Aug 31, 2006

Lego weapon system

A little while back Lego Mindstorms Education announced some accessories and pricing for the Education NXT kit. (See here.)

Two weeks ago I received the LME NXT Resource Kit (item #979648 in the LME announcement. I have made an inventory of the kit but as I have not yet persuaded Peeron that the kit exists, it is difficult to share.

However I can tell you it has most (if not all) of the parts that are in the retail NXT and not in the Education one. Such as 8 of the corner pieces with pins at right angles. Mentioned previously in the Blog here as 'Hassenpins', after Steve Hassenplug. (Steve reported has fight to get such a part added to the kit to the February edition of Wired magazine, see p150.)

There are mundane and interesting Technic parts the Resource kit, such as smaller tyres that fit the NXT wheels. Also tank/tractor treads that engage with the blades on the outside of the wheels too. (The treads are the same as the Mobile Defense Tank, Lego item #7706, which has black coloured NXT wheels).

The big surprise in the kit is this little missile and spring launcher:





ta ta for now,
Tony

More activity at RIF


The Robotics Investigation Force have some new content, and their blog seems pretty busy too.

Ttfn, Tony (helping to keep the posts appearing, whilst Jim is away!)

New MDP - John Hansen

The LEGO site continues a steady growth, adding John Hansen to the growing list of the MDP and their creations. In this case, maintaining & expanding the BricxCC environment and with the help of Michael Anderson allowing access to the low-level standard firmware commands on the NXT, using NBC. Take a look.

--
Brian Davis

HiTechnic Compass Sensor

OK, for some folks this may be old hat, but today was the first time I had a chance to play with one of the new sensors from HiTechnic. The HiTechnic sensors are skinned in a very nice-looking LEGOesque enclosure, replicating the look of the LEGO sensors but with a distinctive black endcap (I'm told this is also transparent to IR, so that IR-based sensors can share the same case components). The female port on the sensor is a mate to the LEGO-standard cables, offset catch and all, making wiring a snap (literally), and the piece pins on and feels exactly like it was made by LEGO (I'm rather surprised at this, actually; moulding pieces to this precision is no easy task). Currently you can use the NXT-G US sensor block to read the sensor, as it communicates with the NXT via I2C and this is the only "stock" NXT-G block that returns information from the sensor via I2C. But as consumers (and suppliers like HiTechnic) develop their own NXT-G blocks using the LabView Toolkit, I'm sure we'll see custom sensor blocks for these. Since the US sensor block returns only a single byte, the sensor returns the heading angle divided by two (currently; I think this is a limit of the NXT-G interface, not the sensor itself).

At BrickFest there was a wonderful demo of the compass sensors: put a compass-equiped robot on a turntable, and spin the turntable. While I watched this and commented on how great a demo it was... um... I never actually got a movie of it. So shoot me. To correct for this omission on my part, I decided to replicate the demo at home. I took a HiTechnic compass sensor and mounted it on JennToo, and then went ahead and wrote a program to keep the compass sensor pointed due south. The result is a fun and impressive robot that consistantly points in one direction (it's a $250+ compass... OK, I need to make something more practical someday).

The program itself is amazingly simple. No complicated corrections or difficult to figure out logic, the error signal (how much the heading differs from due south) is used to calculate the power on a Move block... essentially, that's it. Remember that the US sensor block here is not reading an US sensor , but actually the new compass sensor. Within the sensor block I do a compare to determine what direction to turn, and then the heading from the sensor (which is what comes out of the "distance" plug of the US sensor block... remember, we're "fooling" NXT-G into thinking the compass sensor is an US sensor) is used to figure out how fast to try to turn: the further away from the requested heading we are, the stronger we should try to drive the motors. The result is a very simple, understandable program, that is a lot of fun to watch run.

P.S.- I also have the Mindsensors compass to compare this with, and hope to report on that later. This is just the first non-LEGO sensor I've had to play with... and it looks like there will be plenty of toys in the future.

--
Brian Davis

Errata: a few points that I was either unclear on or just dead wrong:

(1) The sensor enclosures are actually made by LEGO, and supplied to HiTechnic, who then supply the internals and endcap. Thus, why it "feels" exactly like LEGO, and meshes with the LEGO wires: these parts are LEGO or LEGO-certified.

