The first robot that the Mindstorms RIS kit has you build is the ‘Pathfinder’. It’s about as minimal as they come. Simple, straightforward construction. Two motors, two wheels, two round buttons to act as balance when the motors are driving. That’s about it.
It was pretty simple to put together. Unfortunately I hadn’t organized my Legos at the time, so my biggest challenge was hunting for some of the small parts in the huge Lego pile on my desk. My particular RIS kit is almost five years old – it’s the 1.5 version, so your parts may be differ to some extent.
The parts that I had a hard time with were the two black buttons that go on the bottom of the Pathfinder, and the wheels. The first time around I could only locate one of the buttons, so my robot was slightly incomplete – though it worked fine anyway. The wheel problem was basically an embarassment of riches. The kit comes with a large number of wheels in various sizes and with some great tires. It even includes a set of tractor/tank treads. Finding the right set of wheels/tires for the Pathfinder was a challenge, though I finally managed to sort things out.
The Pathfinder was easy to program as well. It only took a few minutes to setup the software, download my first programs, and get it running around on my desktop. The primary things I learned were:
- How easy it is to prototype and test a concept using Mindstorms.
- How fragile the construction method can be, and how much it needs cross bracing or a lot of thought focused on improving rigidity before you start snapping bricks together.
- How much I needed to organize my Legos into categories to make it easy to find the parts I need