Storming Robots Resources

This site will provide additional resources for students who are interested in furthering reinforcement at home. We try to be informative, but also keep it as conscise as possible. Hope you will find them helpful.
Robotics kit along with proper software will cost well 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 over the novelty period.

New Roboclub students are not required to purchase the hardware.

Practice Design Work

We heavily stress on developing and strengthening students' analytical skill through robotic. Thus, the proper design process is extremely important. Students should practice their design work using www.lucidchart.com. This will greatly enhance their analysis skill no matter whether they work with a physical robot or not.   If students   are good at the analysis, programming language will become just a tool for implementation. 

Practice Software Programming

Contact office@stormingrobots.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 without a physical robot.

Go to the section about "Robot Virtual World" section below to learn more.

For additional information, read the section "Improve Your Programming Skill" below.

Practice Mechanical Building

Read the section "Improve Mechanical Building skill" below.

Contact office@stormingrobots.com to obtain a 6-month "Robotics Virtual World" license at a special low cost of $10. This is a simulation software which allows students to conduct software practice at home without a physical robot.

Do note: This will help them to conduct robotics exercises at home with "virtual robots". Thus, they will not experience any mechanical issue which itselft is another important aspect in robotics.

Go here to view SR's detailed Guide to get started with Robot Virtual World.

Here is a link to the official site of the RobotC Virtual World to see what else they offer.

This is meant to be informative in order to help you making educated purchase decision.

You will need :

  1. RobotC programming Software
  2. The Mindstorms Robot Core Kit
  3. For RCJ Competition ONLY: Additional devices.


RobotC Programming Software

RobotC is robotics programming language with a nice Interative Development Environment (IDE). You purchase the $80 RobotC in two ways.

If your purchase through Storming Robots, you will be entitled to 20% rebate.

OR

You may purchase directly from RobotC website. IMPORTANT: This RobotC is not the same as the Robot Virtual World, nor the EV3 Mindstorms Icon-based Labview software.


Mindstorms Robot Core Kit

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 Base Kit :
(note: will need additional sensors for RCJ competition.)
The following information will provide you more information in order to make an educated choice.(last update: in Oct/2018. Cost and link may change over time, to get the latest.) I highly recommend you NOT to purchase "used" electronic component from unknown sources (like EBay) such as the controller brick itself, motors, etc.
  Retail Site
Parts list
Education Site
Parts list
Base Kit$350 (in 2017) $412 (in 2017)
Contains:
Color Sensor11
Gyro01
Ultrasonic 01
IR devices10
ShippingFree$15

For RCJ Competition ONLY:

You will most likely need the following sensors (in total):
3 Color Sensor ($44ea).
1 Gyro  ($33ea).
2 Ultrasonic Sensor. ($33ea)


You may also need some extra LEGO components. It all depends on what students' own design requires. You may purchase them from:

Highly recommend students to have a couple of LEGO Mechanical Book. See the section "To Improve Mechanical Building Skill" below.

Students at SR will access SR's online RobotC tutorial written specifically for SR's students:  http://learn.stormingrobots.com - locate the  Robotics Projects Track"   RobotC Packet I". Beginning students usually are asked to download and learn from the samples.

If you are seeking some strictly online learning outside SR, CMU Robotics Academy offers some good programs for sale.

In addition, at our robotics club, we heavily stress on the proper design process.  They will need to practice their mechanical design work using www.lucidchart.com. Again, this is a free software, unless you start to create bigger project which requires a pages of design.

Internal TechTalk Forum

You will find a rich set of technical topics including various categories, from beginner to advanced (professional level). SR Students may also post questions about any of their projects, as well as learning from peers.

This forum requires users registration as well as parents' permission. ONLY SR students are granted access for security reason.

Books and software for Mechanical Building

Note that mechanical building skill that we need includes ability to create structurally sound and "mobile"  contraptions for various mechanical functionalities.


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. Thus, learning the building concepts presented with focus on each mechanical effect, such as simple machines is indeed extremely helpful.

Do not underestimate the value of the following books just because it uses LEGO parts, or require only few pieces. 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 reusability.

Excellent small building exercises (highly recommended).

  • The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder's Guide by Pawel "Sariel" Kmiec : ISBN-10: 1593274343
  • The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Simple Machines by Yoshihito Isogawa : ISBN-10: 1593272774
  • The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Fantastic Contraptions by Yoshihito Isogawa : ISBN-10: 1593272790

If you do not own a Mindstorms set: If you are not ready to invest over $400 on a set and its software, but want your child to strengthnen their mechanical intuition, I highly recommend the following:

  1. Using the design work with LEGO Digital Design to design their contraption. This will build and strengthen their intuition in mechanical structure. This is a great tool to build their 3D-spatial skill too.  
  2. Purchase a few of the simple machines books and purchase pieces from online store Bricklink . This is a very low cost solution, but they will gain a great deal in mechanical building. Besides, this often helps them to increase their ability in improvising.

