Dec 8, 2014

New EV3 book "Lego Mindstorms EV3 Essentials"

End of October, a new EV3 book has been released named "Lego Mindstorms EV3 Essentials" and the publisher, Packt Publishing, kindly sent me a copy and asked me for a public review.

The book, written by Abid H. Mujtaba, is an introduction to LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 that focuses on three parts of the system:
  1. the electronic hardware components (Intelligent Brick, motors, sensors)
  2. the On-Brick programming features
  3. using leJOS, the Java platform for EV3, putting a strong emphasis on Linux in that part
As I only had access to the E-book version, I can't provide an opinion on the quality of the paper nor on the binding of the hardcopy version; also, I cannot tell about the quality of the images there - as the publisher told me the images in the paper version are black-and-white only, in contrast tot the E-Book version.

What I like about the book is the first section where a thorough introduction to the brick, the motors and the sensors is given, following the smart idea to use the ports view on the brick's menu to look into the capabilities of the motors and  sensors. The only drawbacks here are the usage of the NXT ultrasonic sensor to show and explain the Ultrasonic sensor in the EV3 set and some minor mistakes like a wrong explanation of the way the IR sensor internally works and doubtful statements to the precision of the motors.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am not so happy with the remaining parts of the book.
Most important, I still have issues in figuring out the target audience of the book intended by the autor: the graphical programming environment that comes with the set is completely left out of the book and not a single example for it is provided; instead, the author concentrates on the On-Brick programming capabilities here which in my opinion are a drudgery to use and do not take you very far.
Even more, following that the author strongly focuses on Linux  and some of its features that certainly are beyond the skills of the common PC or MaC user: a large portion here deals with infrastructural stuff like using MAKE files and Gradle on Linux or how to copy compiled EV3 programs to the SD card. Though the author with his background as an Android developer obviously is very fond of these tools, in the interest of his readers he would have been well advised here to use the handy and easy-of-use tools instead that already come with LeJOS or the seamless leJOS integration into Eclipse.

As a result, one need to state that the book most likely is not suited for children or programming beginners.

On the other hand, experienced users with a Linux and programming background might find the book too basic: the only non-trivial program in the whole book is a line follower in the last chapter, however with a very simple and unsophisticated algorithm. There is no discussion in the book of the advanced features that make leJOS such a powerful and interesting framework for EV3 programming.
Even more, the leJOS program example code in the book obviously relates to an outdated, early  version of the framework and will not compile with the most recent versions of leJOS.
As a result, one might think that robot builders  with a programming background might be better off with a dedicated leJOS book like Brian Bagnall's new one that also provides a thorough introduction to the EV3 hardware and to using leJOS with a start-of -the art IDE like Eclipse (beyond just using IDEs for editing only, as the author somewhat surprisingly recommends).

This overall opinion is backed by the fact that there is not a single new and original robot to be found in the book: the only robot used in the book is TRACK3r (with an additional IR sensor attached) that comes with the EV3 Home Edition set.

To sum up, the target audience of the book might be a group of people who are familiar with Linux, love to use leJOS with tools like Gradle and Make  instead of the ones LeJOS already brings along, but have no experience with leJOS programming so far and are fine with no new robots and only a superficial discussion of the capabilities of leJOS.
That subset of EV3 users, though, might be rather small.

And, besides, it's "LEGO®", not "Lego" ...



Nov 25, 2014

Nov 26-29 2014: Cafe Neu Romance in Prague

In case you happen to be around in Central Europe this week, you might want to drop by in Prague at Cafe Neu Romance, one of World's the leading robot performance festivals.

Among a plentitude of other robot  gems, also a number of LEGO® MINDSTORMS EV3 robots will be present, for instance the EV3 robot band S3nsorh3ads.

Nov 18, 2014

CUB3

Today we have a guest blog post by DamonMM2000 on his new creation, the CUB3:
"Hello everyone!
To those who are reading this, I am DamonMM2000, and I have been building LEGO MINDSTORMS robots ever since the EV3 first came out in LEGO stores.
This is my newest build, the CUB3, inspired by gerardhogenhout's Lego Technic CUBE- or not only a CUBE?. Built with LEGO MINDSTORMS and Technic components, it includes 2 EV3 Large Motors, 1 EV3 Medium Motor, 1 EV3 Infrared Sensor, 2 small linear-actuators, a pair of hidden caterpillar tracks, and more!
With its insignificantly-looking cubic structure, CUB3 is engineered to look like your ordinary box just lying around. With the small linear actuators grounded, the body shell of CUB3 rests at ground level. A small open area at the top rear allows the Infrared Beacon/Remote to infiltrate to the Infrared Receiver hidden under the body shell. On smooth, hard surfaces, CUB3 is able to drive and move around its surroundings; what's more cool than an ordinary-looking (cardboard? you get the idea) box moving around your room? Carpet? Raised elevation? Obstructing obstacle? No problem for CUB3! CUB3 just runs the Medium Motor and extends the linear actuators, which in turn raises the body shell about an inch off the ground. The drivetrain is geared up 3:5 for extra speed!"

