Laurens Valk is a robotics engineer based in the Netherlands. He earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Delft University of Technology and he is currently pursuing a master's degree in Systems and Control. He is the author of several popular robotics books, including The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book (No Starch Press, 2014). He enjoys designing robots and creating tutorials to build and program them, so that robot enthusiasts around the world can re-create the designs and learn more about robotics. He blogs about robots at robotsquare.com.

Work experience

  • Systems Engineer - Hyperion Technologies B.V. (2014)

    Design and implementation of control algorithms for reaction wheels used in small satellites (cubesats).

  • Author - No Starch Press (2008 - 2014)

    Published several robotics books to teach children the fundamentals of robot building and programming. The works have sold over 50,000 copies worldwide, and they have been published in English, German, and Polish.

Education

  • MSc. Systems and Control - TU Delft (2014 - Present)

    Master of Science program in Systems and Control. Courses completed thus far include: state space controller design, frequency domain controller design, numeric optimization methods, and philosophy of engineering design.

  • BSc. Mechanical Engineering - TU Delft (2010 - 2013)

    Bachelor of Science program with a major in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Electrical Engineering. Received Young talent awards for best propaedeutic student (2011) and best bachelor degree student (2013).

Interests

  • Robotics
  • Writing & Education
  • Linux & Open Source
  • Programming (C/C++, Python, Matlab/Simulink)
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The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book

The EV3 Discovery Book (2014) is an updated and completely revised edition of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book (2010). Now in full color and with 100+ additional pages, the new edition continues the success of its predecessor as the number one LEGO MINDSTORMS guide.

Description:

LEGO MINDSTORMS has changed the way we think about robotics by making it possible for anyone to build real, working robots. The latest MINDSTORMS set, EV3, is more powerful than ever, and The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book is the complete, beginner-friendly guide you need to get started.

Begin with the basics as you build and program a simple robot to experiment with motors, sensors, and EV3 programming. Then you’ll move on to a series of increasingly sophisticated robots that will show you how to work with advanced programming techniques like data wires, variables, and custom-made programming blocks. You’ll also learn essential building techniques like how to use beams, gears, and connector blocks effectively in your own designs.

More than 150 building and programming challenges throughout encourage you to think creatively and apply what you’ve learned to invent your own robots. With The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book as your guide, you’ll be building your own out-of-this-world creations in no time!

Highlights:

Details:

Companion page
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The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book

This book was written as a guide for beginning robot builders, providing tutorials to master the MINDSTORMS programming language, all the while building cool new robots. With this book (and its successor), I hope to show aspiring robot builders the exciting possibilities of engineering and robotics.

Description:

Discover the many features of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 set. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book is the complete, illustrated, beginner’s guide to MINDSTORMS that you’ve been looking for.

Interactive tutorials make it easy for you to reach an advanced level of programming as you learn to build robots that move, monitor sensors, and use advanced programming techniques like data wires and variables. You’ll build eight increasingly sophisticated robots like the Strider (a six-legged creature) and the Snatcher (an autonomous robotic arm). Numerous building and programming challenges throughout encourage you to think creatively and to apply what you’ve learned as you develop the skills essential to creating your own robots.

Highlights:

  • Over 50,000 copies sold worldwide (2010-2013)
  • Best-selling LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT title
  • "The Discovery Book should come with every MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Kit." --GeekDad, Wired.com

Details:

Companion page
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The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Inventor's Guide

This book is a revision of David J Perdue's Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide. When updating his book to cover the new NXT 2.0 robotics kit, David asked me to design new robots with the NXT 2.0 set. My contributions consist of six chapters with robot projects, including building and programming instructions and ideas for further exploration. Additionally, I have published this material in a German book entitled LEGO Roboter II.

Book description:

The LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT 2.0 set offers hundreds of building elements, programming software, and powerful electronics that you can use to create amazing robots. But where do you begin? This eagerly awaited second edition of the bestselling Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor’s Guide is your key to designing, building, and programming robots with the NXT 2.0 set.

