Thursday, July 12, 2018

B2B Lab: Testing EV3 Ultrasonic & Color sensors...

          The engineers of Brics~2~Bots Lab were thinking about working on a project, Robo Jones in an Ancient Temple. Now, we can build a layout of the inside of a temple with treasures to retrieve or we could build a temple with a tunnel, just big enough to fit a Mindstorms robot - Robo Jones, which would add to the challenge by using sensors to find the treasures that are placed in the tunnel AFTER the robot has been programmed. So the question was raised, what sensors could possibly be used in a tunnel? An Utrasonic? A Color sensor? The engineers predicted both sensors would work in the tunnel. The Ultrasonic reads reflect sound waves, so in a tunnel maze with two openings reading reflecting sound waves will not be a problem. However, a Color sensor reads reflected light, so would a partially dark tunnel have an effect on the Color sensor’s reading????

Now to test the theories; a scientific investigation…

Ultrasonic sensor:
Question: Can an EV3 Ultrasonic sensor detect objects and be able read their distance accurately in a tunnel?

Research: How an Ultrasonic sensor works.

Hypothesis: Since an EV3 Ultrasonic sensor reads reflective sound waves, then it should be able to read objects inside the tunnel. So yes,  an EV3 Ultrasonic sensor should be able to detect objects in the tunnel.

Materials: Ev3 Intelligent Brick, EV3 Ultrasonic sensor, cable, LEGO technic beams and pins, Duplo bricks and plates (to make the tunnel), pieces of white and black construction paper.

Procedure:  An EV3 Ultrasonic sensor was attached to a LEGO-made stick, and a cable connected the Ultrasonic to an input port on the EV3 Brick.  A reading was taken using Port View, on the EV3 Brick, of a wall inside the tunnel. The EV3 Brick was programmed to have the Ultrasonic sensor respond to a specified distance from the wall with an action.

Data: Distance of the wall from the Ultrasonic = 1.5 inches

Observation: There was a response, detecting the wall at 1.5 inches.

Conclusion: Our hypothesis was correct; yes an EV3 Ultrasonic sensor can accurately detect an object in a tunnel.

The Color sensor:
Question: Can an EV3 Color sensor be read accurately in a tunnel?

Research: How a color sensor works.

Hypothesis: Since an EV3 Color sensor gives off its own light that is reflected back in the reading, we would think yes, it could accurately take a reading in a tunnel.

Materials: Ev3 Intelligent Brick, EV3 Color sensor, cable, LEGO technic beams and pins, Duplo bricks and plates (to make the tunnel), pieces of white and black construction paper.

Procedure:  A Color sensor was attached to a LEGO-made stick, and a cable connected the Color sensor to an input port on the EV3 Brick. A reflective light reading was taken using Port View, on the EV3 Brick, of a piece of white paper then of black paper that is inside the tunnel; write down the readings. The EV3 Brick was first programmed to have the Color sensor respond to reflective light from the Color sensor readings with a different action for each color, to note the difference. The Color sensor was slowly moved inside the tunnel to detect the white paper and then the black paper. 

Next, programs were written for color reading from the Color sensor for white and then black. The programs were tested inside the tunnel for detecting the white paper and the black paper.

Data: Reflected black = 18  white = 60

Observation: The Color sensor using reflective readings was able to respond to each color accurately. However, when using the color reading for the colors themselves, it was totally inaccurate, responding  without even detecting the color papers.

Conclusion: Our hypothesis was correct; yes a Color sensor when using a reflective light reading can accurately detect a target color.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

FLL - Into Orbit!: Outer Space Issues...

There are many space issues that FIRST LEGO League teams could investigate for the upcoming challenge season.

However, there is one controversial paramount concern and that is the astroid that is coming close to earth's atmosphere, astrophysicist such as Neil deGrasse Tyson (American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City) predicts, 

“On Friday the 13th of April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup, will fly so close to Earth, that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites... it's named Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death. If the trajectory of Apophis at close approach passes within a narrow range of altitudes called the 'keyhole,' the precise influence of Earth's gravity on its orbit will guarantee that seven years later in 2036, on its next time around, the asteroid will hit Earth directly, slamming in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii...If Apophis misses the keyhole in 2029, then, of course, we have nothing to worry about in 2036."

Take a look at what the European Space Agency has be working on about the topic,

Perhaps, an FLL team will come up with a solution...


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

FLL - FLLJr: FIRST LAUNCH: Resources - LEGO Space books...

Here is some fun stuff to explore...

Also, here are some LEGO Space books:

LEGO City: 3, 2, 1 Blast Off! by Sonia Sander. Scholastic, 2011.
Grades PreK-K

LEGO® Women of NASA: Space Heroes by Hannah Dolan. DK, 2018.
Grades PreK-K

Planets (LEGO Nonfiction): A LEGO Adventure in the Real World
by Penelope Arlon. Scholastic, 2016.
Grades 1-3

Brick by Brick Space: 20+ LEGO Brick Projects That Are Out of This World
by Warren Elsmore. Hachette Books, 2018
Grades 3-7

LEGO Space: Building the future by Peter Reid & Tim Goddard. No Starch Press, 2013.
Grade 5+


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book Review: Winning Design:...

Back in 2011, I reviewed a book, Winning Design: Mindstorms NXT Patterns for Fun and Competiton by James Jeffery Trobaugh (Apress publishers). Since then the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics system has come on the scene. So last year Trobaugh published an updated version of his NXT book to feature the EV3 robotic system, Winning Design: Mindstorms EV3 Patterns for Fun and Competiton by James Jeffery Trobaugh (Apress publishers), 2017.

