Friday, March 16, 2018

Beyond FLL...

FIRST LEGO League participants are the inventors of today and the future...

Read about these young inventors: 


Saturday, March 3, 2018

B2B Lab: WeDo 2.0 Motor Blocks...

If you are new to WeDo 2.0, you might need a little clarification on the motor blocks. So this is what they do (according to LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 Programming Blocks by LEGO)

Motor This Way -  Counter Clockwise - Left

Motor That Way -  Clockwise - Right

Motor Off - Stops the motor
1. This is from the perspective of looking at the front of the motor as seen on the programming block.
2. The motors are continuously running until the program tells it to stop - Motor Off block.

Motor On For - Motor on for X seconds and then it stops.
1. The block does not indicate which direction the motor will turn, so you must place before it a Motor This Way or Motor That Way block depending on which way or that way you want it to turn.
2. If you use the block without indicating which direction you want it to turn, it will turn in the direction that was last used.
3. Weird, at zero-seconds, it actually moves. (See - B2B Lab: Exploring with WeDo 2.0)
Motor Power - Determines the power and speed the motor will turn. Power is in the range of numbers 0-9 that can be combined to make a number larger than 9.

Motor Power
1. Zero, of course, is no power.
2. Even though you can put in a large number for the power, it seems that max. is at about 20
3. As power increase so does speed. Plus, the distance the shaft rotates also increases. So if the robot was a vehicle and you increase the power w/o increasing the Wait For, how will it affect the distance traveled? Try it out...

We do know we can have 2 motors connected to 1 Smarthub and they will both be controlled by a single Motor This/That Way or Motor On For block, but you can control them individually. In the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 Curriculum Pack it shows you how by using the Motor This/That Way (which runs continuously until indicated to stop) block, but you can also use the Motor On For block. Click/Press the block until the Labelling Panel of 6 squares appears above it. Each square has a color assigned to it for each motor - up to 6 motors. Tap the Labelling Panel to change the color and assign that motor on the particular Smarthub. 

Now, we can take it a step further, you can individually select up to 6 motors on the 3 Smarthubs paired with (connected) and programmed by one program string or parallel program strings from one device (tablet/computer). You can select which motors to control on which Smarthubs, as well as assign different power levels the same way with Motor Power blocks, but remember an unselected Motor Power block or unselected Motor This/That Way or Motor On For block will control all motors at that point in the program. 

However, multiple sensors cannot be "selected" (if a sensor on one Smarthub detects, then the response causes all Smarthubs to respond and this is where motor selection can be helpful to control which motors you want to respond. Sound and displays are through the device so it happens exactly where it is in the program string. Imagine, you can turn on and off any motor on any Smarthub in your project - Awesomeness! 


Saturday, February 24, 2018

B2B Lab: WeDo 2.0 Parallel Coding...

Here's Danny's first WeDo 2.0 car... 

To run his car, instead of just adding programming blocks in one line of code, he actually used three lines of code - parallel coding. If he had put all of it in one line of code, the vehicle would pause while waiting for, let's say play sound, to finish executing before continuing to move. Now, in the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 Curriculum Pack parallel coding can be done by using the Send Message, and Start On Message blocks. However, Daniel had not learned those blocks yet, so he invented his own way of doing parallel coding.

By doing this he was able to have the vehicle perform 3 functions at the same time - in this case: movement, color change, & sound. Cool!

To run the above 3 Loop programs, use three finger to tap on all 3 Start blocks at the same time or quickly tap on each Start on each.

Another way of parallel coding is to use the Message blocks:

If you like a little challenge, you can also write a code that has WAIT for Time at the beginning of the programs so that you have time to tap each Start individually. The program below is without Loops so it will run just once. The challenge is getting all to start and end at the same time - test your programming skills!

There are various ways of coding, explore the possiblilites...


Monday, February 19, 2018

B2B Lab: Exploring with WeDo 2.0...

The original WeDo Resource Set introduced 1st-3rd-grade kids to the world of robotics. The one thing I did not like about it, is that the robot had to stay connected, by wire, to the computer. With the introduction of WeDo 2.0 Core Set, Bluetooth frees the robot from the computer. It is also more versatile with the use of tablets, as well as computers. 