(2) The endcap on the compass sensor I showed is not made from the IR transparent material, but just black plastic (I've seen the IR cap and it's visually very similar). The IR transparent endcap will be used on sensors like the HiTechnic Bridge (which enables IR communication between the NXT & RCX)

I apologise for the incorrect or misleading information.

BrickFest report & sensors

Well I'm back from BrickFest, with a load of pictures, and an even bigger raft of new ideas. There were an amazing number of interesting LEGO creations there, and if you've never seen what truly talented people can do with LEGO, you might want to check it out. It was a real treat as well for me to finally meet some of the people that I have been corresponding with for almost a year in the MUP and MDP programs, and see their creations in person. There were also a lot of wonderful new news on about the NXT at the event, for instance...

First, LEGO announced that the HiTechnic sensors would be sold via LEGO Shop-at-home, as a "LEGO approved" product. In other words, these will be third-party sensors, but of such high quality that LEGO wants to move them through more official channels. This is not only great news for HiTechnic, but really interesting from the standpoint of being one of the first times LEGO Retail has sold a product developed & produced by a third party. Congradulations to HiTechnic, and thank you LEGO for opening up to yet more new ideas - this is an amazing step forward. Of course, this made me wonder about what FLL would consider an "official LEGO part". I suspect they can not be as flexible on this issue as LEGO is (unless FLL adds such sensors to the base kits), but it's an interesting development in any case. John & Steve actually seemed rather surprised at the applause from the community (most of the folks in the room were not Mindstorms types), but I was not - this is a tremendous step forward in LEGO working with the AFoL community, period.

Second, we (the MUP/MDPs) had several Q&A sessions during BrickFest. The questions that were asked were interesting to me (I noticed a lot of people simply not quite understanding data wires yet, for instance, and there were a lot of misunderstandings about BlueTooth), but in the "new information" category Ralph Hempel (developer of pbForth for the RCX, and one of the original MUPpets) announced that he has ported Lua (a C-like language) to the NXT! He demonstrated the core Lua (all running on the brick, not on the computer; the laptop was just a dumb terminal for these demos), including things like searching and ordering arrays of strings with blinding speed. He has a GDB stub working (all through the USB port, so no soldering onto the board of the NXT is required). Lua on the NXT is not yet ready for release: for one thing, Ralph is waiting for the firmware to go open source (I'd say "hint hint" here, but I already know LEGO is hurrying to do this... be patient, folks) so that the API for things like motors, the LCD, sensors, etc. can be worked in. But even still, this is a tremendous accomplishment, and points to yet another third-party firmware coming out for the NXT. Bravo, Ralph! I'll post a link when Ralph gets something updated. This was one of the most drool-worthy announcements for me at BrickFest.

The folks at NXTasy have done a great job covering events at BrickFest as well (you'll note all these videos are from them) - they have a video of Bryan Bonahoom's NXT playing Tic-Tac-Toe, as well as an interview with the folks at Minsensors showing off some of their new sensors, including a compass sensor (that I will be testing), and a device to use a gamecontroler as a NXT remote control - wonderful stuff! Check out these videos and enjoy living vicariously.

Finally, I also was able to try out a HiTechnic compass sensor - a very fun piece of technology, in a very nice-looking case. I'll report more on that presently. For now, browse and discuss amongest yourselves, while I decompress from BrickFest.

Oh, did I mention a NXTbot with live video streaming back to the computer? Thank you John Brost for that one.

--
Brian Davis

Aug 30, 2006

FLL Team Introduction

Hello, everyone. I'm on the road for a few days so postings might be spotty. Earlier in the week, I had emailed Tom requesting some info about how his FLL team is doing... Tom responsed with some great stuff, including some videos. If you are a team coach (or member) and would like to let us know a little about your team, feel free to email me the details (email address on right side of blog screen) - Jim

Tom's email:

Hey all, Coach Tom Williamson of FLL team 2137 here with a status report. Our team is anxiously awaiting the official kick-off in September but we've certainly been busy in the mean time. This is my first year as a FLL coach and I've been busy putting together a website (www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com) for my team. I've also been: trying to drum up some sponsorship (that's going slow), getting binders ready for the team with all the information they need and materials for the research project, trying to get shirts printed (cafepress stonewalled me with legal hassles), trying to get tracksuits for the team and keeping the blog up to date. Not to mention getting to know LEGO Mindstorms NXT.

