Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My First Robot

Actually, I didn't want to get this before Christmas. Being careful, I ordered it these days and expected several weeks', if not months', delay - but no! The guys at the Lego store had pre-ordered what must be tons of Mindstorms boxes, and so I was catapulted to a state of grace in no time. A long-time wish has come true: I gotta Mindstorms box! :-)

And here it is.

It turned out to be smaller than I had expected, but then, it's all in there: the NXT brick, a box with cables, sensors (touch, light, sound, ultrasonic!) and motors (three of them, servodrives with 1-degree precision that can also act as rotation sensors). Plus the usual bunch of items for the valued customer's building pleasure.

It's strange to see that there are no actual bricks in there (well, apart from the NXT one). None of the elements has studs, which every Lego engineer deeply adores; they rather resemble studless Lego Technics elements. But what the heck, if it works, it's fine.

Have you noticed the grey box in the back? It contains a collection of elements and instructions to quickly build an initial simple robot on wheels, which can later be extended. I think that's a very smart idea to give people a quick start.

Tonight I gave it a first try. First, I connected all the sensors and motors to the NXT, switched it on, and started the "Try Me" application, which allows for exploring all of the gear. There are some nice effects; for example, the sound sensor makes the motors rotate slower or faster, depending on the volume it's given. That was fun already. :-)

Here's the quick start box, its contents, and the sensors and motors, just before I started to assemble the "first robot". In fact, it felt much like working with Lego Technics; the missing studs weren't a problem.

And here's the robot! Cute, innit? Note how each of the wheels is connected to a separate motor, so that the robot can turn around on the spot. The third motor is also mounted, but not connected to anything. It will be used in extensions of the robot.

The NXT brick comes with a pre-installed demo program suited for this simple robot. Once the program is started, the robot starts scurrying around the place (be careful not to start the program while the robot is sitting on a table, no, don't!), beeping, turning around, scurrying and beeping even more... until it stops after some three iterations.

This little demo program already helped me find the first bug in my construction: it had a twist, which I could correct just by exchanging the two wheels.

I also installed the Mindstorms software on a Macbook Pro. It says on the box that the software only runs on Power Macs, but apparently the Rosetta technology is robust enough. Fine. I didn't really challenge the software yet, though, but I shall report on it soon.

1 comment:

  1. Das ist ja der Hammer, dass habe ich mir auch schon immer gewuescht. Also ich wuensche dir ganz ganz viel Spass damit und wenns es mal fertig ist, dann komm ich vorbei und spiel damit :-) Die Bilder da unten sind ja auch super, haette ich nie gedacht, dass wir einen Rheinfall besitzen. Coole Sache und dein neuer Arbeitsplatz sieht ja auch nicht ohne aus. Also wie es aussieht gehts auch dir ganz gut in deiner neuen Umgebung. Wuensche dir noch viel Erfolg und viel Spass in deiner Freizeit.. Bis dann, dein kleiner alter Lehrling aus der Ferne...