For those of you who might be considering LEGO's WeDo 2.0 Core Set, you will find that it is a good platform for Grades K-4 and a good introduction to robotics for the older students who are starting to explore the world of robotics. It is a natural lead into LEGO Mindstorms robotics. 

So, the Brics~2~Bots engineers have been tinkering with the WeDo 2.0 set and have made some interesting discoveries.

If you haven’t seen the Smarthub yet, it does not have a display screen or speakers like the NXT or EV3 Controllers. However, it does have programming/coding blocks for both sound and display; the sound is played and the display is seen through your tablet/computer.

As you may or may not know, the Smarthub has only 2 Input/Outs for motors and/or sensors. So it really doesn’t matter which Input/Output you use.

When 2 motors are connected 1 Smarthub, both motors are programmed by the same motor block. Also, when 2 of the same sensors are connected, both sensors are programmed by the same sensor block and either one will respond.

Now, if 3 SmartHubs (the Max. is 3 and you can edit and label each by pressing the hub icon) are paired with/connected to one device  (tablet/computer), one or simultaneously executed program strings will control all 3 Smarthubs at the same time. Any sensor from any of the Smarthubs can receive input and all motors respond. So one tablet/computer can be paired with Smarthub A and Smarthub B at the same time running the same program string(s). This is a handy titbit when testing the effectiveness of a design model to another using the exact same program string - a side by side comparison, which we did when we compared a Pulley driven vehicle to a Differential Gearing driven vehicle.

In order to control two or more Smarthub models separately, you will need two or more devices (tablets/computers). Each model will be paired with one device and the program strings on that device will only affect the model paired with that device.

We wanted to know the relationship between the number (seconds) input for motors to actual motor rotations, so we did some tests:

How does the number (seconds) input relate to the actual motor rotation with the motor using a Power of 1?
We built two cars, a pulley driven car and a gearing driven car.

Some useful info:
Pulley driven car - 1:1 ratio of Wedge Belt Wheel to Wedge Belt Wheel
     0 seconds = .65 rotation
     1 second = 1.75 rotations
Gearing driven car - 1:1 ration of 20 Bevel to 20 Double Bevel
     0 seconds = .75 rotation
     1 second = 2.25 rotations
( you would think that at 0 seconds it would not move at all!)

Note: When inputting the power of a motor, the maximum power is about 20, even though you can input a larger number.

Next, we did a test comparison on the performance of the same pulley driven car to the gearing car, comparing the distance traveled using two extreme Power settings of 1 and 9. The cars were tested for various durations (seconds) inputs. Our hypothesis was that the gearing driven car would perform better.

And the results are in….

As you can see from the data, the pulley driven car did not travel as far as the gearing driven car. 

Our conclusion: The gearing driven car, based on the observations, performances better by going faster, further, and straighter than the pulley driven car. We believe the gearing has more clutch/grip so its performance is more accurate and consistent; whereas the pulley driven system might tend to slip, particular with wear the rubber band will stretch slightly resulting in slippage. Also, with the pulley driven system, one has to make sure the car/vehicle is balanced from side to side, otherwise it will have a tendency to drift to the weighted side of the vehicle. We also found that the tension of the rubber band has to be exact and after some use it loses its tension and will cause slippage; direct connection to the motor or use of gearing is definitely better.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

B2B - Lab: Tracks vs. Tracks...

I volunteer at quite a few FLL (FIRST LEGO Lague) tournaments and I noticed that very few teams use tracks on their robots, mostly rookie teams. So the Brics~2~Bots Engineers decided to test tracks on the field mat with various combinations of small rubber studs (Boost & Technic kits) and large red rubber studs (which were available when the EV3 was first launched). 

Our test robot was simple. An NXT with EV3 motors. Programmed with EV3 software.

 First, Brandon made a test program for the vehicle to move first backward then forward, turn left and then turn right. It used the programming block Move Tank at a power of 50 for 2 rotations, then repeated the sequence with a power of 75. There was a WAIT of 1 second between actions.  The program was set up to see if the robot could start & stop at the same spot; this would indicate the precision & consistency of the robot's movements. Observations of the robot's performance were recorded.