You’ll learn practical building techniques, like how to build sturdy structures and use gears, and gain a solid understanding of the set’s NXT-G programming language. A series of projects new to this edition offers step-by-step instructions for building and programming six robots, each of which can be built with just one NXT 2.0 set.

Details:

Companion page
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LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT One-Kit Wonders

This book is a collaboration project from the authors of the NXT Step Blog. The NXT Step was a popular blog about the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system (released in 2006). The blog provided robot building and programming tips, as well as news on the development of new MINDSTORMS products. I was invited to join the blog around 2007, and in 2008 we joined forces to write LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT One-Kit Wonders. I contributed two chapters to this book (SPC and GrabBot), and I rendered the building instructions for the robot projects throughout the book. This was my first introduction to writing and publishing.

Book description:

The creative minds behind The NXT STEP blog are back with a brand-new collection of innovative robots. Whether you're just getting started with LEGO robotics or have been building and programming robots for years, LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT One-Kit Wonders is packed with new and exciting techniques, advice, and robots that guarantee awesome results. And best of all, you'll only need one NXT Retail kit to build all ten of them!

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT One-Kit Wonders will make it simple for you to construct even the most complex of these ten robots, all while you learn the ins and outs of the NXT kit.

Details:

Companion Page
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Hyperion Technologies

Between March 2014 and August 2014, I worked at Hyperion Technologies B.V. on the design and implementation of control algorithms for reaction wheels in small satellites (cubesats). Hyperion Technologies is a Dutch startup that designs small, low-power, and robust components for cubesats, such as star trackers and attitude control systems.

Picture of reaction wheel (c) 2014 Hyperion Technologies B.V.

Key activities:

  • Algorithm design
  • Sensor data analysis with Python
  • Embedded C programming

Company website:

Hyperion Technologies B.V.
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Translations

While my books were originally written and published in English (No Starch Press), they have been translated to German and Polish. Several more translations (Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese) are currently in progress. For the German translations, No Starch Press works with dpunkt.verlag GmbH. I have contributed to these translations by translating the text on the internal artwork and illustrations. I have also independently published LEGO Roboter II with dpunkt.verlag.

Publishers:

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Zebro Light

This robot was developed as part of a Bachelor of Science design project. The project includes a mechanical, electrical and software design for a lightweight, mobile exploration robot that employs the half-circle leg morphology. The morphology is based on TU Delft’s Zebro robot, which in turn is based on the RHex project, developed by a group of universities led by the Kod*Lab. The Zebro Light reduces the weight of the original Zebro from 7.5 to 3.2 kg, while also reducing the top surface area by 50%.

Highlights:

  • New standard platform for TU Delft robotics research
  • Featured at NASA exhibition "A Human Adventure"

Details:

Robot Square blog
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MINDSTORMS Community Partners

As a member of the MINDSTORMS Community Partners (MCP), I help test and develop new LEGO MINDSTORMS products by working closely with the development team in Denmark. For example, I worked with the earliest prototypes of EV3 components to design an official LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 bonus model. This project includes step-by-step instructions to build and program a racing truck that can be built with one EV3 set.

Highlights:

  • Help improving the LEGO MINDSTORMS user experience
  • Providing technical feedback to the design team
  • Engaging with the target audience at international robotics events
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Robot Square Blog

I use this blog to document my robot designs, to complement my books with digital content, and to share interesting robotics news. The blog draws approximately 35,000 unique visitors each month. The most popular articles include tutorials covering various aspects of the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set. Visit my blog at robotsquare.com

Popular articles:

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Project Title 12

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Tools used:

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Website:

laurensvalk.com

Contact Info

If you would like to get in touch, please send an email to the address listed below. For specific questions about my books and robots, please use the contact form on my blog instead.

I am interested in exploring options for internships in the field of robotics for a master thesis research between September 2015 and September 2016. If your company has open positions, or if you have other business opportunities, feel free to contact me.

Name: Laurens Valk
Email: info@laurensvalk.com
Location: Delft, Netherlands (Rotterdam area)
Blog: robotsquare.com