High Tech LEGO Projects | Book Review

We like rule breakers here at The Lego Car Blog. Thus when No Starch Press offered us a sneaky peak into a book with ‘rule-breaking inventions’ written on the cover, we had a take a look! Well, one of our readers did, seeing as we don’t have a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set in the office, and re-coding this site nearly killed us. However reader Wilson Luk is far smarter than we are, and a better writer too; check out his assessment of No Starch’s dangerous new book below!

Ahhhh Robotics…

For every new breathtaking advancement in robotics, 10 memes come out declaring the end of humanity (Boston Dynamics, I’m looking at you). LEGO appears intent on speeding up robotic dominance with the new LEGO Mindstorms 51515 Robot Inventor set, the much anticipated successor to the EV3 Mindstorms set. While the new set offers a bunch of quality of life improvements with its new app and native scratch and python support, no one can discount how the new Gelo build looks eerily similar to Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot…

Luckily, our topic today is a little more human-friendly. Grady Koch’s new book High Tech LEGO Projects demonstrates that there is still a ton of life in the older EV3 kit, pushing the boundaries of what the 7-year-old kit can do, without the whole world-dominance vibe.

No Starch Press has kindly provided me with a print copy for this review. My particular copy may be a pre-production copy as it has a bit of a raised splatter texture on the back cover. Nonetheless, the actual contents of the book is clearly printed on nice semi-gloss paper. Colours and text come out well, ensuring no issues following build and programming instructions.

High Tech LEGO Projects is the most recent book tailored towards EV3 users from No Starch Press. This time around, High Tech LEGO Projects introduces some basic circuitry and hobby-grade sensors to the mix, extending the capabilities of the ageing EV3.

A wide range of projects are covered in the 12 chapters of this book, with 2 extra projects available for download from the No Starch Press website. Each project showcases a different electrical component either to use with the EV3, or simply to add to one of your existing or upcoming lego creations.

Many of the projects will require extra pieces beyond what is provided in the EV3 Mindstorms set. Most of these can be found on BrickLink/BrickOwl, while many of the electrical components and tools can be found at local or online electronic stores.

Get comfortable acquiring the extra LEGO pieces, but don’t get too attached to them. Some of these projects are not for the faint of heart. The second project already has you drilling holes through TWO technic gearbox pieces! I can already hear the collective screams of agony right now. The first time I saw the picture demonstrating where to drill, my first reaction was to cover the eyes of all my Lego mini-figs.

As stated in the back of the book, some cutting and soldering is also required on some of the projects. Luckily, Koch presents clear diagrams on how to carry these steps out and how your final circuitry should look.

EV3 programming is covered quite extensively here with a thorough run down of the code blocks used in each program. Thought went into ensuring that anyone new to EV3-programming, or even programming in general, would be able to follow along. A lot of tutorials found online (and even some of LEGO’s own tutorials) often just present the final program without explaining the logic behind it, making the explanations found here quite refreshing.

Verdict

So, is this book for you? Well, that depends…

If you only have the base EV3 Mindstorms set, or you only want to stick with official LEGO pieces, then there’s likely not much content here for you. In which case, there is a wide range of books covering EV3 robotics using just the base set and perhaps some extra Technic pieces.

If however, you are more open to hobby-grade electronics, or already have some of these components hooked up to a breadboard with an arduino or raspberry pi attached, then you will likely feel right at home.

Before this book, there have been many others written on EV3 and NXT programming/building. Just as many if not even more books go into System and Technic building techniques. Koch’s High Tech LEGO Projects is not quite one of those books. I would at times even hesitate to call it a Mindstorms robotics book as very few ‘traditional’ robots will be built here. This book is targeted at those who want to go beyond what LEGO provides, at times making irreversible changes to our beloved bricks. It literally points this out on the book’s cover that rules will be broken! It probably should’ve mentioned LEGO hearts will be destroyed as well. This book is for those who see problems worth solving, but feel the EV3 in its stock form does not have the capability of solving it.

While this book may not be for everyone, I applaud Koch for showing us another way of “enjoying” LEGO and Mindstorms.

Why do we get the feeling the robot apocalypse is one step closer? If you’d like to facilitate the robot uprising then head to No Starch Press via the links above, and check out a book that might give the robots all the tools they need.

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