Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Winning Design! LEGO Mindstorms NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition...

Although the 2010 - FIRST LEGO League: Body Forward season is almost over, this year's novice coaches and the new coaches for next year’s 2011 - FLL: Food Safety tournament will want to get a jump start with this book: Winning Design! LEGO Mindstorms NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition by James Trobaugh (Apress publishers).

The author’s purpose for this book 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” books about building a robot for the FLL tournament (which also can be easily applied to other tournaments). The book is divided into four parts representing four major principles: Designing the robot, Navigation of the robot: the art of consistently moving about, Manipulation through purposeful attachments, and Organization/Programming.

It took me awhile to read the book for this review, because it is filled with so much valuable information. However, coaches/instructors will find the book well organized so they can go directly to one of the four major areas of discussion and find the information and advice they need; it is full of helpful tips. The sections on gearing, squaring up, line following/light sensors, and Manipulation are a must read. There are a lot of pictures/diagrams to go with the explanations.

The focus of the book is on using the LEGO(R) Mindstorms(R) NXT kit and NXT-G programming, but the author also included a little about RoboLab(R)

software. In Appendix A there are building instructions for the DemoBot. Perhaps you would want to build the DemoBot before reading this book, so reading the book could be a hands-on experience as well.

Besides the softcover printed book, it also comes in eBook format which makes for a handy reference on an eReader or iPad, while working on that winning robot.

I’ve been a FLL coach with a winning team for a few years now, and I was able to take note of some of the excellent tips from Winning Design! LEGO Mindstorms NXT Design Patterns for Fun and Competition.

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