June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.888.1 - 10.888.5
LEGO Plus Jerry M. Hatfield, Electrical Engineering John T. Tester, Mechanical Engineering College of Engineering and Natural Sciences Northern Arizona University
The LEGO Mindstorms construction systems have found their way into a wide range of applications in engineering education such as robotic devices, electro-mechanical control systems, process control, and data acquisition. The LEGO system provides a low cost opportunity for easy and rapid construction and programming of systems containing various types of sensors and actuators; these systems can be programmed in a number of different languages, including Robolab (based on the industry standard LabView data acquisition and control software) and an adaptation of C, called Not Quite C or NQC . The microprocessor based LEGO RCX provides three multipurpose output ports, three multipurpose input ports, and a two-way infrared communications port . The RCX is also known as the “Brick” because of its shape and for its ability to be integrated into the physical structure of the system being built. The LEGO system is quite robust and allows students with wide ranging skill levels to build even complex systems and have them operational in a very short time and with a minimal amount of trouble-shooting.
The LEGO Mindstorms system has been incorporated into a sophomore level, multi-discipline (electrical, mechanical, civil, and environmental engineering) design course that is part of Northern Arizona University’s award winning Design4Practice four-course sequence. We are very pleased with the students’ response to our redesigned course. But, as we look forward to additional course development and more complex design projects, we would like to go beyond the limitations of the three LEGO RCX inputs and three outputs. We had previously used the PONTECH SV203C servo motor controller board for robotics projects; this board provides multiplexed analog-to-digital inputs, servo control outputs, an infrared communications port, and a programmable microprocessor . Integration of the SV203C with the LEGO RCX controller promised to be an excellent way to provide an expanded, dual processor controller with a much wider range of input/output capabilities. Experience with the LEGO system clearly demonstrated the benefits of its robust packaging and plug-and-play interconnections; this same philosophy would guide the design and packaging of our expanded controller.
This paper describes the development of the LegoPlus dual processor controller, its capabilities and design features, and its planned incorporation into our design course.
Motivation for Change
The structure of our LEGO based design course provides a rich technical environment for active student learning [4,5]. However, the standard LEGO® System interface, sensor, and actuator capabilities limit the scope of projects that can be developed for a multidisciplinary course. 
Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education
Tester, J., & Hatfield, J. (2005, June), Lego Plus Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14412
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