Review: Competitive MINDSTORMS

Posted 28 Jan 2005 at 16:48 UTC by steve Share This

Scott Zinn of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group has written a review of the new Apress book, Competitive MINDSTORMS - A Complete Guide to Robotic Sumo Using LEGO MINDSTORMS. It sounds like this book is a definite must-have for anyone who wants to learn how to use a MINDSTORMS robot in competitions. The book also covers open source MINDSTORMS development tools such as NQC and takes the reader through the ins and outs of Sumo competitions. Read on for Scott's full review of this robotics book.

Review by Scott Zinn

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Title: Competitive MINDSTORMS - A complete Guide to Robotic Sumo Using LEGO® MINDSTORMS™

Author: David J. Perdue

ISBN Number: 1-59059-375-8

Publisher: Apress

Number of Pages: 326

List of Chapters:
Forward, by Mario Ferrari
Part One -- The Concept of LEGO MINDSTORMS Robotic Sumo
Chapter 1 -- Introduction to LEGO MINDSTORMS Robotic Sumo
Chapter 2 -- The Importance of a Battle Plan

Part Two -- The First Approach: The Small-and-Fast Strategy
Chapter 3 -- The Zip-Bam-Bot Chassis
Chapter 4 -- Zip-Bam-Bot Version XK1
Chapter 5 -- Zip-Bam-Bot Version XK2

Part Three - The Second Approach: The M-Class Strategy
Chapter 6 -- The Brain-Bot Chassis
Chapter 7 -- Brain-Bot Version ZR2

Part Four -- The Third Approach: The Big-Sumo Strategy
Chapter 8 -- The Gargantuan-Bot Chassis
Chapter 9 -- Gargantuan-Bot Version BL58

Part Five -- Getting Involved in a Robotic Sumo Event
Chapter 10 - Participating in a LEGO MINDSTORMS Robotic Sumo Event
Chapter 11 - Organizing a LEGO MINDSTORMS Robotic Sumo Event

If you have a MINDSTORMS Robotics Invention System or are thinking of getting one with a view to competing in Robotic Sumo events, this book is the piece that LEGO left out of the box. Starting with a discussion of Robotic Sumo strategies, the author follows up with detailed building instructions and code for each of the three types of Sumo Robot strategy discussed in the book, all based on the LEGO RIS version 2.0. The author also does a reasonably good job of introducing the reader to the Not Quite C (NQC) programming environment. If you have already built and competed with scratch-built LEGO robots, this book may not be as advanced as you want, but it serves as a good reference for the beginner and intermediate LEGO robot builders.

The information in the book flows logically, each chapter building on information from previous chapters. Part One takes the reader from zero knowledge to a basic and sound understanding of both the LEGO RIS and robotic sumo as a competition. The three strategies discussed in the book will more easily be understood when the reader has seen a Robotic Sumo competition in action.

Part Two through Four explain three strategies for Robotic Sumo competition. Each part includes detailed building and programming instructions for a robot of the style being explained. The pages are filled with CAD drawings and NQC code, complete with comments, explanations, hints, and ideas of where to find more information about various points in the book, including Internet resources.

Part Five of the book takes the reader further by explaining how to make the most of your competition efforts as well as how to organize a Robotic Sumo event, including rules, arena construction, and other items that an organizer would need to hold a Robotic Sumo competition. I do like the approach taken to explain how to organize a 'fair' competition, pointing out some of the less obvious issues when hosting a competition.

Additional to the book, readers can access the publisher's and author's websites to download the code from the book, access two bonus chapters, and access to the CAD drawings of the robot sub-assemblies.

If you are just starting with LEGO robots this book is a very good resource for going beyond the information that LEGO provides. This book is written in a style that all LEGO builders will enjoy.

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