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BeagleBone Black EV3 Cape

Published on January 11, 2015 by in Beaglebone

There’s a new and exciting project over at Kickstarter that combines the BeagleBone Black with LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 motors and sensors. I’ve previously used the BeagleBone in our Zebro Light robot, so I was quite excited about the idea of combining the BeagleBone with MINDSTORMS.

evb_on2

The EVB is a cape (a shield) that turns your BeagleBone Black into a completely functional EV3 brick. You can attach all EV3 motors and sensors, and the FatCatLab is also working on their own sensors. (Even if you’re not into BeagleBone or Linux, you can still use their new sensors with your regular EV3 brick.) The EVB is currently under development, but I’ve received a prototype for testing last week and I’m pretty impressed by what I’ve seen so far.

The shield attaches directly to the P8 and P9 headers of the Beaglebone. It comes with two transparent plates that make a nice case, giving it a sturdy look and feel. Andy from FatCatLab sent me a copy of the firmware for the BeagleBone, which is a 260 MB image file that can be flashed to a micro SD card as usual. I haven’t studied it in detail yet, but it seems to be a rather stripped down distribution compared to the regular Debian Linux distribution for Beaglebone Black. When you turn it on, it directly boots into the EV3 menu.

Actually, it works exactly like a regular EV3, but you can still do all the things you can do with the BeagleBone Black! (Oh, and did I mention the larger, 4-color, backlit display?) At the moment, the documentation and hardware schematics are still under development, but I look forward to creating my own code to access the hardware without using the EV3-like firmware. (The EV3 firmware is very nice, but if I wanted to use it, I could just use the regular EV3 brick).

To test it, I modified the BRICK SORT3R from The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book and replaced the EV3 brick by the Beaglebone Black and the EVB cape. Everything worked right out of the box, and it can simply be programmed from the standard LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 software. Check out the video of the robot in action below!

 
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EV3 Holiday Gift Guide: LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Starter Pack

Do you want to build robots with your kids, but not sure where to start? Have a look at this Amazon list for inspiration.

The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 kit, combined with the EV3 Discovery book and the EV3 Idea Book, should give you everything to get started building and programming your own robots and master the many possibilities of the EV3 set.

Tips for Mum and Dad for a trouble free start on Christmas morning:

  • You need 6xAA batteries for the robot and 2xAAA batteries for the remote.
  • You need a PC or MAC computer to program the robot. Download and install the free software in advance for a head start. (But make sure the kids don’t see it!)
  • Read Chapters 1-4 of the EV3 Discovery Book before you wrap the gifts. The EV3 has so many features it can be a bit overwhelming when you’re getting started. With the basics at hand, you’ll be ready to help your kids making their first robot and first program.
 
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LEGO-EV3-Roboter: Discover EV3 in German!

ev3-roboter

The long-awaited LEGO-EV3-Roboter is now available! It’s got everything you love about the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book, but now completely rewritten in German. Just like the English edition, this translation is in full-color.

I didn’t receive my first copy yet, but based on the previous translations by dpunkt.verlag, I’m sure it’s really good. You can get the book from Amazon.de or directly from the publisher.

 
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EV3 Home Edition or EV3 Education Edition: Which one to buy?

Want to buy a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robotics kit, but not sure which version to get? This article gives some considerations that may help you decide. For an unbiased, detailed overview of all the differences in terms of LEGO elements, software, and so on, read this article instead.

What’s the main difference between the two versions?

There’s one set designed for kids and hobbyists (Home Edition, #31313), and one set designed for students and teachers (Education Core Set, #45544). The contents of these sets are actually quite similar. Both sets let you build and program autonomous and working robots. They use the same technology, the same programmable EV3 brick, and essentially the same programming software.

The sets differ mainly in the type of sensors and LEGO Technic building elements that come in the box. Accordingly, the sets let you build different types of robots. While the Education Edition has an emphasis on building “functional” robots, the robots you can build with the Home Edition are not only functional, but also fun to play with.

Do I have to choose between “Education” and “Fun”?

Not really. Don’t let the apparent differences between the sets fool you. Since the sets use the same technology, you can just as easily make functional robots with the Home Edition, and of course you can make your own “fun” robots with the Education Edition.