Again the author’s purpose is to help coaches and teams better understand what it takes to successfully compete in the Robot Performance and Technical of the FIRST LEGO League and other LEGO(R) robotics events. He offers insight into what it takes to develop hopefully a winning robot; and what comes across in the book is planning: planning robot design, planning the order of executing the missions, planning in programming.

It is a book for both rookie teams as well as veteran teams. It is one of those “everything you need to know” type of books about building a robot for the FLL tournament (which also can be easily applied to other tournaments). Most of the information presented in the NXT book was easily applied to the EV3. What is different from the NXT book is, of course, it focuses on the EV3 brick, sensors, and programming. 

Coaches/instructors will find the book well organized so they will be able to find the information and advice they need; it is full of helpful tips. The sections on consistent turning, gearing, squaring up, line following/color sensors, and gyro sensors are a must read. There are a lot of pictures/diagrams to go with the explanations. Besides the robot performance, there is a section on the Techincal presentation of the competition.
I’ve been an FLL coach with winning FLL teams for a few years now, and I was able to take note of some of the excellent tips from Winning Design: Mindstorms EV3 Patterns for Fun and Competiton by James Jeffery Trobaugh (Apress publishers), 2017.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

FLL - Into Orbit: Scratch Programming for EV3 & FLL???

There's a rumor going around. Will FIRST allow Scratch programming on EV3 bricks at the tournaments? Currently, the only programs allowed are Roblab (RCX) NXT-G, and EV3-G.

Right now (May 2018), Scratch for EV3 is still in the experimental stage...


Saturday, April 28, 2018

FLL - Hydro Dynamics: Field Model Leftovers...

The Hydro Dynamics FLL (FIRST LEGO League) season has come to an end, now what to do with the Robot Performance field set-up models?

Well, you can:
     1. Keep the models and mat, so that you might revisit those exciting moments of the tournament by running a mock tournament.
     2. Keep certain models that seem to reappear in a similar form each year (loops), so that you may practice during the off-season.
      3. Invent your own scenario, with the models, of an obstacle course.
      4. Dissemble them and add them to your growing collection of elements (there is sometimes a new element that is not found in the LEGO kits).
     5. Or re-mix them for another use, such as...

Converting the Barriers to a Business Card Holder!

Converting the Faucet to a Bank




Friday, April 20, 2018

FLL - 2018-19: Revealed...Updated

FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams
you are headed for the MOON for the 2018-19 Challenge!

Registration is now opened for FLLJr - Mission Moon!

Also, at the World Championships in Houston, FIRST LEGO League  
field mat & models were revealed...

See FLL Coaches of NYC facebook page for a video...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

B2B Lab: SteamPunk-E...

SteamPunk-E is a Steampunk version of Wall-e the robot. Originally, it was to be  powered and programmed  with WeDo 2, but SteamPunk-E turned out to be a little too heavy for the WeDo motors. 

So, the Power Functions system was used…


Motors, IR receiver, Rechargeable battery box


Thursday, April 12, 2018

FLL - Into Orbit: Training...Updated

FIRST LEGO League space engineers start your training...

Start your research:

     NASA -

     NASA Robotics Alliance Project -
         (Although this is directed to grades 9-12, 6-8 graders can understand most of the information)

      ESA -

For building inspration, you can download building instructions from past LEGO models. Type in "Space" for the theme.

Q-Tip: On "almost" every challenge theme since 2000, there has been a mission that involves retrieving a loop model. On this past year's Hydro Dynamics it was the Pipe Removal. In Mars Mission (2003) it was an Ice Core like the model below:

In recent years another popular mission was to push something to make something rise & stay in position. I believe it first appeared in Body Forward (2010):

There are similar missions in the LEGO Education Space Challenge Set that you could practice.

Veteran teams think about past theme missions, what else could be on this year's theme?


Saturday, April 7, 2018

FLL - Into Orbit: Trip resources...

Into Orbit!

For those teams in the New York City area or nearby tri-state area here are some trip resources for your teams. Plan a trip to visit theses resources for inspiration...

NYC Center for Aerospace and Applied Mathematics
Address: 220 Henry St, New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 608-6164

Rose Center for Earth and Space
Address: 175-208 79th Street Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 769-5100

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Address: Pier 86, W 46th St & 12th Ave, New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 245-0072

Liberty Science Center
Address: 4636, 222 Jersey City Blvd, Jersey City, NJ 07305
Phone: (201) 200-1000

Cradle of Aviation Museum & JetBlue Sky Theater Planetarium 
Address: Cradle of Aviation Museum, Charles Lindbergh Blvd, Garden City, NY 11530
Phone: (516) 572-4111

Buehler Challenger & Science Center
Address: 400 Paramus Rd, Paramus, NJ 07652
Phone: (201) 251-8589

Note: The New York Hall of Science does not have that much on space exploration.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

FLL Challenge - 2018-19 - Into Orbit!...

Hey, FIRST LEGO League teams!

The Hydro Dynamics season is almost over and a hint of next season is receiving signals from Outer Space.

Teams prepare to explore the Universe....

If you happen to have the Mission Mars Challenge of 2003

the LEGO Education Space Challenge Set

(now I am dating myself...)

 get them out of storage because the word is we are going… 

                                                                                                                                                             (R) FIRST


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!