Book Review : Hacking Your Lego Mindstorms EV3 Kit by John Baichtal

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I have known John for a few years now due to him doing a write up on my LEGO Wheelchair for Make, back then he was working on a book that covered using LEGO and Arduino’s together, called Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics.  It’s a fantastic book!

His new book, Hacking Your Lego Mindstorms EV3 is on a similar theme but of course for the EV3, not the NXT.  It also covers making your own parts via 3D Printing and Laser cutting which I found very useful.

The book features nice colourful based instructions to build 5 projects and then how to hack each one (e.g change the EV3 for a Arduino or Pi).  Like the previous book, this book uses products from Wayne and Layne e.g the Bricktronic Shield however also includes hacks / projects using the Raspberry Pi. I would of liked to have seen the introduction to Electronics chapter added to this book which exists in the previous book.  I believe this book is more designed for beginners than the previous book.

If you own a EV3 and want to take it to the next step by using another controller, this book is a very good introduction for you.

 

 

Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics

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

 

Christmas comes early at the Burfield household!

So Christmas has definitley come early this year for me and has come in the form of 3 wise companies!

The first of these was HiTechnic.com who sent me a SuperPro Experimental kit AND a MiniScope.  Both of these products where on my Christmas list for my wife to get me!

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.

Knowing what I hope to get for Christmas, you can appreciate how happy I am to get what MAKE sent me:  Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics.  Another item that I had on my wishlist for Christmas!  Again, I plan to do a full review once I get my Arduino!

 

Well, I am going to have a very busy few months with this stuff!  Many thanks goes out to HiTechnic, Matrix Robotics and MAKE.

Merry Christmas

Mindsensors RCX Multiplexer controlled via Android and RobotC

As you may be aware I have been building a Robot called Wheeler out of old parts (old grey and RCX 9V motors etc).  I was hoping to have it finished over the Christmas break but had hit a small issue with driving the wheels with the new weight of the body.  Anyway what I managed to get up and running is the top half of Wheeer and the controller which is a Android phone (Dell Streak).

Mindsensors RCX Multiplexer

I was utterly impressed with the Mindsensors.com RCX Multiplexer and using Xanders driver suite (check BotBench) how fast I was up and running.  I wish there was a way to run the RCX Multiplexer off the NXT power supply but thats a small thing compared to how useful it is.  I wish I had 3 more of them so that I could control 16 RCX motors!

Android NXT Remote Control

So to try and work out how to control the NXT via Android, I stumbled across the NXT Remote Control project which is free to download.  This uses Lego’s Direct Commands to control the 3 motor ports on the NXT.  This means it bypasses your own code and you have no control over it.  However, what I managed to do is reduce it down to a very simple program that sends messages to the NXT which you can deal with in your own program.  In RobotC, it sends messages that are compatible with the MessageParam command and so you can send a message ID and 2 params to the NXT and deal with them in RobotC anyway you want to.

Code will be available soon once I have tidied it up 🙂