The Unofficial Guide to LEGO MINDSTORMS Robots

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9781565926929: The Unofficial Guide to LEGO MINDSTORMS Robots
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The LEGO® MINDSTORMS™ Robotics Invention System (RIS) is a wildly popular kit for building mobile robots. This book contains all the information you need to get the most out of your kit. Based on hands-on robot projects, the book includes descriptions of advanced mechanical techniques, programming with third-party software, building your own sensors, working with more than one kit, and sources of extra parts. This book goes far beyond what you'll find in the official documentation to enable you to build and program whatever you can imagine.The center of the RIS kit is a small programmable robot brain called the RCX. This book explains the software architecture of the RCX as well as the various options that are available for programming it.The book includes:

  • Hands-on robot projects, with complete building instructions and programs. Different aspects of these projects are used to explore fundmental issues of mobile robot design.
  • A chapter on NQC, a popular programming environment for RIS. You'll learn how NQC fits into the RIS software architecture, as well as how to write programs using NQC's C-like syntax. Includes copious examples.
  • A chapter on legOS, an alternate operating system for the RCX. legOS provides very low-level access to the resources of the RCX, enabling complex robot programming. This chapter describes legOS's structure and includes useful sample programs.
  • A chapter on pbForth, another powerful option for RCX robot programming. The chapter includes sample programs in Forth.
  • A chapter about building your own sensors. Making your own sensors is economical and educational. This chapter describes how to build several different sensors that will work with the RIS kit.
The book includes numerous illustrations and code examples. Many URLs are listed to serve as an introduction to the thriving online MINDSTORMS™ community.

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Using a project-oriented approach, The Unofficial Guide to LEGO(r) MINDSTORMS Robots introduces programming and constructing robots using the popular robotics invention. While presenting four complete and progressively more capable robots, the author cover the usage of sensors, motors, the Infra-red (IR) port, and programming languages. Programming topics are covered well, particularly the languages NQC and pbForth, and installing replacement firmware.

Although the book is stronger at covering the software than the mechanical aspects of robot design, the assembly plans incorporate many useful features that can be used in your own designs, including a directional transmission and a single-motor grabber.

Two projects provide clear demonstrations of using the IR port for communication. One involves creating a remote control and using it to communicate with a robot; the other project creates tag-playing robots to demonstrate inter-robot communication.

The series of step-by-step, robot-building photographs are helpful, but they are in black and white and are without a lot of accompanying text. For the simpler robots this isn't a problem, but for Minerva (which is somewhat complicated and a very good learning example) they are a little difficult to follow.

The last chapter of the book includes an informative discussion on building your own sensors, getting sensor input to the RCX, and configuring sensor inputs from your programs.

A thorough introduction, this book even provides links to many online resources. If you specifically need a detailed, organized tutorial on robot mechanical issues, this book may not suit you. If, however, you are looking for a book that introduces building MINDSTORMS robots with useful examples and covers programming them, replacing their firmware, and introduces building sensors for them, this is a perfect book. --John Keogh

Topics covered: Building robots using the Robotics Invention System, programming the RCX using RCX Code, NQC, pbForth, and C, using sensors and actuators, gears, transmissions and pulleys, obtaining and installing pbForth and legOS replacement firmware, communication with and between robots using the IR port, and making your own sensors.

About the Author:

Jonathan Knudsen is an author at O'Reilly & Associates. His books include The Unofficial Guide to Lego Mindstorms Robots, Java 2D Graphics, and Java Cryptography. He is the Courseware Writer for LearningPatterns.com.

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