Using your LEGO Mindstorms RCX on a modern computer

Bringing back your old LEGO Mindstorms RCX to life is easier than you might expect. The bottleneck is being able to communicate with the RCX using the Infrared Communication Tower. Version 1 used a tower that was attached to the computer using the old serial port (RS232) while version 2 used a USB tower. The later is much easier to use these days since most computers still have plugs that are compatible with USB1.1. For this tutorial you will need:

We will setup a virtual machine on your host computer (Mac or PC) and install Windows XP on it. We will then install the original Robotic Invention System (RIS) so that the USB driver is correctly installed. You can then use RIS to program you RCX or you can setup many other programming environments/languages. Another problem you might encounter is that the cables used to connect the sensor and actuators to the RCX have become brittle and the isolation comes off easily. You can still buy some new cables from Bricklink.

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Tutorial on how to install and run Java on Lego Mindstorms EV3 using Eclipse on Mac OS X

This is tutorial on how to install and run Java on your LEGO Mindstorms EV3 using Eclipse and LeJOS.

We will be installing Java and the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE). This will allow us to develop your LEGO Minstorms EV3 software in Java and running it on the EV3 using LeJoS. Please let me know in the comments if you encounter any problems. I will try to keep this tutorial up to date.

You will need:

This tutorial will only get you started and you might want to dive much deeper into Java development for the EV3. These books might be useful for you:

My personal favourite for building amazing mechanism is Sariel’s book:

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Working in a “smart” building

For more than a year I have the pleasure to work in an office in the John Britten building at the University of Canterbury. The office is light, friendly and spacious. I should be more than happy but this building comes with a twist. It is smart. The room has a motion sensor and a temperature sensor. The lights are suppose to go on when activity is detected and the window is suppose to open when it becomes too hot in the room. Notice that this smart building does not have the ability to regulate the heaters. If I switch the heater fully on and thereby create a little sauna then the building will open the window instead of regulating down the heater. I am not sure if this is smart.

The biggest problem is that the window’s behaviour could best be described as neurotic. It opens and closes nervously without considering the noise it makes or the noise that the construction site outside is creating. The only way to tame this autonomous monster is to log into a website and set the window to manual. There is no switch or lever that I could use.

LEGO EV3 Robot Measures the Environment

So I ended up creating a little LEGO robot that would log the environment of the office and the opening of the window in the hope to detect a pattern. Something to convince me that there is method in this madness. Other than that the windows close at 5pm sharp I could not. But along the way I learned a bit more about information visualization on the web and how to to create a useful little logging robot. Have a look at the graph that I produced.


Tutorial on connecting LEGO Mindstorms EV3 to WiFi

This video shows how to connect your LEGO Mindstorms EV3 to your WiFi network so that you can program it away from your computer. I use the Netgear N150 Wireless Adapter (WNA1100), which is the only officially supported WiFi dongle for the EV3. The N150 is difficult to get these days, since Netgear has moved on producing newer sticks. So buy them now before they disappear completely. On the plus side, they are also very cheap right now on eBay and other market places. I got my for only 19 NZD from TradeMe.

It would be great if LEGO would support more dongles, in particular smaller ones. Furthermore, it would be great if it would be possible to use WPS. Entering your WiFi password on the EV3 is tedious. It would even be better if the EV3 would remember the WiFi password. You need to enter it every time you switch the EV3 on.


Lego Beyond Toys

This master class prepares for a new type of engineering discipline: design and creation of intelligent systems, products, and related services. The class will be a unique opportunity to get familiar with a number of powerful conceptual and intellectual tools to understand and create adaptive behavior at a system level. The context of Lego is chosen because it is already an example of a system. But in this class the creative goal is to make a leap forward, extending the scope of the existing system such that adaptive behavior becomes the central theme. The new Lego should be equally fascinating for grown-ups and children, women and men. Continue reading “Lego Beyond Toys”