Tracks without studs.
Bumpy with slippage. Turns not consistent. Robot out of control!
Tracks w/small rubber studs on the outer edge or inner edge of the tracks.

Somewhat slow moving even at 75. Slightly bumpy on the FLL field mat & smooth surfaces. Seems to have consistent turns. Placement of studs is better on the outer edge of the tracks. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by 1-1.5 inches forward.
Tracks w/small rubber studs alternating inside & out positions.
Visibly less bumpy, but with consistent turns. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by .5-1 inches forward.
Tracks with 2 small rubber studs per track.
Appears to be a bit less bumpy than a single stud per track. Consistent turns. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by .5-1 inches forward.
Tracks w/large rubber studs on alternating tracks track.

It is bumpy at 50 power and very bumpy at 75 power. To start and stop at the same spot it is off by
1 inch forward and .5 to the left.
Tracks w/large rubber studs on every track.
Less bumpy that alternating tracks, but still rather bumpy. Consistent turns. To start and stop at the same spot was almost perfect.

Each time the robot stopped there was a rocking motion. This might be cause for concern traveling a longer distance than 2 rotations might cause inconsistent results.

It has a better grip on rough surfaces & is good for crawling over a low obstacle.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

B2B Lab: LEGO MINDSTORMS' 20th Anniversary...

Bricks and circuits are buzzing... 

2018 marks the 20th Anniversary of LEGO MINDSTORMS!

January 1998: The LEGO MINDSTORMS RCX Intelligent Brick and Robotics Invention System are shown at The Museum of Modern Art in London.

September 1998: The Robotics Invention System is launched.

September 1999: The Robotics Discovery Set, Ultimate Accessory Set, Droid Developer Kit and the Robotics Invention System 1.5 are released in the United States.


2008-2009: For the 10th Anniversary a limited edition (only 1998 copies) Black NXT controller brick.

August 2009: The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 platform iteration is released.

January 2013: The 15th anniversary of LEGO MINDSTORMS is celebrated with the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3.

So LEGO, is there something new in for MINDSTORMS

If anyone has any speculations, feel free to comment...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

B2B Lab: Happy New Year...

Happy New Year!

May your New Year be a healthy & happy one
full of Brics~Bits~Bots!

Happy 2018!
From L3GoBots-Lady & students of Brics~2~Bots

* * * *


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

B2B Lab: Happy Holidays...

engineers wish you a

Happy Holiday!


LeGoramas are dioramas made with LEGO, of course!
A medium EV3 motor programmed with an EV3 brick provides the movement and sound.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

FIRST - Inspires...

Whether you call it STEM or STEAM, 
FIRST robotics inspires!

Paula's Story

Please donate to FIRST to keep the success stories coming...

Another FIRST success story
and this one is personal to me...

Back in 2005-06, I had a FIRST LEGO League team called the CyberBots. These students are now in their twenties and doing great things: architectural engineering, research medical surgery,  electrical engineering, digital strategist, technology and more. Recently, one, Saeed Jabbar won the weWork Creator Award for his non-profit organization, Inclusion. 

Started in 2015 through a grant request, Inclusion provides training in computer coding and technology skills that would led its students to new and better employment.

Please donate to Inclusion to keep the success stories coming...


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Review: The LEGO Train Book...

Wondering what to give LEGO fans this holiday season who seems to have just about every new kit possible? Well, you could give them a bucket of LEGO elements (they could never have enough LEGO elements) or perhaps a new LEGO book.

Just in time for the holidays is a new book, The LEGO Train Book by Holger Matthes, No Starch Press, 2017.

Holger Matthes has been building with LEGO since 2000. He was involved in the creation of various official LEGO projects such as the Hobby Train set #10183 and frequently presents his models and gives workshops at LEGO exhibitions worldwide. He describes his book as a book  "about designing LEGO trains. The first part of the book gives an overview of LEGO trains over the different eras, covers some history, and answers questions about how to combine old LEGO trains from the attic with today’s kits. 

The second part of the book is about building your own LEGO train models, also known as My Own Creations (MOCs) . Using my many years of experience building LEGO models, I’ll show you how to create proper train models, covering both the possibilities and the limitations.