For example, the Home Edition comes with a remote control so you can make the robot come to life even before you start programming. And once you get to the programming, the Home Edition has just as much “educational value”.

On the other hand, the Education Edition includes an extra touch sensor and a gyroscopic sensor. For example, you can use the gyro to increase the accuracy of the robot as it turns.

Fortunately, you can buy both the remote control (and receiver) and the gyro sensor separately, so you can always “upgrade” your robot later, regardless of which base set you start with.

Why would I get the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition (#31313)?

EV3 Home Edition (#31313)

EV3 Home Edition (#31313)

The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition (#31313, ~$350) provides lots of opportunities to learn robotics in a playful way. It comes with everything you need to get started building 17 cool robots (12+5). You can program the robots with a computer using free software, control them with the remote that comes with the set, or control them with your phone with a specialized app.

As you explore the possibilities of building robots and controlling them with the remote, you can gradually move on to programming to make your robots autonomous and move by themselves.

This can be a great way to spark your kid’s interest in robotics without making things too complicated at first. For example, you can build the robotic snake using the instructions that come with the set, and play with it using the infrared remote. Later on, you can program it to move across a room on its own, and use sensors to respond to its surroundings.

But can I teach my kid robotics with the Home Edition?

Yes! The Home Edition, too, contains all the elements required to learn to build and program autonomous robots, including motors, sensors, the programmable brick, and software. And don’t worry if you’re not a robotics engineer yourself. There are several guidebooks that teach you and your kid the ins and outs of the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 system, including how to build and program working robots. (In fact, most of these books require that you have the Home Edition set; you’ll need the building pieces from that set to complete the projects in these books.)

For example, The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book helps you learn to build and program your own robots as you create a series of increasingly sophisticated robot projects. Numerous challenges throughout encourage you to think creatively and apply what you’ve learned from the example projects. (Note that I wrote this book, so I’m biased. Don’t forget to check out other EV3 books too!)

Why would I get the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core set (#45544)?

EV3 Education Core Set (#45544)

EV3 Education Core Set (#45544)

The LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core set (#45544, ~$340) was originally designed for use in the classroom, featuring a rechargeable battery and sturdy storage boxes. The set also contains a gyroscopic sensor, which can be used to create a self balancing robot. The set doesn’t have a remote control, so you’ll have to begin programming right away.

The set does not come with as many building and programming instructions. (To get the instructions and the programs, you’ll have to purchase a $99 software license.) However, if you already have a lot of LEGO Technic and if you’ll mostly be designing, building and programming your own robots, this may be the set for you.

Where do I buy LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3?

You can buy the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition at:

You can buy the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Education Core set at:

 
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EV3 robots coming to Utrecht, Netherlands

Published on October 16, 2014 by in Other

snatch3rbook

Do you want to see some cool EV3 robots in action, or have you always wanted to meet some of the world’s leading MINDSTORMS robot builders and programmers? Then come visit the LEGO MINDSTORMS booth at LEGOWorld in Utrecht, the Netherlands between 16-22 October.

I’ll be there on 17-19 October to demonstrate the robots featured in the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book. I’ll also have a limited amount of books for sale. If you already have a copy and if you want me to sign it, just bring your copy with you!

 
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New Wireless Bluetooth console for BeagleBone Black

Wireless Bluetooth console for BeagleBone Black

Wireless Bluetooth console for BeagleBone Black

When we developed the Zebro Light robot featuring the (original) Beaglebone, we frequently had to go out for field tests. Inside the university building, we could use WiFi to program and debug the robot, but this was impractical (and occasionally dangerous) as the robot walked outside of the WiFi range.

Open Electrons has come up with a solution: the BBConsole. BBConsole gives you wireless access to the console using Bluetooth. The device fits in the space between the BBB headers, so you can continue using capes without conflict. You’ll want to hurry, though. The Indiegogo campaign has only just over a week left.

They’ve developed several apps to control the BeagleBone Black from supported phones. Open Electrons told me that the console will also work with a PC or Laptop if you have a Bluetooth 4.0 USB dongle. (Handy if you need to hit CTRL+C really quickly when the motors on your robot start to move unexpectedly!)