I decided to go with the retail version of NXT for a few reasons. The main one was the difference in included LEGO elements. I definitely wanted the hassenpins. They're just way too useful. The other differences weren't anything I don't already have in my boxes and boxes of LEGO Technic. I also read that the rechargeable battery might have been a little less powerful than regular alkalines. Not to mention that you need two to really be competition ready. Always have one charged and ready to go. I think we'll be fine with loads of AA's from Costco. I also have to admit that there was a certain immediate satisfaction with racing down to Toys R Us as soon as the kits came out :-)

The kids have been busy too. We had an unofficial kickoff build party to celebrate the arrival of our challenge kit. We built all the models over a weekend and they're waiting patiently on the dining room table for a table to live on. Dane's father Eric has agreed to build the table (whew, something I don't have to do!) and should be starting on that this week. Austin has been learning NXT with me. We're playing with the RoboArm T-56 these days, it's a blast. Last weekend all the kids personally signed our letters seeking sponsorship and Austin and I drove all over Lompoc delivering them to local businesses. No responses yet, but we're hopeful. They also signed a thank you letter to our only sponsor so far, Larry Perry of Double Density Software.

As far as this year's challenge, the kids are very excited to see what we'll have to do. Some of the models are easy to figure out, some are not. The models are excellent though, and they were fun to put together. My personal favorite is the self assembling nano-tube. You trip one end and it sequentially trips all the levers.We were all impressed with the mat, and spent a good while analyzing how it was going to be laid out. The plan at this point is to keep the table in my garage. Hopefully we can rearrange things enough to all be comfortable out there.We plan to meet twice a week, for 1 to 1.5 hours on Wednesdays, and 2 hours on Sunday afternoons. Once we get really going we'll adjust our meeting times to suit the schedules of all and make sure we spend enough time together. We still plan to have 6 kids on the team. Next week the kids will all have been in school for a couple weeks and we can start recruiting. I don't think we'll have any trouble filling the spots.

That's about all the news that's fit to print. I'll check in again in Sept to let you all know how things are going. You can also watch our progress on the website. In the mean time...Play Well!Tom Williamsoncoach - FLL team Bricks For Brains

----

Tom also included links to some videos of the different FLL challenges...

UPDATE: The videos are no longer available... bandwidth limits were exceeded so, for now, the videos are offline. - Jim

http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/atom.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/cancer.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/elevator.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/fabric.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/motor.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/nano_cable.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/nano_probe.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/nano_tube.avi
http://www.bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/models/pizza.avi

Aug 29, 2006

For Teachers... LOTS of resources here

First, LEGO Engineering has developed a nice little library of code samples for NXT. Right now, there are 19 examples that can be downloaded, including a very good example of a 2-Button Remote Control (using the 2 Touch Sensors).

The Learning Lab doesn't have a lot in it yet, but I can see this growing over time. There are some building instructions in here for NXT (very basic stuff) and the pictures are small. Not much in terms of programming training, but we can hope.

A small migration guide (for moving from RCX to NXT) has been provided here by LEGO Engineering. It's a start, but hopefully they'll be adding more content as time moves on...

They've also provided an interesting map of the software progression here. They've got it out to the year 2010 and it shows how LabView sees a student maturing into the full LabView product. Personally, I started learning Pascal, FORTRAN, and C in high school (not well, though - I discovered girls) so take this with a grain of salt as its LabView's outlook.

Reader submitted Bot...

I received an email from Caleb... he's built in interesting bot:

"I recently finished a project that uses PHP and RSS feeds to dictate behavior in a Lego NXT robot. I used PHP to parse a RSS feed, process the items, insert them into a database and then PHP sends the results to the NXT via NeXTTool.exe... photos and videos here."

Aug 28, 2006

3D Modeler available...


I don't have a lot more details, so please check this out and comment with your thoughts.

First Compass Program


It's not much to look at, but it allowed me to give the sensor an initial test. I verified its results with the compass in my truck! The sensor I am using is an official production line sensor from HiTechnic... it functions exactly as yours will. For now, I do not have the NXT-G COMPASS block yet (but it's coming!) so the workaround is to configure it using the Ultrasonic sensor (pick a port) set to Centimeters. Using the output data plug, I feed that number into a MATH block. You must do this because the value returned by the sensor will be between 0 and 179 degrees. I use the MATH block to multiply the value by 2 and then convert that number to Text... I then feed the text into the DISPLAY block so I can watch the number as I rotate my bot around.

I'm going to play with it some more and build a little more complex routine - will post soon.

Aug 27, 2006

Random NXT photos from BrickFest

http://www.flickr.com/photos/billward/225831260/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/billward/224322094/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/billward/224321734/in/set-72157594250902399/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/billward/224321512/in/set-72157594250902399/

New HiTechnic Compass



HiTechnic obviously knew about the announcement, because they kindly rushed me one of their new production compass sensors! Nice surprise! I'm playing with it now and will post more details about it tomorrow (hopefully), but here is a picture of my DogChaser robot with the compass attached. You'll notice that the compass is parallel to the ground - it needs to be horizontal to work properly. It was easy enough to simply connect it with one connector so I could pivot it - the rest of the bot is at an angle and that just won't work :) The compass is housed in a real LEGO housing - that's it to the right of the red ball.

3rd Party Sensors to be sold on LEGO's site...

It was announced this morning during the Keynote address that LEGO has created a 3rd party Developer Program that will feature HiTechnic sensors and devices available for sale at the LEGO Shop-at-Home and on HiTechnic's website. More information as I can get it... Brian Davis is at BrickFest and may be able to provide more details later.

Video of the announcement here.

Congrats to HiTechnic... I'm looking forward to some great add-ons!

Aug 26, 2006

RIF has joined the blogging community...

It looks like the RIF has its own blog... a link for it appeared today. I don't think it's any secret because the new instructions on the homepage tell you to click on the numeral 6. Try it.

Matthias' Closeable Shovel building instructions...

Matthias has posted building instructions for his Closeable Shovel here.

LEGO Education blog website updated

LEGO Education has changed its look! The new site is www.legoeducation.info/nxt. Also, be sure to update your feeds to feeds.feedburner.com/nxt. They've also given The NXT STEP a mention on the first post... that was nice of them :) The new site looks good and I imagine they've got a lot of new information that will be coming out now that school has started and FLL teams are forming...

Jim

Aug 24, 2006

Summary of RIF puzzles...


A comment today from a reader asked for a summary of all the RIF puzzles found so far. I'll post them here, along with solutions (in white text so you'll have to highlight the answers to read them). Please keep in mind that these are the puzzles that I'm aware of - there might be more. If I've missed one, please let me know. (By the way, I emailed Poe and asked if I could post these solutions - the only one I'm not allowed to provide right now is the last puzzle I discuss below.)

The first puzzle found is in the upper-right corner of the large grey rectangle. Move the mouse over the area until you trigger it. The puzzles is:

JRARRQNTRAGFJVGUTBBQC
EBOYRZFBYIVATFXVYYFNT
RAGFHFRAKGEBOBGFGBNFF
VFGJVGUVAIRFGVTNGVATN
AQPBYYRPGVATVASBEZNGV
BASBEBHEPYVRAGFPURPXU
RERSBEZBERVASBEZNGVBA
BANHTHFGGJRAGLSVIR

If you use a ROT13 encoder/decoder (http://www.degraeve.com/rot13.php) to convert the code, it changes to (drag your mouse to select the text below to see it:

WENEEDAGENTSWITHGOODP
ROBLEMSOLVINGSKILLSAG
ENTSUSENXTROBOTSTOASS
ISTWITHINVESTIGATINGA
NDCOLLECTINGINFORMATI
ONFOROURCLIENTSCHECKH
EREFORMOREINFORMATION
ONAUGUSTTWENTYFIVE


So apparently some new info will be released tomorrow (August 25, 2006)

The next puzzle found wasn't a puzzle, but was a hidden link. Highlight the line below for its location.

Move the mouse around inside the letter P in the word September until the point changes to a hand. That's the hidden link.

The next puzzle was a little more difficult to solve. This one is a little trickier to find and solve. Highlight the line below for directions to find it:

The puzzle is located on the right side of the large grey rectangle. You have to move the mouse around carefully, but when you hit the trigger you'll see two columns of text pop up and the words "Yes and No" and "On and Off".

Highlight the line below for the instructions on solving the puzzle:

I'm not going to paste the long column of text here, but to solve it simply start with the first letter, F (in FAIL) and then skip every other letter: So FAIL ROSE would be FIRS (skip the A, L, O, and E.) Keep doing this as you read down the column of words. The message spells instructions to email the RIF. If you sent an email before August 20 to the RIF you received
an email from Poe with a special message and a reward that has yet to be announced... (I'm very curious... has anyone who solved it heard what the reward is?)


