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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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Tutorial: Self-Balancing EV3 Robot

Published on July 1, 2014 by in EV3 Programming
BALANC3R (left) and Gyro Boy (right)

BALANC3R (left) and Gyro Boy (right)

This tutorial will show you how to build and program a self-balancing LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robot that can drive around a room. You can build and program BALANC3R (left) or Gyro Boy (right). Once your robot is up and running, you’ll be challenged to customize the construction and program to invent your own self-balancing robot.

 

Step 1: Building a robot

To begin, choose the robot you want to build, and follow the respective step-by-step building instructions.

Requirements for BALANC3R:

Click to go to the building instructions

Click to build BALANC3R

Requirements for Gyro Boy:

Step 2: Installing the EV3 Gyro Sensor block

If you’re using the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition Software, you’ll need to install the EV3 Gyro Sensor block before you can program your robot.

  • Follow the steps in this article to install the block.
  • If you’re using the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Student Edition, this block is already installed.
Intalling the Gyro Sensor block

Installing new Sensor blocks

Step 3: Download the balancing robot project

  • Right-click this link, click “Save Link As,” and save the project file to your computer.
  • Launch the EV3 programming software, and open the downloaded project file.

Before you run the programs, let’s briefly examine how they work. The project includes four example programs, two for each robot:

  • BALANC3R-Basics: Balance in place, turn right, and turn left
  • BALANC3R-RemoteControl: Control the robot with the infrared remote
  • GyroBoy-Basics: Balance in place, turn right, and turn left
  • GyroBoy-AvoidObstacles: Drive around while avoiding obstacles

Each program consists of two configuration blocks, a balance loop, and a drive control loop, as shown in the figure below.

The balancing program consists of a Balance Loop, a Drive Control Loop and configuration blocks.

The balancing program consists of a balance loop, a drive control loop, and configuration blocks.

  • The configuration blocks let you specify what the robot looks like, so that the robot knows how to balance. For example, the second setting of the first setting specifies the diameter of the robot’s wheels. The example programs come preconfigured with the correct settings for BALANC3R and Gyro Boy if you use the LEGO EV3 Gyro Sensor. If you use the NXT HiTechnic Gyro, change the Choose Sensor setting on the Initialize My Block to 1.
  • The balance loop keeps the robot balanced. It measures and calculates the position and speed of the motors, and it determines the robot’s angular velocity (how fast it’s falling), as well as the robot’s angle relative to the ground. In turn, it uses this sensor information to calculate how to drive the motors in order to keep the robot up right. You won’t need to change any setting of the blocks in this loop.
  • The drive control loop controls the speed and steering of the robot as it drives around a room using a simplified move block. This is the part of the program that you can easily customize to create your own program.

Step 4: Running the basic example program

You are now ready to download the example program to your robot.

  • If you’ve built BALANC3R, begin with BALANC3R-Basics.
  • If you’ve built Gyro Boy, begin with GyroBoy-Basics.

To start the program:

  • Hold the robot upright with its wheels on the ground. Do not hold it tightly, but hold it loosely so that it’s just between falling forward and falling backward.
  • Select the program and start it with the center button on the EV3 brick.
  • You’ll first hear one beep. Keep holding the robot in place.
  • You’ll then hear a double beep. Now release the robot and let it balance.

Your robot should now repeatedly balance in place for 7 seconds, turn right for 7 seconds, and turn left for 7 seconds.

Follow these steps if the robot doesn’t balance:

  • If it doesn’t work on the first try, repeat the steps above a few times. After a while, you’ll know which is the correct “upright” starting position.
  • Do not try to “help” the robot balance. Of course you should catch the robot before it falls, but trying to keep it upright with your hands is counter-effective.
  • Verify that the cables have been plugged correctly according to the building instructions:
    • The two Large motors should be connected to ports A and D. (If you’ve accidentally interchanged them, that’s fine. The robot will confuse left and right turns, but balancing is unaffected.)
    • The Gyro Sensor should be connected to input port 2, regardless of which sensor you use.
  • Verify that you’ve mounted the Gyro Sensor correctly according to the building instructions.
  • Verify that the batteries are fresh.
  • Verify that you are using the latest EV3 firmware (1.06H or 1.06E as of this writing).

