7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Projects that require the solution of complex problems, Jan 2, 2023
In the fall semester of 2003, I taught a special topics course in robotics at Mount Mercy College with two students. A Lego Mindstorms kit was purchased and in the first segment of the class, the students built a robot and programmed it to move around the halls. We then moved on and used a more advanced robot in the remainder of the class, because I did not consider the Lego kit to be sophisticated enough. From some of my professional communications, I learned that entire college classes are being taught using only Lego Mindstorms kits.
After reading this book and evaluating the projects, I am now completely convinced that Mindstorms kits are all you need to teach a robotics class. Some of the projects in the book are a giraffe that simulates feeding, a flashlight follower, a robot painter, robots that communicate with each other, a machine that makes bubbles in response to stimulation, an infrared fax machine and even a submarine. To get these projects to work, it is necessary to solve some of the standard problems in Artificial Intelligence (AI). For example, the giraffe and all other animals require that the standard problem of getting a robot to walk be solved. The flashlight follower requires that the robot be able to dynamically process sensor input, using it to make decisions. Standard problems in machine-to-machine communication must be solved when the actions of a robot are in response to what another has told it.
The robots can be programmed using visual basic, robolab or NQC (Not Quite C). Robolab is a visual development environment where many of the actions are coded by connecting icons. The visual basic and NQC languages have many differences from their true counterparts, basically, they are stripped down versions with altered syntax.
Legos are one of the most mind-expanding toys that children can use. Applying some of the concepts in this book, they can be used as learning tools for some of the most complicated tasks that we can try to do, making a machine do intelligent tasks.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Great stuff, Apr 23, 2023
This book is a great introduction to the world of LEGO Mindstorms robots. I've been working with the LEGO Mindstorms kits for about 6 months, and I've often been frustrated by the lack of detail in the manuals for the kits. This book provides quite a bit of the missing information. For instance, it explains that you lose your firmware if you take your batteries out of your RCX for more than a minute or two (I wish that I'd seen that in a manual somewhere!). It provides a broad overview of alternatives to programming in RCX code, together with examples from each alternative mentioned for comparison. These coding examples are discussed in the text and they are also included on the accompanying CD. In addition to the coding examples, the CD also includes videos and stills of the robots described in the book. The book includes descriptions of a broad range of robots, from the very simple Acrobot robot featured in the Constructopedia, to robots designed by school kids, to robots designed by parent-kid teams, to advanced robots using IR communication and data logging. In each case, Erwin provides the details of the development process, how the robot was first conceived, how it was developed, and how the design problems were identified and solved. This approach makes the book much more than a simple code cookbook- -it explains to parents, teachers, and older kids how robots actually come about. Scattered throughout the book are "Asides" that explain various topics such as LEGO geometry, how to calculate gear ratios, understanding compound gear trains, programming decisions, etc. The book includes appendices of useful information, a bibliography, an excellent glossary, and an index.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful:
Geared towards a younger audience, Jan 5, 2023
I've read both this book and Dave Baum's Definitive Guide and both are excellent. I enjoyed Baum's book more because it caters to an older audience: Baum seems to be writing to an older reader, there's an emphasis on the programming aspect of Mindstorms, and there are more semi-advanced projects.
Erwin's book is a thousand times better for children. The brilliant full-color pictures blow away Baum's black and white book. Erwin is a genuinely interesting author and obviously loves teaching.. Anyone who wants to teach a class with Mindstorms should take a look at the book, because it's full of great "this didn't work, but THIS did" anecdotes.
Ultimately, this never really goes above that level. Teachers and younger students should purchase this book, because it's a beautiful guide and will inspire quite a few youngsters. For the robotics engineers, programmers, and older geeks who wish that they'd had Mindstorms as a child, check out Baum's Definitive Guide - it's definitely more of what I was looking for.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
More than just a ?do this? book!, Aug 26, 2023
The thing I like most about this book is the numerous "Asides" found throughout the book. The author takes the opportunity to explain scientific, engineering, mechanical, musical, etc. concepts and principals. The book includes not only how each of the 30 projects works, but he also discusses the trials and errors he made along the way. This background on how he solved different problems allows the reader to learn how to develop better machine, creations and robots of their own imagination.
53 of 53 people found the following review helpful:
Great for FIRST LEGO League Teams!, Aug 11, 2023
Last year I coached a FIRST LEGO League team of 4th and 5th graders we took 2nd place in California State, as well as the Rookie All Star award. I used a large variety of materials pulled from various sources, but I was really frustrated by the lack of a book that would be directly accessible to kids as well as adults. I discussed my frustrations on LUGNET and was *thrilled* to find out that Ben Erwin was in the final stages of just such a book. I used a pre-press version of the book with my team in the late stages of the competition and they all loved it and wished they'd had access to it earlier. When it finally got through the publication process, I snapped it up immediately!
All I can say is WOW! The pre-press was pretty nice, but the final book is absolutely *gorgeous*.
While there are lots of great mindstorms books out there (most notably Dave Baum's) this is the *only* one that covers ROBOLAB, the standard for RCX programming in educational scenarios as well as the standard LEGO-provided programming environment.
If you're an adult needing inspiration for your own robots, or if you have kids who like mindstorms, this book belongs in your collection!