Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NXT Projects on NXTLog

Lego has a website where you can post your Mindstorms NXT projects and I've put up a couple. Here's the direct link to my projects. Another way to see mine is to click on the link of my username, MasterEngineer555. This will bring you to the projects of that user. So if you don't have the above link, go to the website, search my username, and click on it (other people have mentioned me and my projects, so more than just my projects will come up in the search). I won't write about these projects here since they've already been posted elsewhere, but I'll write about new ones of course.

List of my projects as of now (go to their pages to see more):
  • Joystick Controlled Car
  • Scientific Rubber Band Shooter
  • Collatz Conjecture (program that simulates it)
  • Valentines Box 2
  • Front Wheel Steering Car
  • Peaucellier-Lipkin Linkage
  • Mortar Launcher
  • Balancing Car
  • Choosing Programs
  • Sensor Graphing and Recording Programs
  • Scanner
  • Valentines Box

Sunday, June 20, 2010

FIRST Robotics

FIRST is not really a resource, but it's very important to me and I'd like to include it in these first resource posts. FIRST is a non-profit organization that runs multiple youth robotics competitions with the vision of inspiring kids about the benefits of science, technology, engineering, and their careers. The name is an acronym that means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. It was founded in 1992 by Dean Kamen, an entrepreneur and the inventor of the Segway, and has competitions for elementary, middle, and high school age students.

FIRST is amazing because it promotes the values of science, technology and engineering. They recognize that you can do great things, help the world, and learn valuable life lessons in these fields. They give a competitive, enjoyable, and insightful medium for exploring what these and related careers are all about. The competitions put a focus on learning from adult mentors that can guide and further enrich this experience better than the students could on their own.

I participate in a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) high school team, where teams build robots out of real-world parts in six weeks that plays in a competitive game which changes each year. I have learned a whole lot from the experience and have further strengthened my passion for engineering.

Lego Mindstorms NXT

Here's another resource I have, which is the Lego Mindstorms NXT kit/system. It is a robotics Lego set with which you can build and program fairly sophisticated (or simple) robots.

It uses the Technic building system, which has beams, axles, and snap-connector pins instead of the studded bricks in the Basic building system. This is the second main Mindstorms version since the old RCX sets (which were yellow and blue). There is a main computer/controller called the NXT Brick, 3 servo motors, and 4 sensors: touch, sound, light, and ultrasonic (distance). I have the first NXT version; v. 2.0 has different Lego pieces for building, a little bit of upgraded software, a color sensor, and another touch sensor in place of the sound sensor. The programming software that comes with the kit is a graphical programming language called NXT-G.

The NXT is so useful because it provides a ton of simple possibilities with this one kit. A lot of engineering and design concepts, problems, and projects can be worked out, it's all simplified because it's done with Lego, but still can be very sophisticated, and it's a lot of fun! Just because Lego makes toys for little kids too does not reduce the age range and excitement of this kit. There's so many amazing things that anyone can make with it; just throw it into Youtube to see for yourself.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


One of my 'resources' is Arduino. Simply said, this is a small, programmable computer that one can use with electronics projects. They're designed by an Italian open-source organization. Mine looks like this, it's the Arduino Duemilanove:

In more detail, it's really an open source system for making such computers, which are called microcontrollers. The Arduino organization has taken this system and made a couple Arduino microcontrolers that you can buy, but the idea is that you can take their plans, parts, and ideas and make your own if you want. This has been very popular in the hobby world and many people have built other versions, helped the Arduino organization with their development, and mostly made other devices to be used as "addons" for the microcontrollers. There are a couple Arduinos that are available to buy: the Duemilanove, Mega, and Nano, and Lilypad. The Duemilanove is the "normal" sized one in terms of input/output ports and memory, the Mega basically has more of everything compared to the Duemilanove, the Nano is designed to be very small and you need to connect to it manually, and the Lilypad is designed for use in fabric or clothing.

