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I got an Lego Mindstorms EV3 set last week — see my thoughts on the cool parts that came with the set. This morning I wanted to check out the quick-start project that comes with the kit — a tank bot called the TRACK3R.

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One of the concerns some builders had with the previous version of Mindstorms, NXT, was that the sample robots were stored in the Mindstorms software, which serves as a programming environment as well as a gateway for Web-based resources. It was kind of an intimidating interface, the step-by-steps were online rather than printed, plus, you had to learn how to program before you could get the robot to work.

Lego has totally fixed this barrier by making the TRACK3R not only easy to make, but QUICK from the first step to watching it roll around. In fact, the whole process took less than an hour. Granted, I might be more experienced than someone who has never cracked a Mindstorms set, but trust me, it’s very simple and is really encouraging to be able to create a functioning robot so quickly.

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Here’s how it works. The instruction booklet has the step-by-steps for the TRACK3R, and it’s actually 3 robots in one. The first robot is simply the tank part, and you can totally stop there, and the instructions explain how to activate a program already set up in the EV3 microcontroller brick — see the photo to the right. If that’s not cool enough, you can add another motor and spinning claw thing. Again, a demo program on the brick allows you to test the new capabilities. Finally, you can add the IR gateway element, which enables you to control the robot with the handy (and cute!) remote control that comes with the set. I opted to add all the options, and the full robot took a mere 53 minutes from start to finish.

For those of you who aren’t ready to learn how program, I didn’t even have to even launch the Mindstorms software once during the build. The book has the instructions, and the EV3 brick has the demo programs. Making the quick start robot so, well, quick and painless was a smart move on Lego’s part.

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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