programming. This book is more technical: how to use motors and sensors. Park goes into great detail on programming walks you through creating some very cool code. Aside from the black and white images, the programming and explanation is pretty easy to follow. Park does a good job of creating a bot that is exciting and fun to program, but still leaves it open ended to add more. The detail given to how the various motors and sensors function, make this an excellent reference for anyone new to MINDSTORMS.

Exploring LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Tools and Techniques for Building and Programming Robots is a bit strange in that I loved the content, but hated the physical book. To put it simply, the physical book is in black and white. This makes following along (especially building instructions) extremely difficult. The lack of color images probably has less of an effect on the programming images, but it would still make the programming a bit easier to follow. A color version of this book would go a long way and enable the author to do so much more. Hopefully Wiley will release one  in the future as it is the most glaring handicap on an otherwise great book.

Overall I would recommend this book for the programming guidance, but until Wiley releases a color version (maybe in an ebook?) I wouldn’t suggest this for first time builders. If you have been around MINDSTORMS a bit and looking to expand knowledge in programming, then this might be a good book for you.

You can find the book on amazon here.



By now you have likely seen the picture above or my original post. In September I took these guys to World Maker Faire in New York City. These bots were a huge hit, bringing Minecraft to life! Since the original video, I have received one question to no end: does it explode? My answer? See for yourself!

My latest video takes captures some of my favorite moments from World Maker Faire. The event was a team effort bringing employees from LEGO as well as the greater LEGO MINDSTORMS Community together. There is so much overlap between the MINDSTORMS Community and the Maker Community! It was great to share ideas and projects with others!

These Creep3rs will be touring for a bit. My good friend Marc-Andre has one up in Canada. In addition, a couple of these guys will be traveling with me to Brickworld Tampa in a couple weeks!

What are you up to this weekend? Well, I will be in New York City for the World Maker Faire and I am bringing this guy along. Check out the video to see what I made!

Fans of Minecraft are sure to recognize him. This is just a teaser video of what you might see if you stop by the LEGO MINDSTORMS booth. The total project took just under a month and used well over 1000 LEGO Technic parts. Checkout how I am a #RobotMak3r!