|Overview Mindstorms (for all grades) Arduino Raspberry PI Other Online STEM Resources||
New Roboclub students are not required to purchase the hardware. This posting is meant to only provide parents ideas what to get in order to allow their children to further their robotics exercises at home. Storming Robots is not an authorized seller for the hardware, nor software. Therefore, we shall not be able to provide you discount; nor can we sell the items to you. RobotC (used for most of our robotics club students) provides Storming Robots 20% commission for purchases placed thru our website. You will have to go thru this link to place the order. We in-turn pass the 20% to our students in the form of rebate. We are not responsible any product change, support, and pricing and such.
Before Investing on a robotics Mindstorms KitWe provide robotics kits at the center. It is up to the parents' discretion to purchase a set at home for further reinforcement at home. SR does not mandate a child to own a set unless he/she is chosen to participate in competition. All materials must remain at the center. All our programs focus in application and analysis via the engineering process. These require creativity and outside the box thinking. This may be very foreign to some students who are used to straight-forward routines. Many of our young students demonstrate that they can retain much basic information and even apply at ease without owning a set to practice at home. On the other hand, some have great difficulty in doing even if they own a set. Robotics kit along with proper software will cost over $400. It will be irresponsible for us to recommend such investment to parents when they are not sure whether the child will sustain their interest in robotics in as short as a few months. In the meantime, we have given more information here at this site to assist you to make the decision before over purchasing the kit and software.
Mindstorms Robotics Hardware
Not ready to invest on a Mindstorms set?That's very much ok. Let's look at this in two major learning aspects:
Mechanical Building :They can use the LEGO Digital Design to design their contraption. This will build and strengthen their intuition in mechanical structure.
Most under-estimate the difficulty when it comes to building. Being able to seat still to build a LEGO Taj Mahal for hours does not nearly translate to ability of creating a mobile robot with sound structure. Therefore, if you are not ready to invest $350+ on a set, using the design work with the LEGO Digital Design and getting them a few of the simple machines books will be a good start.
Computer Programming :Contact email@example.com to obtain a 6 months Robotics Virtual World at a special low cost of $10. This is a simulation software which allows students to conduct software practice at home with a physical robot.
For those who are ready to invest on a LEGO Mindstorms Set (All grades)The current Mindstorms kit is called EV3 – Mindstorms. Most of our students are using either NXT or EV3 Mindstorms core set at the center.
Mindstorms is an excellent learning unit. There is no difference in learning between NXT and EV3 at their levels. Programming and mechanical building concepts are identical. Even the software we use is the same, RobotC. With our in-house expertise, we are able to stretch its learning value to an advanced level which not common among pre-college students. If you have already owned the NXT version, you do not need to invest on a new EV3 version. For learning value, there is no need to constantly upgrade to the latest hardware either.
The following provides an idea in the difference between the retail version and education version. The sites often update their detailed link. Therefore, when you reach the site, you may need to look for "Mindstorms".
To purchase a kit :You may purchase it from the LEGO Education site, or the LEGO Retail Online or store. The following shows the difference:
Home Practice for Roboclub:
Students should practice mechanical building at home. Many building samples online: e.g. www.nxtprograms.com
*** Do note: you will need to purchase the programming software RobotC to program the robot. We do not use the icon-based EV3 Labview based software.
Extra Hardware ComponentsYou do not need these to get Mindstorms as a starter kit. If you wish to do more elaborated project or participate in a demanding robotics competition, you will definitely need more components. The following list contains some typical vendors where you find extra components: Non-electronic components:
(for gears, and Technic Beams with Snaps, we recommend to purchase
them from legoeducation than bricklink) Electronic components for Mindstorms:
Mindstorms programming SoftwareFor all grades:Purchase and intall RobotC -version 4.28+. You may download and use it for Free 10 days Trial. For Gr. 4 to 6, - they use Graphical Portion of the RobotC. Both graphical and text-based RobotC come together as a single download. If you are a beginner at SR, and do have a set of Mindstorms, that's not a problem. See the "What if I do not own a robotic kit? " below. RobotC is robotics programming language with a nice Interative Development Environment (IDE). Although it does not come with a strict form of tutorial per se, it comes with rich sets of samples and very handy debugger. Online Learning Tool:
What if I do not own a robotic kit?Since we heavily stress on the proper design process, practice your design work using www.lucidchart.com will greatly enhance your analysis skill no matter whether you have the programming practices at home or not. If you are good at the analysis, programming language will become just a tool for implementation.
Books and software for Mechanical BuildingNote that mechanical building skill that we need includes ability to create structurally sound and "mobile" contraptions for various mechanical functionalities. Many may underestimate the value of the following books just because it uses LEGO parts. The great value of these books is the ability to present the true mechanical building skill without the heavy cost in time and materials because of the high re usability. Excellent small building exercises (highly recommended).
Before you invest!!!Arduino is a platform for electronic projects, not as a robotics platform. There is NO single pre-packaged Arduino robotic kit per se to allow you to build large varieties of chassis and contraptions like Mindstorms does. If your purpose is to learn about Electronics, Arduino will be a perfect and inexpensive platform to start out with. However, if your goal is to use it for a full-blown robotics project, or even (mobile) robotics competition, moving away completely away from Mindstorms may very likely not the best choice. To write about this, it will take many pages of whitepaper to give extensve explanation and comparison. Here I have included some brief highlights.
