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MindStorms Madness 113

plluke writes "I'm a Teaching Assistant for a course named CS148: Building Intelligent Robots offered by the CS Department at Brown University. Our robots were made/programmed/run on Lego MindStorms (with LegOS). Tres funky results include probabilistic sonar mappers, a bipedal walker, and a bartender. The final exhibition page is here and contains the aforementioned funky results."
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MindStorms Madness

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  • Mindstorms + CS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ViXX0r ( 188100 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:22PM (#3621253) Homepage
    In my "Advanced Architechture" course at university, we got to build robots out of mindstorms as well... had to find their way around a maze and other various tasks. Interesting entries. Definately cool and a fun semester.
    • Re:Mindstorms + CS (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why do you go to a university where they only work with Mindstorms? Wouldn't it be much better for you if you were working with real robots?
    • Boooring (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cscx ( 541332 )
      Honestly, I don't see why this is front page material. I programmed Lego Mindstorms in C using legOS in one of my intro to engineering classes. The difference was that instead of the sole requirement of "being really cool," ours actually had to perform a specific task; i.e., autonomously maneuver through a 10x10 ft maze while keeping accurate track of distance and perform various tasks. We were graded on our ability to complete the task, and the amount of time required to complete the task, not solely "was it cool or not," although that was a part of it. Oh yeah, and the code. =)

      The big headache was that you had to compensate for the shitty quality control in the Lego components whose tolerances are so absurdly wide that it's just ridiculous. Also, you have to work within the restrictions of a certain number Lego parts, with little to no modification. It's more of a challenge than "see how many legos and custom sensors you can buy/make."

      My point is, however, that if everyone who has worked with Mindstorms submitted their stories and pictures to Slashdot, we'd need a dedicated section called http://diaries-of-college-students-who-worked-with -mindstorms.slashdot.org. We'd also have 25 stories a day posted to that section. Nothing new here that is worth seeing.

      A TCP/IP enabled RCX? [fh-hamburg.de] Now that's cool!
      • The funny thing is, most people play with LEGOs when they are in elementary school. Some people, however, play with them their entire lives. And if you thought they were expensive when you were a little kid, just look at the price for the ones that do your laundary for you!
      • "shitty quality control in the Lego components whose tolerances are so absurdly wide that it's just ridiculous."

        Sir, these are TOYS, not industrial components. For toys designed to ease children into programming and systems designed, they're very good. Absurdly wide tolerances allow you to get results quickly even with crappy code, which is pretty much all the default programming environment allows. And the poor quality itself allows the components to be affordable. It's fine you don't like them, but please don't slam Mindstorms because they aren't suited for serious work. They aren't, but nor are they meant to be.
  • Bird Course! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by geoffsmith ( 161376 )
    Bah, I made a bipedal walker out of Robotix when I was 10 years old. Great toy, by the way.

    Websurfing done right! StumbleUpon [stumbleupon.com]
    • Re:Bird Course! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Wergythu ( 579219 )
      I'm a Brown ugrad who saw the walker demoed...the cool thing about it was not that it walked, but that it started with no knowledge of how to walk (ie used random movements) and over a series of attempts learned which sequence maximized distance travelled per step. (Obviously there were some constraints placed on the movements so that it couldn't fall over or break itself.)
  • There's nothing better than a robotic bartender.
    One of my buddies in high school 'borrowed' a robotic arm and tried to do this, if only we'd had Lego Mindstorm...
  • The classes have gotten much cooler since I graduated in 1990: back then, I thought Authorware Professional was neat. :-)

    Garrett '90
  • by donnacha ( 161610 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:26PM (#3621270) Homepage

    From the course intro page:

    The only requirement for the project is that it be "extremely cool"

    This is the sort of academic requirement I can live with!

  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:28PM (#3621281) Homepage
    Subscribe to the lego-robotics [mailto] mailing list.
  • punish those annoying spammers. Hunt them down and beat them, or unplug their coffee makers...a robot to fetch my coffee, that would be nice.

    I can also envision a robot hitting ALT-F4 when I get those annoying pop-ups.

    If only I had the money for these robots [thinkgeek.com] then I would have something to do at work other than post!

  • I know it's probably hard to kill a .edu, but those detail pictures are about 1.5MB each. /.ing here we come
    • you know what the great part about that comment is? If it goes down, it will be me at the CIT (Center for Information Services) at Brown tomorrow morning muttering, "goddamnit..." (I am one of the current SPOC's [brown.edu] for the CS department at Brown =)

      Anyhow, I don't think you guys are capable of it ;-)

  • Funky. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Matt2000 ( 29624 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:48PM (#3621329) Homepage

    I'm not sure, but I think the use of the word "funky" was banned internationally in 1984. Unless you're into crafts with beads and rope, I'd suggest avoiding the word.