If you own a Mindstorms Set:

  1. The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Idea Book: 181 Simple Machines and Clever Contraptions : ISBN-10: 1593276001  
  2.  
  3. Winning Design!: LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Design Patterns for Fun and Competition by James Jeffrey Trobaugh - ISBN-13: 978-1484221044 . - Very good book as it explains functionalities for various contraptions. Not just building a complete model like most other books or the online building instructions. 
  4.  
  5. The Lego Mindstorms NXT Zoo! - ISBN-13: 978-1593271701

    Good book for youngsters to do practice at home. This allows them to build a model and apply what they have learned in robotics club.  Activities at roboclub tend to be more fun in a group environment. When they are working by themselves, activities need to tailor to individual instead in order to keep them engaged. 

  6. Consult many building instructions at http://www.nxtprograms.com - Provide many various models, but just building instructions. How much improvement in building skill will really depend each aptitude in 3D spatial skill without explanation, but just by doing.

Most Gr.8+ will start taking Algorithms in C/C++ at SR. This falls in the Storming Robots' Computer Science Track. CS Track focuses on algorithmic thinking, far beyond just the mechanics in programming. Materials also reach beyond College Level Data Structure to Algorithms. Go here for more details including syllabus.

For most Gr. 4 to 8 who are currently attending in Roboclub Level B to III, they all use either Graphical or Text-based RobotC. You may purchase the $80 RobotC in two ways.

If your purchase through Storming Robots, you will be entitled to 20% rebate.

OR

You may purchase directly from RobotC website.

Online Learning Tool:

Exercises:

Students at SR will access SR's online RobotC tutorial written specifically for SR's students:  http://learn.stormingrobots.com - locate the  Robotics Projects Track"   RobotC Packet I". Beginning students usually are asked to download and learn from the samples.

If you are seeking some strictly online learning outside SR, CMU Robotics Academy offers some good programs for sale.

In addition, at our robotics club, we heavily stress on the proper design process.  They will need to practice their mechanical design work using www.lucidchart.com. Again, this is a free software, unless you start to create bigger project which requires a pages of design.

Practice Flowchart design (very important)

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. 

We have created a facebook group where you may find interested sellers. Storming Robots is not an authorized seller for LEGO Mindstorms. Thus, we shall not be able to provide you discount.

If you are planning to participate in competitions such as RobocupJunior, you will also need more devices in additional to the core-kit, you should review "To purchase Mindstorms Robot Kit ..." section above.

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 . 

  • Is my goal to learn more about electronic, not in programming skill or A.I. portion of robotics?
  • Do I already have a good amount of trouble shooting skills?
  • Do I have the patience and maturity to be carefully responsible for parts.

If you answer "yes" to all these,  going into Arduino is an excellent choice.

Misconceptions:

I would like to point out some :

  1. My robot will perform far better if I use Arduino instead of Mindstorms.
  2. My robot will cost me much less than than Mindstorms platform. 
  3. Mindstorms limit my learning in robotics.
  4. Mindstorms is really just for younger folks who cannot write sophisticated programs. (Far from the truth.)

Looking for an pre-built Arduino-based Robot Kit.
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.

At 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. 

At our Robolcub, we select platform to maximize learning in computational thinking analytical skills.  This platform is used only after a student has successfully completed Algorithms in C/C++ Level B.

Arduino Platform:

Common sites where you will purchase parts:
  •   www.pololu.com
  •   www.adafruit.com
  •    www.robotshop.com
  •   www.mouser.com
  •   www.sparkfun.com
  •   www.mouser.com
  •   www.digikey.com

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 electronic
Ultimately, 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 others
If 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.

As far as what we use for our general Robotics with Electronics Roboclub meeting, here is the list.

Programming Software for Arduino

Note: 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:

  • Free programming software called the Sketch from Arduino.cc.  This software is not user-friendly like the Robot-C IDE, especially no debugging features  either.  Therefore, before you use this, you really should have a good level of programming and  debugging skill first. 
  • More choices have become available into the late 2015. Here is the link where you may reference to.

"Best" book recommended by our Chief Technology Advisor

note: 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).  While this is not meant to completely subsitite formal learning in electronic, it certainly brings a novice to feel much more comfortable level in working with Arduino with a smaller price tag.

Important: While you are working with the experiments, best is to keep asking "What-ifs" and experiment instead of doing exactly what the book prescribes. You will learn a lot more through problems / issues through experimentation, instead of just following exercises prescribed with step-by-step instructions.

However, the only warning is that you must ensure you do not "short" your circuit. Electronic is very unforgiving.

  Under-construction...

 The LEGO(R) Engineering by the Center of Engineering Educational OutReach program from the Tufts University.

 The Robotics Academy . This 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.

 All About Circuits You will find learning materials regarding electronics, including textbooks, video lectures, suggested engineering tools, and even worksheets to test your knowledge.

 For those who are Drone enthusiast: The Ultimate Buying Guide for Pilots in 2018