Before you invest on it, it really depends on purpose of your project .
There are some Arduino-based pre-built robotics kit. Most or all parts are already soldered on. You cannot change anything without desoldering stuff. It is nice not having to solder. However, if you are thinking about learning electronic, purchasing a completely pre-built kit very much defeats the purpose of doing away from Mindstorms. Mindstorms possesses very high learning potential in robotics and software development; if one knows what to do with it like Storming Robots does. Many of our advanced students accepted to Robotics / Computer Science program in top universities do not have much experience in using Arduino, but focusing on computational thinking development. If you are going to get a completely pre-built robot kit with Arduino, you may as well just stay with Mindstorms platform and going with hybrid model, i.e. doing cross-platform using Mindstorms as the master controller with Arduino as slave platform to gain hardware feasibility. For a full-blown robotics learning experience, especially A.I. area, adapting cross platform with Mindstorms and Arduino will still be more preferrable than switching completely to Arduino.AAt our Robolcub, we select platform to maximize learning in computational thinking analytical skills. In additional to limited resources, this platform is used only for selective advanced Gr.9+ students. This decision is based on a few factors. It is NOT because it was too difficult, but mostly due to limited resources.
Our usual resource sites:
Pre-built kit:NOTE: I am not recommending to purchase these kits. I have included these as your referernce only in case you wish to purchase pre-built kit. I found a couple of solderless ones which still allow you to easily add on various electronic devices to gain electronic learning experience with robotics platform:
Arduino based robot kit:
Suggested Basic Items to get:
For absolute Novice to electronicUltimately, you can also purchase an Arduino Starter-kit. It cost more, but at least you will get very basic parts. Just be prepared that you may acually end up to have to purchase more parts later for most of the projects conducted at the later phase of our ARduino meetings.
For othersIf your main goal is to just learning electronic, for the full learning potential to extend to Arduino platform, you should get yourself some starter materials. Some basical tools include mini screw drivers, wire strippers, etc. We have collected a general list for you here. You should use your discrection as exactly what brand, and where you wish to purchase. We are NOT representing any brand name of hardware tools.
Programming Software for ArduinoNote: All links provided here were captured in late 2016. We do not guarrantee the link will still be valid when you read this. Therefore, just like what SR has always taught its students - Be Resourceful. You should look it up.
Arduino Programming Language - Sketch or Microsoft Visual Express Studio C/C++ - 2013 and beyond. (look up the link online, as they tend to change their url often.) and download the add-on for Arduino IDE for Visual Studio. This is a far more user-friendly environment than the Sketch alone. Besides, there is a debugger available for this as well, but it is not free - Access the online Atmel Studio 6 with Arduino projects Tutorial. Which Software to get:
"Best" book recommended by our Chief Technology Advisornote: dated back 2014... The Beginning Arduino book by McRoberts. You may be able to find a PDF version of the book online. The only "downside" of this book is that sometimes the experiments go on and on. That is ok you can just skip them. The other issue with this book is that it doesn't list all the parts you need. Sometimes you get to a chapter and realize you don't have something (like a servo or a particular resistor). However, it certainly bring a novice to feel much more comfortable level in working with Arduino with a smaller price tag.
Switching To Arduino Platform for competition...
Electronic platform is very unforgiving. Simple wiring mistake will result a totally un-useable device. SR is a small organization and has limited bandwidth in terms of resources (hardware & staff). In addition, SR focuses on the development in the A.I. realm in terms of algorithmic/computational programming. Thus, in order to get involved with Arduino at SR, students should:
In addition, there is really not an easy-to-use IDE with a proven good debugger for Arduino. One would at least need to be a trouble shooter with computer programming. So, your project will not perform better just because using Arduino. It is really whether you have already had strong analytical skill and enough experience with electronic devices.
Unless there is one kit already sold as an Arduino Robotic Kit containing already fully tested compatible electronic devices, you will be looking to have to test it yourself. Remember, as long as devices "not" packaged as fully compatible, you are pretty much on your own to test in order to ensure they work well together for your need.
Other Online STEM Learning ResourcesThe LEGO(R) Engineering by the Center of Engineering Educational OutReach program from the Tufts University. The Robotics Academy . This National Robotics Engineering Consortium maintained by Carnegie Mellon University offers curriculum and activities for teaching robotics. Engineering Books Resource- College House Enterprises is small publisher dedicated to provide high-quality, reasonably priced textbooks that stress the importance of design in engineering and robotics using LEGO microcontrollers. You will find a few books based on successful practices in teaching engineering design and robotic development. Books such as: STEM By Design, Physics with Robotics.
Raspberry PI Platform:Hardware to purchase for practice
Regarding using OpenCVMany may suggest that knowing Python will be sufficient. Python greatly simplifies programming complexity, and is designed for Data Scientist to program at ease so that they can focus on a specific subject matter, not learning computational programming. Therefore, while Python is definitely a great tool, is not best tool to equip students the skill to adapt the mechanics of new modern language, and solving problems requiring various algorithms and optimization techniques.
Therefore, getting into projects with SR involving OpenCV, you should have had the following skills (or equivalent):