Building Robots With Lego Mindstorms EV3 – Features and Programming

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Mindstorms go beyond with the newest Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit designed to stay at the intersection between playing fun and learning how to build intelligent robots. Keeping the same ability for building robots, Mindstorms EV3 derives satisfaction between students or hobbyists in the area of DIY robots.

EV3 is a complete kit with materials to build a wide range of robots including here wheels, beams, studs, girders, sensors, actuators, etc. Mixing all of the pieces any user has unlimited options for building and programming intelligent robots.

The kit capabilities are endless thanks to the integration with various technologies and devices like WiFi, Bluetooth, or with devices like smartphones for control.

The programmable brick is the brain of all robots with advanced features included than ever before. Based on Linux OS, inside the brick is an ARM9-based processor with 64 MB of RAM and 16 MB flash memory. The memory can be adjusted with SD memory card and there is also presented a USB connector.

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3

Back in time, the first programmable Lego Mindstorms NXT was released in July 2006 while the second version was released in August 2009 and called Mindstorms NXT 2.0. Over four years were passed since the last release, which redesigns the DIY method of building and programming in robotics.

Mindstorms EV3 comes in educational and retail versions.

Lego Mindstorms EV3 comes in an educational version with a few minor differences than the retail version. The retail version comes with desktop graphical programming software, which is missing in the educational version. Other differences between the two versions include a series of sensors and elements.
Even the educational version does not have the desktop programming software, students can programming the robots using a graphical interface similar to the desktop version.

Everything from Mindstorms was built in the spirit of open-source development with support for a wide range of programming languages.

Lego makes a demonstration with the latest Mindstorms kit and build five different robots: Ev3storm, Track3r, Gripp3r, R3ptar, and Spik3r. The wide range of robotic applications could take shape thanks to the 550 LEGO Technic pieces together with a set of three servo motors, a color sensor, an infrared sensor, a touch sensor, and an infrared remote control.

The company also helping the community releasing the plans for several Mindstorms robots that can be the basis of new projects or used for inspiration.

Due to widespread use of devices such as smartphones, Lego company creates the opportunity to use these smart devices together with Lego Mindstorms EV3. This new Lego kit version is compatible with Android and iOS operating systems where an application allows users to control the robot.

There are two ways of programming the Mindstorms robot. One programming method uses an application that works in OS X and Windows, or the brick can be programmed directly from the control panel. The second method is a little bit difficult and it is not fast.

Programming the robot is not a difficult task and require basic programming skills. Using the drag-and-drop method users builds program elements inside a workspace having at their disposal a set of icons representing the components of the robot. This programming method offers the possibility to add constants or variables, as well as a suit of logical operators or mathematical functions.

The program is transferred to the EV3 control brick memory using USB connection or the SD memory card. The third method to transfer the programs in the controlled brick uses WiFi connectivity and an external USB Wi-Fi dongle for the control brick.

The intelligent brick is the brain of Lego Mindstorms EV3 and inside houses an embedded Linux computer designed for real-time applications. The small ARM9-based processor has available 64 MB of RAM and 16 MB flash memory. For increasing the storage memory can be used a microSD memory card.

Lego programmable brick can control up to four motors while receiving inputs from four separate sensors. It is also compatible with previous generation of Mindstorms components which extend the possibility of using. The brick supports RJ12 or mini-USB connections, Wi-Fi dongle, or microSD card slot. On the top of the brick is located an LCD display, one button for back command, four buttons for direction, and one button for confirmation. This new version of the brick includes a speaker located on the right side.

All sensors received an upgrade including here the color sensor able to detect up to six colors or the EV3 intelligent brick that could receive up to 1,000 values per second.

Features

Lego Mindstorms EV3 is a programmable kit with software and hardware components included, and a total of 594 pieces that can be mixed to build a wide variety of robots. Comparing the old NXT with EV3 there is a series of improvements including programming methods and a more powerful processor. For the first time the Lego company designs an environment that includes Linux software.

The EV3 kit includes:

  • one programmable brick;
  • two large electric motors;
  • one medium motor;
  • one touch sensor;
  • one color sensor;
  • one infrared sensor;
  • one remote control;
  • intuitive software with support for Windows and Mac;

Comparison

Compared with old versions, Mindstorms comes with improvements for processing capabilities and a wide range of sensors, actuators and technical parts.

Compared with NXT, the EV3 included a powerful processor, a higher resolution (178×128 pixels) for brick screen, USB host, SD card slot, connection to an Apple device, and Bluetooth 4.0 instead Bluetooth 2.0 available on NXT version.

Compatibility

A large part of the NXT kit components could be used in the third version of Mindstorms. Motors or sensors are components with support for the newest Lego version. We can include here the EV3 software, which is compatible with the NXT programmable brick.

Conclusion

Lego has the power to turn humans in children regardless of age, or to turn a game into a powerful source of learning. Lego Mindstorms EV3 is an easy and best way to design robots without investing a large sum of money in tools and components while the Lego pieces could be used to build a wide variety of robots.

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Dragos George Calin
Dragos George Calin is an IT analyst who graduated Faculty of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, specialization Industrial Automation and Informatics with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering, Automation and Computer Science. He has a great passion for robots and web development.
3 comments
Norman
Norman

How much more robust is the EV3 chip than the NXT chip? What are LabVIEW programmers saying? I wrote LabVIEW, a pen plotter program that worked virtually, but did not work when built. Why don't I see/hear about more people programming the bricks NXT and EV3 with LabVIEW? Not enough memory, etc.? In which language do engineers prefer to program the brick?

AndiSh
AndiSh

Hi! Thanks for the review. 3 THings to comment: - the software is not included. You shall be interNetted! But: the promised download is not there (yet, as of 28. Aug. 2013 - punishing the toooo-early-ones; but this is torture, since I'm away for a week starting on Sunday;) - the WLAN and Bluetooth are not built-in, hack, imagine, if you want to go in your home wlan with your android, please connect the wlan adapter, and plug out the bluetooth dongle before? Could have done better. Hopefully, the PCB contains at least a socket and I can put a BT/WiFi dongle inside the case in some due time. - the built-in Block Programming seems to have no (compact) way to accept IR signals to steer the motor, or read out direction and distance of the IR sender, and these features are one of the most expected and awaited by me. But I'm still breeding on the meaning of the symbols of the on-brick programming mode. - After saying OOOOh! to the background lit keys on the brick, I'm wondering if it was too expensive to include background lighting to the display. We'll fix that as soon the case is open the first time. But attach to which Out port of the processor? One would like to have a time-out after last key was pressed or program stopped to switch the LEDs off again. Well, no human creation is perfect, and we await, of course, EV4. Have fun with the kit! The kids (4 from 5 to 11yrs) have it right at the moment ;) Andi

AndiSh
AndiSh

correction: bluetooth is on-board. Wow! The app for iOs is not there yet as well, again, as of 28.8.2013 ;) Andi