Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2015

Lego Mindstorms – Sentry Robots

Sameer Kumar Shrestha, Northampton
The report presents the dissertation on title Prototype of Sentry Robots for Advanced Security which includes the use of LEGO robots showing interaction between each other with the help of wireless communication medium in Bluetooth. The purpose of the work is to build a communication between multiple LEGO robots using the wireless technology. For this task, the NXT version of LEGO Mindstorms has been selected. It is because there is need of complex communication which is possible through wireless medium such as Bluetooth and also a suitable processing device for the proposed task which is present in the LEGO Mindstorms NXT. The report has also focused on the background information about the NXT system and its great flexibility with LeJOS NXJ as the programming platform. The outcome is the implementation of developed work with the use LEGO Mindstorms NXT and the LeJOS NXJ as programming platform. The task was approached with one LEGO NXT robot maintain…

Picobot - a swarm bot

One of the most interesting small robots on the market is the PicoBot from 4Tronix ( 

These are small, relatively low-cost robots with a good range of basic sensors based around Arduino. A nice feature is they are quick to put together (5-10 minutes each for the two above).  The size, time to build and the radio modules make them an interesting option for playing with swarm robotics - if only I had the money.

Don't let the swarm robot idea put you off, as small robots to playing with programming they are good in their own right. Being small with the ultrasonic sensors gives them an non-threatening look; add in they have some build it programs to play with (select by buttons on the bot) to get you going without any programming.

Related Links

Narinder's Swarm Robotsmbots - graphical programming and ArduinoEdge following CrumbleBot

All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisa…

Narinder's Swarm Robots

This time not my experimentation but by a colleague and student I was supervising.

Some interesting work has been developed by Narinder Singh (MSc Computing student and Technician) in the Department of Computing and Immersive Technology, University of Northampton. The work revolves around investigating the use of relatively simple robots, kilobots, to investigate swarm robotics.

The kilobots ( are relatively low-cost devices specifically designed for work of swarm/collective intelligence experiments.

Example:Dancing Kilobots

For more examples go to: Kilobot videoss

Supervisor Scott Turner

opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with.

Scratch Robot Arm

It is not physical but CBiS Education have release a free robot arm simulator for Scratch. 

Downloadable from their site - it includes a Scratch project, guidance on Scratch along with an exercises in using the robot arm simulation and an exercise with teacher's guidance.

Left my son with it, asked him if he could make it do something if a new sprite is added and the gripper touched it (similar to the exercise in the notes). He went on to produce a sprite that when it is touched by the gripper, went on to change colour a few times. I could see this being potentially used in Coding Clubs within schools.

CBiS produce a physical version of this, details are available at

All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with.

mbots - graphical programming and Arduino

Makeblock ( funded through Kickstarter the development of a new robot - mBot ( with the subtitle "$49 educational robot for each kid". What they came up with is a interesting system that uses their mBlock software, which resembles Scratch but produces code for Arduino, to program a robot with LEDs, light sensors and buzzer integrated on the main board; but also comes with sensors for line-following, ultrasonic sensor and with the version in the kickstarter reward a 16x8 LED matrix.

My impression so far it is really quite intuitive to work with, in the example above the robot:

moves forward;displays 'f' on the LED matrix; turns right;displays 'r' on the LED matrix;repeats until the on-board is pressed to stop the motors. 

What I like most though is seeing the graphical code turned into Arduino code - the potential to see the same thing done into two ways…

Lego Robot and Neural Networks

An overview of using Lego RCX  robots for teaching neural networks present at workshop in 2011.

Derby presentation from Scott Turner
The video below shows the robot trying out sets of weights for two neurones, until a set of weights are found that enable the robot to go around the circle.

