Stack Overflow: LEGO Mindstorms and Engineering

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I know that LEGO Mindstorms is an expensive product, and yet, thousands of schools across the globe are requesting them as a means to delve into S.T.E.A.M., programming, and electromechanics, and for good reason, as little robots are already a part of our daily lives, and programming is a part of our children’s curriculum.

I requested these early samples for my husband, who is teaching with the Mindstorms set to children, and have to say that the books come with reliable information and give you great ideas to start coding, the language is aimed at the kids who will read it, without an intermediary, and there are more helpful things than technicalities involved.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS. Learn the Basics of Building and Programming Robots by Barbara Bratzel and Rob Torok

When you get a LEGO® robotics kit, it may come with a manual. However, robotics is a prickly subject, and this book will teach you everything you need to know to go from beginner to proficient robotics engineer, using examples compatible with the LEGO® MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor and SPIKE Prime sets.

From instructions on how to download the app and explanations of what a Hubble is, to robot construction, interactive games, competition-ready autonomous vehicles, motorized grabbers, and recycling sorters, there are a lot of suggestions contained within the book.

The approach is not based on a step-by-step process with limited models. Instead, the authors offer introductory information and expert tips and tricks for designing, building, and programming your own robotic creations.

There are programming options that can be used in Scratch-based word blocks and Python, working with gears and motors, and ways to use input from sensors such as light detecting.

There are challenges to be met and open-ended projects as well to put into practice what you have learned.

‘Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS’ us now on sale.

Publisher: No Starch Press
Publish Date: September 2022
Pages: 144
Type: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781718502420

Up next, comes the second part of the Mindstorms challenge, mastering the coding:

Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS. Build Better Robots with Python and Word Blocks by Barbara Bratzel and Rob Torok

After learning the basics of LEGO® robotics, there is a lot more to explore.

This book concentrates on teaching kids what they need to know in order to level up their robotics engineering skills, using examples compatible with the sets mentioned before. My kid started a course this year where he got to build an autonomous robot vehicle (capable of stopping at red lights) and developed interactive games, but hasn’t tried making LEGO® musical instruments yet, an idea proposed in this book.

The approach is similar to the first book, and offers a lot of essential information for robot building and programming.

It concentrates on the fundamentals of writing text-based code for robots using Python. It also focuses on how to harness gears, linkages, and other mechanisms necessary to create motion; and explores programming techniques for different applications such as line-following and obstacle avoidance. They continue to use both Python and Scratch-based Word Blocks.

‘Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS’ goes on sale October 2022

Publisher: No Starch Press
Publish Date: October 2022
Pages: 136
Type: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781718503144

Lastly, a bonus book more like the ones we have reviewed in the past, that delves into Engineering:

The LEGO Engineer by Jeff Friesen (Author)

Engineering is so fundamental to our everyday lives, that I hate the fact it does not get taught enough at the school level. We need trains, things that float, spaceships and bridges, people!

This is a more traditional take on building with LEGO, it does not require any electric bits and can be learned by following step-by-step instructions.

Just the chapter on bridges had me falling in love with all of the models.

The questions that Jeff Friesen asks are engineering questions, and the answers are surprisingly simple and yet teach us a lot about weights, leverages, tension and propulsion. Like: How do cable-stayed bridges distribute weight differently than suspension bridges?

There are 30 models of things that connect to other things, things that float, move or fly, sometimes into space. Some are traditional recreations of human-made feats, and others are innovative and just beautiful to look at.

‘The LEGO Engineer’ is now on sale as of September 2022.

Publisher: No Starch Press
Publish Date: September 2022
Pages: 200
Type: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781718502505

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