The Marvel of Mindstorms! (FIRST)
The Marvel of Mindstorms!

Hello World! Chloe here, with my Geared UP! teammate Mihir. This week, well investigate the brains of the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Robot Game the Mindstorms bricks and programming software.

Born from a collaboration between the LEGO Company and MIT Media Lab, Mindstorms has attracted brilliant minds and taken the world by storm!

Pick Your Brain: NXT vs. EV3

Last week, we examined mission strategy and basic robot-build principles as keys to success in the FLL Robot Game. Mapping out what your robot needs to do on the table is the foundation of a winning strategy. Of course, strategy is useless if your robot cant execute your plans. So, what is your robot thinking and doing as it tries to complete missions? Well, its all in the brain - the robots brain, that is.

Three robot brains are allowed in the FLL robot game: the RCX, introduced in 1998, the NXT that followed in 2006, and the EV3, with its debut in 2013. Most FLL teams today use NXT or EV3 when competing on the FLL game table. Sound like an alphabet soup of letters? Not sure which one to use for your robot? Lets take a quick look at the similarities and differences between the two most recent bricks, the NXT and EV3.

Similarities: Both NXT and EV3 have ports for motors, sensors, and a Bluetooth connection. The brain which is generally referred to as a brick is programmable so that your robot can move autonomously on the game table.

Differences: The latest edition of the Mindstorm brick, the EV3, can hold four motors while the NXT only holds three motors. Although both NXT and EV3 have the capability to control a wide variety of sensors, the EV3 has redesigned sensors and can support a new sensor the gyroscopic sensor. A gyro sensor measures a robots rotational motion and changes in its orientation. This new sensor in the Mindstorms lineup allows you to measure angles, and create a balancing robot.

The EV3 also has a much faster processor, a WiFi port, a backlight of programmable LEDs, a micro SD slot for extra memory, and a new programming interface called LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Software.

Along with the NXT or EV3 brick and loads of LEGO blocks, every Mindstorms kit will contain several sensors and motors for your robot to control. Depending on the kit purchased, these can include:

  • medium motor
  • large motor?
  • gyro sensor (EV3 kit only)
  • ultrasonic sensor
  • infrared sensor
  • color sensor
  • light sensor
  • ?

  • touch sensor

Youre speaking my language!

Unlike many programming languages, where you type lines of numbers and text in order to control your robot (code programming), NXT and EV3 Mindstorms software programs are based on icon boxes. Also known as command box programming, these boxes are dragged onto the screen and linked together to build a program. Entire programs can then be consolidated into single blocks known as My Blocks. Thereafter, My Blocks can be easily incorporated into larger programs. This very versatile software is great for beginner and advanced programmers alike.

Join the Robolution!

The LEGO Mindstorms community is diverse and dynamic. Members frequently share software programs and design ideas beyond their FLL robots. The creative possibilities with LEGO Mindstorms kits are practically endless. From a braille printer to prosthetic limbs, you only need to log on to one of the many Mindstorms forums to see all the amazing robots and inventions that people build with these kits.

Now that you know how to control your robots brain, you are one step further on your robotics journey! Want a quick video lesson on putting together a program with Mindstorms software? Then, check out this weeks video on a different kind of Mindstorms robot, a Sumo Robot. In the FLL off-season, Team Geared UP! enjoys building these bots to compete in the ring, and now we challenge you to build one too!

Happy programming!

Until NXT time,

Chloe and Mihir ?

Helpful Links:

MIT Media Lab

Mindstorms Kit and Software-

The Mindstorms Community

FIRST Founder, Dean Kamen, on the role of LEGO Mindstorms

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