    Also, prefixing it with "Tres" is seriously fucked.
  • Does Brown use a different style course numbering than the rest of the world or is this a freshman level CS class? If so, damn. I'm at the wrong university.
    • Re:CS148?? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Whoops, some of those brackets got turned into html... let's try this again

      under 100 = intro
      over 100 = concentration
      over 200 = grad
  • Does noone have a clue about Navigation?
    Striking a Theme?
    I'm wondering about the quality of this program, folks.
  • Courseware at Brown (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I think the projects are fantastic. If only one of these people develops a novel, useful application of robotics, we will be a step closer to colonization of space, and obsolescence for those pesky prolitarians.
  • now then, which of those projets got the best grades, because they all seem pretty damn cool to me. wish there was a class like that in my school.
  • by digitalcowboy ( 142658 ) on Saturday June 01, 2002 @12:26AM (#3621415)
    These robots are all cool but I quickly found my two favorites.

    For non-technical reasons, the RoboTender (bartender robot) is by far the coolest. They even make a point of mentioning that this bartender will never cut you off. Pretty cool for a bunch of geeky CS students.

    On the technical side, by far the one that impresses me the most is the Bipedal Robot. It starts only understanding 3 basic commands and being fed a random sequence of those commands. Then it uses trial and error in the form of "genetic algorithms" to "learn" how to walk. As an enthusiastic but very amateur programmer, that amazes me.

    Anyway, I have to go now. Speaking of bartenders, the wife has been drinking tonight and every time that happens she gets all worked up and "needs" me for something.

    (Contrary to popular belief, not everyone on Slashdot is sex starved. That woman's hitting her "prime" and wearing me out!)

    • Man, you are desperate. The red-head Denise story was off topic (though entertaining, I have to admit) enough, but to resort to this sort of blatant, sexual anecdote just so you can modded up is really, really low.

      If anything deserves to be called karma "whoring" this is it.

    • We need a new mod category:

      "-1: Too much information"
  • But I have to say, the "robotender" makes me want to pick up a Mindstorms kit. I wish this is what *my* CS classes had been all about. Kudos to Brown for allowing innovation and experimentation in learning!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Sure, go ahead and buy some mindstorms. Just wait 'til you see the price for Lego alcohol. And I though the bricks were pricy!
  • The immediate effects of this will be bartending bots pouring drinks for Drunks stumbling to the bar, lead by their sonar mapping, bi-pedal guide bot.

    Thank god for University research, or we wouldn't have the advances in drunkology that we do today. hic-up. hic-up
  • Call me a cynic, but it sounds like this guy is just out to plug his class to help with future enrollment and/or generating press for the CS community at Brown. I mean I go to USC and our intro to robotics class, CSCI 445 [usc.edu], had to create Mindstorms that played soccer, yet I didn't go plugging it. Oops guess I did.

  • This is wonderful! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by batkid ( 448363 )
    Ever since I had a chance to play with a set of LEGO Mindstorm around 1 year ago, I was convinced that this is a great tool for CS education. Since then, I have taken up a teaching position at a college in Computer Science and I've been trying to get the department to use Mindstorm to teach first year CS. I believe that this can be done and will be good for the students. Knowing that another university is doing the same thing is very reassuring.

    Apparently, this course is either their second/thrid course in CS. What do you guys think of using Mindstorm as a first course in CS?
    • Not reasonable- debugging stuff on the mindstorms is a serious PITA. The best course of action is to write it right the First Time- not something that often happens with first years. That said, if you taught them to program something PC side that then remotely controlled the robot, it might be debuggable/doable for first years while providing a /lot/ more interesting feedback than typical first-year projects.
  • Can anyone suggest what should I do with my lego that can be controlled over the net?

    I already made a controllable webcam [man.ac.uk] and hamster powered [man.ac.uk] an asynchronous processor during my pathetic efforts to avoid writing my thesis.

    I was thinking of motorizing the limbs of a stuffed toy we have in the group.
  • "Extremely cool" would be a lego robot that can build other logo robots. Or at least other lego stuff.
  • Does anyone know of a robot (built with Mindstorm product or some other) that can flip a book and turn its pages as it photocopies it on a standard home scanner?

    This would help me in my book digitization project since the books are too valuable to destroy by cutting off their spines.
  • My school is about to offer a similar course using legos, but I am a little dissapointed we aren't soldering microcontrollers onto boards ourselves and interfacing with off the shelf motors and sensors. I haven't used the lego system - is there necessarily more to learn from buying a few PIC micros, steppers and sensors, and assembling the system from something closer to scratch? Is there anywhere close to the same flexibility with legos?
  • The constant barrage of misspelled words and incorrect words is tiring.

    Do people know that there are two words, "then", and "than"? (See WineX headline for this common mistake.) Have people heard the expression "i before e, except after c"? Certainly our programmers [brown.edu] of tomorrow don't know it.

    It's just embarassing that so many people even make it out of high school with abysmal written communication skills.

    # rant +

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson