Monday, October 27, 2014

B2B Lab: Happy Halloween...

Just in time for Halloween...

The Krypts of the Roaster

In the deserted part of town a skull points you to the Krypts of the Roaster. It is there zombies, witches, skeletons, ghosts, spiders, scorpions, and other creepy creatures rule the world of horror.


One of my students, Luc, at Brics~2~Bots Academy built this graveyard scene for this video. He programmed a LEGO Mindstorms NXT brick to control the flying ghosts & the blinking light from in back of the graveyard. Alumnum foil was used to make the light from the LEGO lamps visible from behind the walls. Luc merged two sound clips in iMovie with the video. 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Be a FIRST Volunteer...

NYC FIRST Robotics Volunteers
(No experience necessary, just your time)

During January - February - March the NYC FIRST Champions will be taking place with over a thousand young people competing. Be a part of this exciting experience that will help influence a young person future; volunteer as a judge, referee, crowd management, assistant; there is a job waiting for YOU!

January 10, 2015 - Jr. FLL Expo @ NYU PolyTechnic School of Engineering, Brooklyn 
Jan. 17, 2015 Fll Manhattan Qualifier - City College in Manhattan
Jan. 24, 2015 FLL Queens Qualifier - George Ryan JHS in Queens
Jan. 25, 2015 FLL Brooklyn Qualifier - NYU PolyTechnic in Brooklyn
Feb. 7, 2015 FLL Bronx Qualifier - Horace Mann School in Bronx
Feb. 7, 2015 FLL Staten Island Qualifier - New Dorp HS Staten Island
Queens Qualifier - TBA
February 21, 2015 - NYC/LI FTC - Dalton School Qualifier - Manhattan
March 1, 2015 - NYC/LI  FTC Championship NYU Poly School of Engineering
March 14, 2015 - FLL Citywide Championship - Jacob Javits Convention Center
March 13-15, 2015 - FRC Championships - Jacob Javits Convention Center 

Please be advised, under the new volunteer registration & the Youth Protection Program, every volunteer needs to register on VMS and be screened before they can volunteer for any of our upcoming FIRST events this season, from Jr.FLL to FRC.

Go to the links below to find out more info & to sign-up:

Youth Protection Program Info: 

VIMS User Guide can be found here:

VIMS can be accessed here:

Be a FIRST Volunteer & Witness the Excitement of Learning!


Monday, October 20, 2014

B2B Lab: LEGO Record & Play Set...

Stepping back in time... 

While rummaging through my LEGO collection in search of some part, I came across a LEGO Record and Play Set # 4095 (dated 2003). This was a Creator set which contained some very rather unique elements. It had a brick (Electric Technic Motor) that could record motion using two built-in rotation sensors, so that when you attached wheels to the brick, turn it on to record, and move the brick in pattern, it would record the movement. Upon pressing the playback button the motors would move the brick in the pattern it just recorded - Cool!  It also had a nice 90 degreesTechnic Gear Box (one of my FIRST LEGO League teams actually used it in a FLL tournament). So I thought if would be fun to use it in a project with a couple of my students at he Brics~2~Bots Academy

The project was called Weird Cars; after looking at some really weird cars on a YouTube video my students designed their own weird cars using the Electric Technic Motor brick as the chassis of the car. After putting the final touches on their car, they recorded the desired car movement, then let it rip! It was great fun and they learned a little about robotics What is a robot? - A mechanical device, electrically powered, that is programmed (Record movement), from a sensor (rotation sensor), to perform a task (Play).

Here are their robots and what they wrote about them:

Jonas - age 8: “This is Bob. He has a crazy car. He has a helmet so when he crashes, he won’t die.”He also has a Laser to shoot anything in sight. The light makes him see, so he can shoot (the target). He has a ‘springy thingy’ so he can fly and touch the clouds to be his friends.”

