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Re: [vox-tech] robots and mindstorm
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Re: [vox-tech] robots and mindstorm



it's very cool to see other people are interested in this stuff!

begin David Margolis <margolid@ecs.csus.edu> 
> I own and have read O'Reilly's Unofficial Guide to Lego Mindstorms.  I
> haven't forked over the $200 bucks to get the kit yet, but I saw this book
> on sale for $17 at borders and it looked so neat that I took it home.
> Well I read the whole book in two sittings because it was SO DAMN
> INTERESTING.  The book is very good, and covers Not Quite C along with a
> way to program in (gasp) Visual Basic.

i've played around with a motorola MC68HC.  mostly getting experience
with the assembly language and the feeling of what it's like to be in an
embeded environment.

i bought the robot builder's bonanza from nerdbooks.com (eric's
recommendation) and lucked out on two counts:

1. when i got interested in robotics, my birthday was coming up (sept
12, so about 10 months ago).  managed to talk my mom into getting me
mindstorms for my birthday.
 
> So here are my reasons for not plunging in.  1. Time 2.  Money 3. I
> don't know how I can hide such fun toy stuff from my 3-year-old in our
> little house.
 
2. then i _totally_ lucked out.

being the physics department linux expert and one of the better
programmers, i got a great summer gig being a teaching assistant for
gifted high school kids (actually, gifted and rich high school kids.
this program is _very_ expensive!).

the class i teach is "numerical physics" --- using C and C++ to solve
(analytically) unsolvable physics problems.

however, this summer, i'm a teaching assistant for two classes:
numerical physics and robotics.

it's quite cool.  the students learn about robotics using lego
mindstorms with nqc under linux servers.

so last night i broke out mindstorms and built myself a roverbot that
uses "legs" to walk around.

i need to read the lego howto to figure out how to download firmware
on the RCX under linux and how i can compile / download nqc programs.

and the awesome part of all this?  i'm getting _PAID_, yes paid, to do
this.

i talk shit about grad school alot, but sometimes, just sometimes, i
have to admit grad school has its virtues.   :-)

> But I'm ready when you guys are.  I think we should have a meeting about
> this topic.
 
yes.  here are my goals:

1. learn how to make full use of the RCX under linux as quickly as
possible.  i'm thinking this shouldn't take that long.

2. apply what i've learned about the MC68HC and the PIC microcontrollers
to expand my lego stuff.

lego is cool because everything is already cut, measured and fits.  i
think the process of building a robot would be orders of magnitude
longer.


> The only Linux downside is I don't know the status of whether or not the
> little infrared beamer (which zaps your code, firmware, or whatever else)
> to the lego _brain_ (RCX).  This infrared device connects to the serial
> port, so it shouldn't be impossible to get working.  I don't remember if
> I've read any linux success stories or not.

looks like mine is USB.   it't very possible that it's a "serial over USB"
kind of thing, like the handspring visor cradle.   after buying 6 AA
batteries (ouch.  they should make a solar cell for this thing) i'll
experiment a bit and report back my results.

> I think it's amazing that this post went out because I was basically on my
> way to buy the set.
 
cosmic!   :)

> One of the things I want to work with is the audio component.  You can
> program it's little 8-bit sound engine with some cryptic sound language
> that looks kinda like cell phone ring programmable gibberish.  I think it
> would be fun to have it play little songs while it did whatever it was
> doing that you told it to do.
 
i think an eventual goal is to use lego as the structural component and
a DYI micro controller.  not only would that be a better learning
experience, but the extensibility would be greatly enhanced.


btw, did you know about the sacrobotics user group meeting this
thursday?

pete
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