Arduino is great because it offers a clear, easy, cheap way of doing projects and experimentation. There is lots of documentation and help and you are free do go at your pace. It's cheap (the Duemilanove costs $30!), although you do need to buy lots of "accessories" like wires and motors that you actually do stuff with. The programming experience is also really great. Arduinos are programmed in the C programming language and the software you can download is very nice and simple. I've worked a little bit with other C programming software and they are very detailed and "heavy duty," which is very hard to learn with. The Arduino software interface is very simplified and there is lots of help out there to teach you how to program.

So I'm very happy with Arduino because it is a great resource for projects and offers a very good learning experience. I'd recommend it over anything else to someone who was interested.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Minor resources

Here's some websites and resources that I don't really "follow" or don't really qualify as a resource but they're cool, inspirational, and worth mentioning. - A woodworking site where Mathias Wandel publishes his projects and other things. Great projects and concepts. - Vi Hart is a college student who explores ideas in math and music. She makes very good and entertaining videos. - Bill Hammack has made amazing videos about science and engineering. He mainly does segments on radio about explaining technology. His videos have gotten many mentions and praises. - An MIT college student who has his projects on his site. Lots of great ideas and explanations.

University of Nottingham: Brady Haran is a video journalist at the University of Nottingham in England. He has made videos about the things that various departments do. The best known is the Periodic Table of Videos, with a video for every element. Sixty Symbols is for physics (and some mathematics) and has (more than sixty) videos on various symbols and concepts. - IEEE Spectrum is IEEE's magazine, and their website has many good articles on electronics and technology. (They host the IEEE Automation blog on robotics.) - Very good Arduino learning resource and store, their products are great for small and large products. - This guy plays around with high voltage, tesla coils, and other high risk electronics. - Waterloo Labs is a group of National Instruments engineers who have made sophisticated projects that are quite cool.

Lego and Mindstorms: - Tinkernology is a Lego Technic blog, where the author posts his Lego and robotics findings and projects, among some other non-lego things. - Sariel makes models out of Lego and incorporates brilliant building techniques and concepts. He makes a lot of cars and such that are powered in interesting ways. - Xander makes mostly Mindstorms projects and includes a lot of electronics in them. - Philo is a Lego Mindstorms enthusiast that has some really ingenious projects. - This site is devoted to giving Mindstorms project and all of them are amazingly designed and thought out.

I use these to research math concepts. - WolframAlpha is a mind blowing computational search engine from Wolfram Research. It will give you computational, factual answers to your questions (to a limit). Experience it for yourself, it's no cheezy scam. Here's a very good intro video. - A mathematics encyclopedia from Wolfram Research. - The mathematics stack exchange is a sort of forum or comment system to ask about math problems. Anyone learning any level of math is welcome, and there are many high-level topics discussed.

Main resources that I follow

Here's a list of the websites and blogs I follow. These are the ones I very regularly follow and save links from. - Make: (styled with the colon) is an organization whose main product is a DIY magazine, but also has a website and store. - Adafruit Industries is a DIY electronics kits and resources seller. Their blog is great to keep up to date on DIY electronics and news. - Hack-a-Day is a blog that compiles hacks and projects from around the web. They also have forums and some other compiled resources.

IEEE Automation - Really good robotics blog, used to be

First post

So here's my first post. I hope this blog will work out well, be interesting, and serve as a resource for myself and others (if I get any followers ;) ).
The next couple posts will be of my resources (see About Page), which are things that use for projects or inspiration. For example, the second post will be on the websites and blogs I follow. These and any new resources I get in the future will be tagged/labeled with the tag "resources," if you want to see all of them. After those first initial posts, I'll start posting about my past projects as examples, then start mixing in more current things that I discover, work on, or think about. It probably won't take too long to get caught up completely with present stuff. I guess I'm a perfectionist, so I've got to set it straight in the beginning like that :)