 
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BRICK SORT3R: Sort LEGO bricks by color and size

Published on August 22, 2014 by in EV3
BRICK SORT3R can sort LEGO bricks by color and size.

BRICK SORT3R can sort LEGO bricks by color and size.

Have you always wanted to sort your LEGO bricks automatically? Now you can build a robot to do it for you! BRICK SORT3R can sort LEGO bricks by color and size. Check out a video of the robot in action below:

Tutorial

Do you want to build your own brick sorting machine? Complete step-by-step building and programming instructions are available as a free download for readers of the The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book.

Already have the book? Start building right away! Only one LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set required. (And some bricks to sort, of course.)

BRICK-SORTER-Build

Building and programing instructions are available as a free download for readers of The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book.

 
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Where to buy the EV3 Discovery Book

Published on August 20, 2014 by in Writing

This post provides a summary of the best options to purchase a copy of the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discover Book. Wherever you are, there are so many options!

lavar3xpr-ytframe

Quick summary:

  1. From the publisher: Great price; Free ebook.
  2. Amazon.com: Best price inside the US.
  3. The Book Depository: Great price; Free worldwide shipping.
  4. Your favorite web shop: Most convenient.
  5. Your local book store: Keeps the book stores around for longer.

1. Get it directly from the publisher: No Starch Press

2. Get it from Amazon

3. Get it from the Book Depository

4. Get it from your favorite online retailer

There are plenty of other online retailers in the US and worldwide. Chances are, your favorite online retailer has it for you. Just use one of the following search terms:

  • Author: Laurens Valk
  • Title: The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book
  • ISBN: 978-1-59327-532-7 (Or, search without dashes: 9781593275327)

5. Get it from your local book store

Large book stores in the US or Canada such Barnes and Noble may have the book in stock. Look for it in the computer books section. If you’re not in the US or Canada, or if you want to support your favorite local book store, ask whether they can order it for you. The following details should help the staff find the book in their system:

  • Author: Laurens Valk
  • Title: The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book
  • ISBN: 978-1-59327-532-7

6. Write a review

How was your experience reading this book? Consider leaving a review or rating at the website where you purchased your copy. There are many books about LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, and reviews help make new readers a more informed choice. Thanks!

Note that I am not responsible for sales. This page was created merely to help you find the easiest option. Prices and shipping details are subject to change any time without notice.

 
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New EV3 Building Idea Book by Isogawa

Published on August 6, 2014 by in New Products

Yoshihito Isogawa, known for his marvelous mechanical contraptions, has announced a new book that will be released in October. The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book contains pictures of numerous small and sophisticated mechanisms to use in your own EV3 robots. Best of all, you’ll need just one LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set to build each mechanism.

This book will be a great addition to books that cover EV3 programming along with complete robot designs such as The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book.

EV3-IB_cover-front

Here’s the full description from the publisher’s website:

The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book introduces you to hundreds of creative ways to build amazing mechanisms with the EV3 kit. This nearly wordless, photographic book will have you building mechanical contraptions and testing them out. Each model in the book includes a list of the parts you’ll need and photographs from every angle, so you can recreate it without the need for step-by-step instructions. Experience the joy of hands-on discovery as you explore Isogawa’s inventive and captivating creations.

You’ll learn to build cars with real suspension, steerable crawlers, ball-shooters, grasping robotic arms, and other creative marvels. Each model demonstrates simple mechanical principles that you can use as building blocks for your own creations. Best of all, every part you need to follow along is in one EV3 kit!

Requirements: One LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set (LEGO SET #31313)

 
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When you let robots do PR (they take over the world)

Published on July 12, 2014 by in EV3 News, Writing

EV3 robots aren’t quite ready yet to assist in the household, but they can make themselves useful in other ways. I asked LAVA R3X to narrate my latest video for the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book. I think he did quite well.

After I uploaded it, I realized that he’s actually asking people (you, dear reader) to duplicate him on your end of the globe. Maybe it’s a secret plan to take over the world…

Leave a comment below if you build LAVA R3X. If we keep track of all the clones, we may be able to contain this situation before it’s too late.

 
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