Innovation

Geek Gifts 2009: Robot Invasion - 7 Cool and Easy Robot Projects

The book Robot Invasion - 7 Cool and Easy Robot Projects shows how to build robots out of LEGOs and erector sets and with software and then program the robots. Discover why Wally Bahny thinks geeks of any age would enjoy it.

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2009.

Many IT geeks have played with LEGOs, erector sets, and (for the younger folks among us) even K'NEX, but I'm guessing most of you haven't built robots out of those play sets and programmed them to perform tasks. In the book Robot Invasion - 7 Cool and Easy Robot Projects, Dave Johnson shows you how to build robots out of LEGOs and erector sets and then program the robots' behavior.

Starting out with a brief chapter on what robots are, how they work, and other robot basics, the author takes little time delving into the seven projects the book's cover advertises. Each project contains step-by-step instructions for building and programming your robot.

Specifications

What I like

  • Readability: In the first chapter, as well as the introduction to each project, the author writes in a way that adults, as well as children, can understand.
  • Easy to follow: The instructions are detailed, and pictures are provided.
  • Free virtual robot program: The AT-Robots program is useful if you don't have any of the toy sets on hand, which I didn't.

What I don't like

  • Dependence on expensive play sets: The current iteration of LEGO Mindstorms costs approximately $280. Also, erector sets with the required motors cost around $100. Due to the high costs of the play sets, my trials only involved the software program.

Geek bottom line

Robot Invasion - 7 Cool and Easy Robot Projects is a great book for both adults and children who own either LEGO Mindstorms or erector sets already or are willing to spend the money to purchase them. It is an excellent start into robotics for anyone interested in the field. However, if you are only passively interested in robotics or are just looking for some basic information, this may not be the book for you.

Check out the TechRepublic photo gallery Design virtual robots with AT-Robots to see images of the AT-Robots software program. Johnson includes many images of the robots in his book.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: **
  • Geek factor: ****
  • Value: ***
  • Overall: ***

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