Andy Anderson's Lego® Pages
Mindstorms® is a way for frustrated Engineers like me to butcher stuff the way we used to. I don't need to disguise a whole load of bent bits from the boss, but equally I don't need to worry about client relationship management, budget over-runs or year-end appraisals. Someone else described it as "the coolest toy ever for geeks" and it's certainly cool. My hat is off to everyone at MIT and elsewhere who were part of the concept. It was, for various reasons (the story is here if you want), a foregone conclusion I'd get one. It's maybe not the cheapest (or smallest) box to buy, but in terms of hours spent learning things and enjoying it, for me it's far better value for money than a games console.
I started from a position of no knowledge. It must be twenty years since I had any kind of construction set, and things have come on quite a way since then. The late David Pritchard and I were discussing the kit and he had decided that it was a much more interesting environment than the standard teaching kit they were using. Sadly, I didn't have time to direct him to sites like Mindfest or The University of Aarhus, so the best I can do is to lay out my learning experiences for other people to read. Okay, David? I'm posting the notes and build-ups as I go along and as I have time. Where someone points out a straight error, I'll correct it. Where I learn new things as I go along, I'll add them as sidebars like the one on the right, with links to the new stuff. I certainly don't mind admitting when I've made a mistake or learnt something new: it's part of the point of the thing. Learning by your own mistakes is better than not, but learning by someone else's is much cheaper in the long run.
The next two projects taught me a lot, but essentially failed, probably for some of the reasons that are outlined here. And they also gave rise to another concept model.
There's a bit of a school of thought on the Mindstorms ring that text content on a web-page is everything. Fine, but if it looks good as well, people may find it easier to read. As with my projects, I seldom add components just for the sake of it, but I do try to make things look reasonable.
There are a number of good Mindstorms® books out there that will take you way beyond the manual. Recently, I found NoStarch, which has a new robotics centre, with two books on it, one by Joe Nagata with ten robots, and a forthcoming one by Jim Sato which will apparently include instructions for building a robot dog. Joe Nagata's book is reviewed in my 'books' section and NoStarch have also kindly put a number of the construction sequences up on their site. Thanks, folks.
text copyright© Andy Anderson, 1999-2001
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