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.

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