 Finally, the book ends with step-by-step building instructions for several models."

This is a wonderful book for the LEGO fan and particularly the LEGO train fan and possibly the model train enthusiast as  well.  It is also available at Amazon 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

B2B Lab: The Inventive Spirit...

There is a new movement that has grown out of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or more appropriately STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design, Mathematics); it is learning by doing, which really isn't a new concept - John Dewy first brought it to light back in the early 1900s  - “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” This has initiated the Inventive Spirit!

This new movement is not just encouraging students in general, but also the Spectrum student (students with Special Needs). And although STEM may have been looked upon as "male thing;" females are being inspired and leading the way (such as, Ayah Bdeir of littleBits®).

Check out this video of a young inventor...

So, whatever medium you may use: LEGO, Mindstorms, littleBits, Tetrix, paper & glue, etc. or combining any of them together...

Go Experiment, Discover, Learn, Invent!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

FLL - Hydro Dynamics: Faucet Model...

If teams are having some trouble getting the Faucet water level to stay in position after turning the knob, it might be because the beige long pin is too loose fitting or the blue axle pin on the lift mechanism. Try switching the blue axle pin with another or using a blue long pin instead of of the beige long one; the knob will turn easily and the water level will stay when if flips. 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

FLL - Hydro Dynamics: Robot Game Performance - Updates...

FLL Teams be sure to check for the latest updates @ FIRST

The latest update was December...

 Robot Game Updates 
NOTICE: Update 4 has been reworded, and Update 2 has been renamed. 

18 December 2017


Setup for the Filter model’s lock latch shall be dropped northward, and not perched upward.

7 November 2017 

When all four of a Water Well’s black slider buttons are in contact with the mat, that Well will be scored as if its entire circular base is in full/flat contact with the mat wherever the well is. Restated: Although it’s true that the sliders keep the circular base off the mat, the well will be scored as if the sliders were taken away. (Ignore picture of Well on its side - sliders are not making contact)

Each of these missions requires something to “rise,” by any method, and to “stay there” due only to a Big Water in the required place. 

A Robot entering Base will be considered “completely in Base” as soon as it matches the 2nd picture in Rule D07 even if there are portions of the Robot or something it has transported partially past the west or south border walls. This leniency does not apply for Launches. 

DIRECTION - Don’t be confused by the presence of yellow on both sides of the Cloud Model. The curvy cloud-like feature along with the lightning face east, as described and shown in the Field Setup Guide. If you have somehow come across a picture actually showing the Model backwards, see Rule GP5 #4, Bullet 1. 
DAMAGE – Be careful your Robot doesn’t break the lightning off the Cloud Model. Even though that feature is a decoration, Rule R17 still applies. 

Team members away from the table may hold Equipment after the referee has seen all of it in one place, but Models must stay in view of the referee. 

21 October 2017 

If you press your Pump Model against the wall but some of the Dual Lock is still visible (higher than the wall), re-apply the Dual Lock lower as needed until it’s no longer visible. Unlike with other Models, the precise Dual Lock pattern for this Model is not critical. Just be sure some pairs are low, and some pairs are as high as possible without being visible. 

In Rule D07, ignore the 6th picture and its caption. 

The Optional Loop sometimes tilts out of the airspace above Pipe scoring area. This has no effect on the scoring. 

After following the Field Setup page (not the video) accurately, you may notice that the axle leading from the Toilet doesn’t exactly trace perfectly over its mark on the mat… THIS IS OKAY. At a tournament, the Toilet will be built and placed as shown, so that’s the placement you should practice with. If your properly built Water Treatment Model doesn’t activate while the yellow lever is held down, the problem is friction in the treatment Model. Make sure no beam is being pinched between a gear and a brown axle-joiner, nor pinched between two gears. Spread such elements from each other just a tiny bit, to ensure free-play. Also make sure all pins are fully “clicked” into their holes, for alignment. 

UPDATE 1 – Leniency (REVISED) 
If you Interrupt the Robot while it’s Transporting something that came from Base during the most recent Launch, you may keep that thing.