Step 5: Running the second example program

If you’ve successfully programmed your robot in the previous step, it’s easy to try out the other example program for your robot. The robot balances in exactly the same way, but the robot’s movements are a little more interesting:

  • BALANC3R-RemoteControl lets you control BALANC3R with the infrared remote, as shown in the video above. Just press the buttons on the remote to make the robot drive forward, backward, and turn. (You’ll figure out the controls quickly.) If you don’t press any buttons, the robot just balances in the same place.
  • GyroBoy-AvoidObstacles makes Gyro Boy drive around a room while backing up from obstacles, as shown in the video above. Before you run the program, make sure that the white beams of both the robot’s arms point downward. The program relies on this starting position to make sure the Ultrasonic Sensor doesn’t detect the floor as an ‘obstacle’ when the robot’s left arm points downward.

Step 6: Customizing the program

As you’ve learned earlier, the balance loop keeps the robot balanced while the drive control loop controls the robot’s speed and steering. The two loops run simultaneously, or at the same time. In the drive control loop, you use the Move My Block to specify the robot’s speed and steering, as shown below.

movemyblock-ref

The Move block makes the robot drive and steer. In this configuration, the robot drives forward (30) while turning to the left (-15).

The robot keeps driving or turning at the specified rate until you run the block again with different values for speed and steering. The figure below shows the Move My Block in action in the basic example program you ran in step 4. The first Move block sets both steering and speed to 0, which makes the robot balance in place without turning. Next, a Wait block pauses the loop for 7 seconds, keeping the robot in the same place. Then, a second Move block sets the steering value to 20, making the robot turn to the right. After another 7 second wait, the robot starts tuning left by setting the steering value to -20.

Controlling the robot with Move My Blocks in the drive control loop.

Controlling the robot with Move My Blocks in the drive control loop

Now that you’ve learned how to control the robot, it’s time to put your skills to the test with programming challenges. To solve these challenges, you can use the techniques from the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book, presented throughout chapters 1-9. Instead of using Move Steering blocks in On mode as in the example programs, you use Move My Blocks as shown above.

Challenges for BALANC3R:

  • Make your robot drive around a room while avoiding obstacles with the Infrared Sensor in Proximity mode.
  • Make your robot follow the Infrared Beacon. As you move the beacon around, the robot should follow you.
  • Attach the Color Sensor in front of the robot’s wheels, and make the robot follow a line. You can print line following tracks for your robot from here.

Challenges for Gyro Boy:

  • Make your robot drive in different directions based on the color it detects with the Color Sensor. To accomplish this, make the robot wait for the sensor to see either a yellow, red, green, or blue object. Then, make it drive in a certain direction for 3 seconds based on the detected color, before waiting for a new color signal.
  • Make your robot show different types of faces/eyes on the screen as you interact with its sensors. Show an angry face if you press the Touch Sensor, show a happy face when you trigger the Color Sensor, and so on.

Step 7: Making your own balancing robot

In the previous steps, you’ve made BALANC3R or Gyro Boy balance on two wheels, and you learned to control it with the Move My Block. Now that you’ve got the essential components working, you’re ready to customize both your robot and your program. For example, you can turn BALANC3R into a life-like humanoid with arms, and make it talk to you. Or, go crazy and make any EV3 vehicle balance on its rear wheels. What about a self-balancing F1 style race car? Whatever you make, let others know in the comments below. Happy building!

Step 8: Further reading

In order to make this tutorial accessible for everyone with an EV3 set, I didn’t cover the details of the balancing algorithm. Rather, the design of this program makes it possible to control the robot even if you don’t know exactly how the balancing mechanism works.

However, many papers have been written about self-balancing robots, and I encourage you to read more on the subject as you explore the details of the EV3 program provided on this page. The balancing algorithm in this program is based on a Bachelor thesis written by Steven Witzand, which provides a good overview of the subject, along with Java source code that implements the balancing algorithm. In turn, this paper relies on the design and algorithm used in the NXTway-GS by Yorihisa Yamamoto, which you can study for further detail.

 
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