Friday, November 21, 2014

Secrets of the EV3 Core set...

EV3 fans, in case you didn’t know Lee Magpili (one of the designers) has a fun series on LEGO Education’s website: LEGO Mindstorms Education Tips & Tricks called “Secrets of the 45544” (EV3 Core set) - it is pretty cool with trivia and great info too. 

For example, starting with the NXT kit and continuing with the EV3 elements color coded - “all the cross beams, 3m cross beams, double cross beams and much of the others in that
category...” so you can find a particular element easily. Unfortunately, it kind of limits creative style - suppose I wanted a red or orange double cross beam for my design (they do exist, red axle jointers perpendicular are in the 31313 home Mindstorms set, just not in the 45544 educational set).

Funny coincidence, I read the post of 8.12.14 about the color 3m beams - That’s the way I label and name my EV3 Intelligent bricks. Only problem is I’ve run out of 3m beam colors for the amount of EV3 bricks I have! Hey LEGO, add a few more 3m beam colors - orange, pink, purple maybe :-D

Here’s some trivia - I discovered that the track elements, with or without the track rubber elements,  make awesome looking  bracelets! 

Anyway, be sure to check out Lee Magpili’s “Secrets of the 45544.” I am sure it will challenge students and LEGO robotics fans to discover their own “Secrets of the 45544.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: The Art of LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Programming...

If you had the opportunity to to read Terry Griffin’s The Art of LEGO Mindstorms NXT-G Programming, then you know it is a great NXT programming book. Well, he has done the same for the new EV3 Mindstorms, The Art of LEGO®  Mindstorms®  Ev3 Programming, (No Starch Press), 2014. The new book follows the same format as the NXT book, sharing similar topics and information. However, the two Mindstorms systems are different, so the details are specific to the new EV3. For example
the “teaching” robots (which are simple, easy builds ) for the books are basically the same, but due to the new design of the EV3 Programming brick and motors the robots are slightly different. By the way, Griffin gives instructions for the robot for both the Educational and the Retail (Home) Mindstorms EV3 kits. Nice!

The big plus is, this book is in COLOR and COLOR makes it POP! It gives you clear, easy to read, in living COLOR diagrams that example and explain. If you are working with data wires, you will definitely appreciate being able to easily differentiate between the different types of wiring. After all, the software is in color on our computer screen!

The book starts off with a brief and concise overview of the LEGO EV3 Mindstorms kit and software. Then the book goes into an in-depth coverage of the software with lots of excellent diagrams, graphics, and examples of programming, of course. There is also a section on NXT and EV3 compatibility for those of you who have NXT experience. For those who have the Educational kits, there is a good chapter on data logging programming too.

To help you understand developing a program, Griffin takes you through several programs: from basic
(ThereandBack, AroundtheBlock, RedorBlue, IsItBlue, LineFind,) to intermediate (BumperBotwithButtons, DoorChime, GyroTurn, BumperBot, Line Follower, WallFollower, GenericStop. SoundMachine, SpiralLineFollower,) to brick display programs and games (DisplayTimer,  MemoryGame) to advanced programming
 (PowerSetting, ArrayTest) to data collecting programs (SteeringTest, VerifyingLight-Pointer) and there’s more…

I like the layout of the chapters; not a lot of reading to do - concise and to the point with supporting graphics and diagrams. There are notes and tips referring to the different software versions. He also includes some pseudocode to describe how the programs will work. To practice what you are learning
Griffin includes some Challenges for you to try. At the end of the chapters there are a few activities you explore, Further Exploration, and a Conclusion (short) summarizing what was covered in the chapter.

The book covers most of the programming blocks, however he only mentions a couple of the blocks in the Advanced palette - File Access and Data Logging. I would have liked to see some program examples for Bluetooth Connection and some of the other Advanced blocks.

Otherwise, The Art of LEGO Mindstorms Ev3 Programming by Terry Griffin (No Starch Press) is definitely a good teaching and resource book on EV3 programming to have in your library and eBook for your tablet. 

By the way, one of the Technical Reviewers for the book is Daniele Benedettelli, LEGO robotics extraordinaire, who also has a new book out: The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Laboratory - No Starch Press (see review).