Olivia - age 10: “This car has a outdoor garden (with
a pond). I made the little boy (the) driver, because it is weird for a boy to drive. I like the pond the best. There are four lights on it. The hatch (to the buttons to control the car) is right in front of the boy, so sometimes he can’t see anything (that could be a problem). The woman (passenger) is relaxing in the garden.”

P.S. Say LEGO, why don’t you bring the Record and Play Set back, it is a great introduction to robotics!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Gift of Education - A Noble Prize Winner...

"I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way," are the words from a song recorded by Whitney Houston. These words ring true...

Two years ago I posted an article about a remarkable 15 year old girl, Malala Yousafzai, form Pakistan,

who was outspoken activist for girls' right to education. After surviving a near fatal terrorist attempt on her life, she bravely continued her fight for girls' rights and most recently went to Nigeria to campaign for the release of girls kidnapped by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram.
Now 17 years old, she has become the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner for her courageous work. Read about her in the  New York Times article dated Oct. 10, 2014.

P.S. What does this have to do with LEGO robotics?  Give a girl a LEGO Mindstorms Robotic kit and maybe one day she will win the Noble Prize in Physics for robotic engineering.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Book Review: The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book...Updated

If you have had an opportunity to read Laurens Valk’s LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Discovery Book, then you know it is a good intermediate/advanced book for the NXT robotics enthusiast. Well, with the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit out, Valk has published an excellent “learning manual” for the EV3 kit – The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery BooK, No Starch Press, 2014. What makes this book stand out from Valk’s other great books is COLOR – lots of color pictures, drawings, and diagrams makes reading this book visually better to understand.

The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book is a complete, “beginner-friendly” and introductory guide and reference book to the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kit (Retail version - #31313), however, if you have the Educational version of the kit, the book can be used as an additional reference guide as well, because the programming language is the basically the same (except: Retail has programming for the IR Sensor & IR Remote/Beacon and the Educational has the Gyro Sensor).

In this book, Valk shows you how to build a very simple robot, Explor3r, and with it you will learn the basics of motors, sensors, and beginning EV3 programming. He begins with a color diagram of the list of building elements that you will need and because it is in color, you can clearly tell which pins, and axle pins to use. All the diagrams are excellent; they show you step-by- step what to 
do. The Figure 4-7 diagram of the Move Steering block and how the robot and its wheels are moving is great, particularly for explaining the action to youngsters (and some adults ).
The EV3 has a new file management system where you save Projects, which can have related Programs saved with the Project. This is a nice organizational tool for FIRST LEGO League teams – all mission programs in order, in one folder, Nice! With Valk’s explanation of the EV3’s file management system it is easy to understand. Also, along with instructions on how to use the programming blocks, Valk includes practice challenges and tasks called Discovery. These are a nice practice activities for FLL teams who are just learning the software. These Discovery experiments challenge you to enhance the example program that was just explained in the book or even possibly create a new similar program. 

An easy and fun robot presented in the book is ANTY, a robotic
ant. Not only does he show you how to build it, Valk explains the walking mechanism of the robot (an excellent lesson for students). This robot also makes use of the IR Sensor, Color sensor, and Touch Sensor. He then presents increasing sophisticated robots, such as The SNATCH3R autonomous robotic arm, LAVA R3X - a humanoid robot that walks and talks, and even a game playing robot - SK3TCHBOT. All of these will help you learn building techniques which you will be able to apply to your own creations. With the increasing complexity of the robots you will be learning immediate and advanced EV3 programming. In all, there are about 150 building and programming challenges in the book to inspire you think creatively in designing and programming your own awesome robots.
The book is loaded with clear explanations of operating the EV3 Brick and programming, robot-building techniques, and troubleshooting. I highly recommend this The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book, No Starch Press, 2014 for LEGO robotics fans who are just getting into the Mindstorms EV3, teachers planning to use the EV3 in their classrooms, and FIRST LEGO League teams planning to use the EV3 in the tournaments.