Nov 17, 2014

COPA-DATA zenon Challenge 2014

 
I came across this amazing challenge from COPA-DATA's zenon Visualization/Automation Software called the COPA-DATA zenon Challenge 2014
 
 
 
Meet Dimitri, He is a teacher at VIVES Technical College in Belgium, him and his students have participated in this challenge with an absolutely beautiful LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robot.

 
"I am a teacher in a Belgium technical university and my class and me are participating in a EV3 Robot competition “the zenon challenge” where we have to make an EV3 robot and program and visualize it with an industrial visualization software package called zenon. Our team is doing very well, but now in the final days of the competition it seems that the public voting system will decide if we end at the first place or the second place." Dimi, the VIVES Automation Team.
ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT TO VOTE

VOTE HERE for the DELTA EV3  "The manipulator robot that is on a clear mission" and help them get FIRST place http://www.zenon-challenge.com/voting/videos/show/Team/voting/vives_automation.html#teamcontent


I don't know about you but my vote for these guys was easy check out their team page 
http://www.zenon-challenge.com/teams/show/Team/detail/vives_automation.html

 
bazmarc  : . .


 

Nov 13, 2014

Philea (Rosetta Lander) landed today on a comet !

Today's world news is out of this world! A spacecraft started its flight 10 years ago on March 4-2004, on it way to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. See the live stream here and LIVE here.

Four years ago (Friday, July 23, 2010) we made a movie about the functions of the lander, with the use of 24 thousand LEGO bricks we made a look-a-like landscape, to show how the lander is drilling into the soil.


original movie

there is also a movie about the making of


Enjoy!

Nov 6, 2014

Door alarm and sizometer

The French MINDSTORMS community is very productive lately. :)
Today we present another guest blog from France, by Matthieu Desfontaines on two of his creations:

"THE DOOR ALARM
The door alarm of the new Lego Mindstorms EV3 can detect it when somebody comes into your bedroom.
It works with a light sensor along with an ultraviolet sensor. It can be activated or disabled with a badge which you simply have to pass in front of the door lock ! It's really cool, like a real alarm !
The light sensor can detect it when the door is opened or closed ,while the ultraviolet sensor (which works with the remote controle or the badge ) can detect it when you pass the doorway. After activating the door alarm with the badge, every time somebody opens the door, the alarm rings to inform you. You have to disable it with the badge to stop it ringing. The alarm is very small but strong and it is hung on the handle of the door.

THE “SIZOMETER”
The “sizometer” in Lego Mindstorms EV3 can measure how tall are you in just a few seconds ! It works with a gyro sensor, an ultrasonic sensor and a touch sensor. It can estimate your height very quickly and easily. You have to follow the instructions written on the brick screen : 1­ calibrate on the floor ( gyro sensor ) 3­ search the horizontal position ( to get the best measure ) This invention is not very necessary but I think that doctors should use it to save time !

All instructions and programs are available on my website.   Thank for reading it !
Matthieu Desfontaines corrected by Aurelien Mantoni"

Nov 4, 2014

VI3WBOT

Today we have a guest blog post by Clarence Rossant from France an his new robot that is equipped with a camera:

"VI3WBOT is a mobile robot which is equiped by a camera (a mindsensors NXTCam V4), a color sensor, a touch sensor and a gyro sensor. Using the NXTCam V4, it can reconize and catch a yellow ball of specific size, thanks to its colour and its form.
In my first programm, I just made a recognition using colour information, but the robot also detected other yellow objects (for example the bottle of the video)! The NXTCam V4 delineates a detected object by a bounding box and outputs the coordinates of the corners (x and y). With this information, one can calculate the area and the rough form of the object. In my program, I test the area and the shape of all the yellow objects, and the robot always chooses the good object (or nothing, if no object is a yellow ball ).
The NXTCam V4 is a complex sensor, so it outputs a lot of values per second, and these values vary very quickly. To solve this problem, I created a new filter that smooths the data. It works very well! Without this "DataFilter" mini-program, VI3WBOT cannot work properly.
VI3WBOT cannot work properly either if the ambiant light is too poor (for example, a yellow ball is acquired as if it were green in the dark). So when the program starts, the screen displays the minimum luminosity that it required as well as the current ambiant light.

In the future, I will use my NXTCamV4 to make new more complex robots, like humanoïds and autonomous animals, or other "deadly" creatures...Coming very soon"



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