This month we created something fun with our LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set – a SpeedCuber Alarm Clock. No silly snooze button to make it easy to go back to sleep. To turn off the alarm, the cube must be solved and replaced to be verified by the robot. Perfect for the lazy speed-cuber who has trouble waking up in the morning.
BrickPi: The Brain of the Alarm Clock
One challenge we had after coming up with the idea for the alarm clock was keeping the robot awake. Our LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set has been our favorite tool for family projects, but the EV3 brick operates on batteries and shuts off after a long time of no activity. We found a Raspberry Pi brick (BrickPi) made by Dexter Industries that helped us overcome this challenge. This was a great opportunity to introduce our kids to the Raspberry Pi and show them a little about programming in Python.
Dexter Industries has a free trial program for educators which allowed us to evaluate the BrickPi for 60 days before deciding whether to purchase the product. The kit included a Raspberry Pi board, the BrickPi board that controls the EV3 motors and sensors, the plastic housing for the brick, and various essential components – memory card, WiFi adaptor, and an ethernet cable. It was very easy to assemble and start building.
This product was very ideal for advanced Mindstorms users to gain a higher level of control of the EV3 electronics. Once we started programming the motors and the sensors, we started to realize there is a good bit of magic hidden behind the Mindstorms modular software that makes the programming a very clean experience. This is most apparent when examining the readings from the sensors. The raw values show a great amount of variation, so the software must examine many readings and filter the data to determine the correct reading. We found this to be true for the touch sensor (periodic false triggers), the proximity sensor, and the color sensor.
The added challenges present a fantastic opportunity for Mindstorms users looking to increase their understanding of the electronics and to control things at a finer level. However, for us it was probably too big of a jump ahead since my kids are pretty young. When we got bogged down with some of these challenges, I found the kids began to lose interest during the longer debug efforts.
Overall we were very happy that the BrickPi helped us complete our vision to build a Rubik’s Cube alarm clock. The introduction to Raspberry Pi was really good for the kids, so I do see many great projects ahead as our kids get a little older.
We hope you enjoy the video of the SpeedCuber Alarm Clock.
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