Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lego Mindstorms NXT

Building robots is fun, but only for those with scrap metal and breadboards and soldering irons. People who don't have those are usually left out, and I guess Lego knew it was the perfect company to change the stereotype of robots and robotics.

Although I've never tried any other simple robotics kit, I can say that the Lego Mindstorms NXT kit is a masterpiece. The amount of effort and quality that was placed into the making of the kit is incredible.

The combination of Lego pieces, with four sensors and three motors, all attached to a programmable block named the NXT is what makes this kit work well. Firstly you build the robot, attaching parts together in any design that comes to your head, including the sensors in places you choose.

Next, you build a suitable program on your computer, by moving blocks that initiate commands in a sequence. The program is transferred to the NXT by a USB cable, or Bluetooth. The robot performs your commands accordingly, and you then get the chance to improve on your design and program.

Of course there are a few design schematics that come with the kit so you can build your own without having to think up of a design by yourself. Generally, robots designs are divided into vehicles - robots that move using wheels like cars, machines - robots that don't move like cranes and humanoids - robots that walk in a human like motion.

I made a crane machine, the one pictured above, using the schematics that Lego provided with the kit. Of course I modified the program a bit, but what it basically does is move a ball from one pod to the other. It uses a touch sensor mounted on the claws to sense the presence of the ball. The great thing is, I can easily break it apart and build something else!

It picks up the ball

It moves to the right

It drops the ball

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CBS 60 Minutes Excerpt

I saw this a few days ago on 360east. This is a segment from the 60 Minutes program presented by Bob Simon, where he talks about why a two state solution cannot be formed between Palestine and Israel - because neither side wants it. A very interesting video, click on the photo to see it.

[via 360east]

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Visit From Kinzi

I guess my mother had been trying to plan this almost a year ago, but neither of us could get to it because either one was too busy. To be honest, last year was a very busy and hectic year, and although this year is destined to be even worse and yet more stressful, me and my great mother decided we would use the last day of the mid year holiday to invite Kinzi to our house, in return for our visit last year.

To sum it up, the visit was a great opportunity to meet another blogger and to practice my English. I must say I have a rather strange British accent that I can seem to understand but will only work well in England. It was funny that we didn't talk much about blogging, and the subjects went from school exams to scouts events. Nevertheless, I enjoyed meeting Kinzi and her family alot.

And of course, no visit would be complete without me and Spikekid trying our hardest to socialise, Kinzi's eldest son that is just a year younger than me. You must understand that at the teenage age it is much easier to talk through an Xbox 360 controller than through words. Even though, it was much fun fighting terror on Rainbow Six Vegas with another teenager. Grunt, grunt.