Be Inspired With The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book!

The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book cover. Image: No Starch Press

The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book: 181 Simple Machines and Clever Contraptions is due out on November 20th. I’m a First Lego League (FLL) coach at my youngest son’s elementary school, so I’m always excited to check out a new Lego Mindstorms book. The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book is the latest in a series of new Lego Mindstorms-themed books released by No Starch Press. If you like, you can also check out my review of the Lego Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book to read about another one of their Lego Mindstorms book offerings. Or, you can read GeekMom Marziah’s review of the EV3.

The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book is a fresh approach to Lego Mindstorms building. For starters, it comes with a flexi binding which is both sturdy and flexible. You get the feel of a hardback and a paperback simultaneously. At 223 pages, the book is packed with content too. The material is also conveniently ordered into 6 parts: 1. Basic Mechanisms, 2. Vehicles, 3. Moving Without Tires, 4. Arms, Wings, and Other Movements, 5. Sensors, and 6. Something Extra. Plus, every page is full of multiple full-color photos. As a matter of fact, there is virtually no text in this book after the introduction. Unlike other Lego building books with step-by-step pictures and instructions, the author of the Idea Book, Yoshihito Isogawa, intends to convey the ideas and building steps through picture parts lists and several multi-angled pictures of the finished part.

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The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book page 207, idea #165. Image: No Starch Press

For example, the images on page 207 for idea #165 are meant to convey a method for triggering the touch sensor through a secondary touch. That is, you usually trigger the Lego Mindstorms EV3 Touch Sensor by directly bumping it into something. On the EV3, that means that you have to have it mounted near the “edge” of the robot. However, that might not be convenient. With this interesting device, you can mount the touch sensor farther back on the robot, and the touch sensor will be triggered by the arm sticking out from it. I found this idea to be quite clever.

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The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book page 89. Image: No Starch Press
Wheelbase configuration for FLL robot. Image: Maryann Goldman

My First Lego Team has struggled with repeatability and reliability of our robot mission runs for this year’s challenge. If the team runs the same mission 3 times in a row, the robot does not perform exactly the same way each time even though the program and starting position have not changed. It seems like the robot does not go in a straight line as well as we’d like because the wheels are a bit wobbly. I was intrigued by the extra wheel support shown on page 89 of the Idea Book.  I definitely think the team should give this design a thorough evaluation and trial at the start of our next season.

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The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book page 155. Image: No Starch Press

I’m planning some activities for my First Lego League team to do after we compete at regionals on November 8th. Up until now, the team has focused on solving mission challenges. However, I’d like to have the kids build some fun contraptions that also serve as a learning tool for engineering and mechanical concepts. I just love the scissor gear and lift shown on page 155 of the Idea Book. I think the team will be very excited to build this device and try it out!

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The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book page 214, idea #172. Image: No Starch Press

Another idea that I found very interesting is using a device to press the Lego Mindstorms EV3 brick buttons during a program based on robot movement. Check out the pictures on page 214 in idea #172. Depending on the spin of the motor, either the right or left brick button will be pushed. Ingenious!

If you have a specific problem you’re trying to solve (e.g., you need a universal joint), this would be a great reference book to review for ideas. You could start out with the basic structures shown in the Idea Book, around page 74, and then modify them to suit your particular building needs.

Changing the angle of rotation. Image: Maryann Goldman

You can put names to parts you’re already using in your contraptions.  For example, our First Lego League robot makes use of a gear that changes the angle of rotation, but I’d never given it a name before.  Now I know how to reference it! I also learned about cam gears, worm drives, and how to calculate gear ratios. I hope to make good use of these concepts in future First Lego League endeavors.


Ball shooting contraptions. Image: Maryann Goldman

This year’s First Lego League Challenge has an interesting Sports mission where the robot needs to shoot a large rubber ball. Although our team has come up with one solution to this mission, they went through quite the process of designing ball launching mechanisms.The Idea Book dedicates an entire section to “Shooting things” starting on page 158. The team will definitely take those ideas into consideration for future designs!

Seriously, I could go on and on about all the inspiring designs in The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book, but I want to leave something for you to check out on your own. Pick up a copy and enjoy! The Idea Book retails on Amazon for $18.56, and you can pre-order your copy now.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.