As a part of a set of tools I have found the following useful for teaching the principles of simple neurones.
 Example code:
import josx.platform.rcx.*;
public class annlf{  public static void main(String[] args)  {   int w[][] ={//put weights here};   int o[]={1,1};   int s1,s2,res1,res2;   int sensor1=0,sensor2=0;   robot_1 tom=new robot_1();   Sensor.S1.activate();   Sensor.S3.activate();   for(;;){    sensor1=Sensor.S1.readValue();    sensor2=Sensor.S3.readValue();    LCD.showNumber(sensor1);    if (sensor1<42)     s1=1;    else     s1=0;    if (sensor2<42)     s2=1;    else     s2=0;    res1=w[0][1]*s1+w[0][2]*s2+w[0][0];    if (res1>=0)     o[0]=1;    else     o[0]=0;    res2=w[1][1]*s1+w[1][2]*s2+w[1][0];    if (res2&…

Raspberry Pi Controlled robot from junk

In previous posts I start looked at using ScratchGPIO to control a junkbot - more about junkbots can be found at:

Previous Posts:
 ( and showed a Pi controlled junkbot briefly in action (

In this post I aim to discuss
- Choice of motor controller card
- Provide an example of a drawing junkbot controlled through Scratch and Raspberrry Pi

Choice of interface/Controller card
The card chosen was the 4Tronix PiRoCon card  (;product_id=182). Selected for four reasons
- Price is reasonable (in my opinion).
- Fits straight onto the Pi through the GPIO - no extra cables needed.
- ScratchGPIO has it as an addon so it makes programming it even easier (see
- Others are using it for robot projects.

Use it is qu…

Edge following CrumbleBot

Recently I have been playing with the CrumbleBot ( based around the Crumble Controller ( providing a intuitive graphical interface (similar to Scratch) to control two motors and four inputs/outputs. The CrumbleBot comes with line-detecting sensors and Light-Dependent Resistors for light detection, with a few other features that I have yet to play with. So is nice little framework for simple robotics. Make sure you order the Crumble Controller at the same time as CrumbleBot.

Building the 'Bot' is relatively simple and 4Tronix have provided some easy to follow instructions on-line ( that are almost foolproof (I manage to build it!).

So I wanted to experiment with making a edge following robot - where the robot goes around a line by following the edge of the line. The idea is while make small movements,

Check that one of the …

cutest computational thinking in the world?

Wonder Workshop ( produce the  robots Dash and Dot robots (see picture above). It is hard not to be charmed by these robots, they are cute, easy to use, download the Apps and you are ready to go almost out of the box - and add to this an easy to use but fairly powerful tool for developing programming.

At the time of writing the software is only available for IOS but there are plans for Android. 

Blockly, available as one of apps, can be used to program the robots. It is a simple looking graphical language (simpler looking but similar to Scratch). A simple example (shown opposite) where Dash (the bigger of the two) does things such as  moves forward,  going left, lights change to orange, , left ear changes colour, head moves forward and it roars like a dinosaur. It relatively easy to then add loops and test (such as checking if it's 'friend' Dot is in view). Below is a very short video of Dash moving around until it 'sees' Dot.

It is difficu…

Robots and Problem-solving or is it Computational Thinking

Confession time, this has been a research interest for me, along with a number of colleagues, since around 2005. It started with undergraduate students - investigating teaching and developing problem solving skills as a first step developing programming skills through the use of LEGO-based robots and graphics based programming for undergraduate students. The main vehicle for developing the problem-solving skills has been LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits and series of gradually more challenging robot-based tasks.

Lawhead et al (2003) stated that robots “…provide entry level programming students with a physical model to visually demonstrate concepts” and “the most important benefit of using robots in teaching introductory courses is the focus provided on learning language independent, persistent truths about programming and programming techniques. Robots readily illustrate the idea of computation as interaction”. Synergies can be made with our work and those one on pre-object programming an…

Robots from junk and Computational Thinking

A recent presentation as part of the Department of Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton Research Seminar series, looking a on going project within the Department.

Junkbots has been a ongoing and ever evolving project since 2009 around the use of 'junk' as part of activities to developing skills in STEM subjects. In particular in the presentation (below) shows the links between these activities and Computational Thinking were discussed.

Junkbots and computational thinkingfrom Scott Turner

All views are those of the author and should not be seen as the views of any organisation the author is associated with.All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with.