The next puzzle I encountered (not sure if this one came before the next one) was a hidden message embedded in the PDF file that Poe sent to nxtasy.org. Highlight the line below for instructions on finding the message:

In the first "story" on the PDF (about the missing scientist) there are letters in the story that are bolded. They are fairly easy to find and this one wasn't that hard to solve. Read the bold letters in order for a website to visit.

The next puzzle (which may have appeared before the PDF one above, not sure) was a word jumble found in the lower-right corner of the large grey rectangle. It's been unjumbled now, but if you figured it out, it spelled out sudoku.html. If you go to www.rifagent.com/sudoku.html it took you to the next puzzle.

The last puzzle I'm aware of is the actual Sudoku puzzle. I was not given permission to provide the solution for it, but basically just solve the sudoku puzzle. They kindly gave a link to a wiki article that gives the rules if you are unfamiliar with it... and if you're not good at it, find somebody (it's worth it!)

That's it... if I've missed one, please add a comment.

From NI Week to BrickFest

Well, I need to apologize. It's been a busy time (school starting etc.), and I've not had time to blog as I should... and the schedule's just ramping up! But a few quick notes on NI Week, and a mention of BrickFest.

First, NI Week had at least two other things that really need to be mentioned and hit on much harder than I did. National Instruments announced their Toolkit for the NXT, a way of programming the NXT in LabVIEW. Not only does this open up some amazing power for you LabVIEW folks, but it also lets you author your own blocks for incorperation into NXT-G. To say I'm excited about this is an understatement - essentially, the development team at NI is releasing a toolkit very similar in many regards to the one they used to develop NXT-G in the first place! There are a few of us that will be beta testing this, and I look forward to all the neat stuff I can start learning "under the hood". More details as I learn (and a quick footnote: anybody have suggestions on how to get up to speed ASAP in LabVIEW 7?).

Also, I've yet to mention Dick Market's demo of RobotC and all the fun toys (in some cases literally) he showed off. RobotC is looking like it will be a very nice, powerfull language (alas, I've not used it yet, due to being on a Mac and time constraints). Filip & Dick have posted a nice write-up over on bNXT, and if you've not looked it over I encourage you to do so. It has a lot of the features I liked in the RCX firmware, such as preemptive multi-tasking, events, arrays, and a bunch of new goodies like floating point... and speed! The hardware Dick brought was equally interesting (including a remote control that is slightly more professional looking than mine... see the picture. And a tiny camera with on-board processing). Thanks Dick, and I'm looking forward to learning yet another wonderful language for the NXT.

Sidenote: pause for a moment and think of just how much stuff is out there for the NXT... not yet a month after the official release date. NXT-G, Robolab, RobotC, NBC, Java on the way, MS Studio, etc., etc... and many custom sensors already either released or close at hand from HiTechnic, Vernier, Mindsensors, etc. Let's see, where was the hobby community a month after the RCX release... Wonderful stuff. Thank you to LEGO, NI, 3rd party developers... and especially the community!

Tommorow starts BrickFest 2006, a LEGO Fan convention in Washington D.C., and that's where I'll be headed tommorow. So while I won't be posting, I will be taking lots of notes. A fair number of the MDP are going to be there, and we'll likely have the largest collection of NXT's in one place outside of perhaps some schools (can you say, "BlueTooth"?). Line following, remote control, Zamor guns blasting the spectators... I'll take pictures. And if you live in the area, drop on by: BrickFest will have a public expo Saturday and Sunday. and I promise some new things will be revealed...

See you in D.C.!

--
Brian Davis

Book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com

Greg emailed me to let me know that Amazon.com now has my book listed... Yay! I'll be contacting the publisher to see about getting a cover photo uploaded. Plus they've got the wrong release date (correct one is Dec 10, 2006)...

RIF has a sudoku puzzles...

Poe has changed the word jumble on www.rifagent.com to sudoku.html (hover mouse in lower right corner)... and I was just emailing someone about this puzzle today...

Luckily for me, I'm pretty good at Sudoku... :) Hope you are, too...

Jim

Some new info on FLL posted...

On the Education blog, there's some new information related to the FLL... check it out here.

NOTICE the inclusion of the Ultrasonic sensor!

And can someone explain the meaning of "There are no restrictions on the quantity or source of non-electric LEGO pieces,"?

Aug 23, 2006

Direct Commands API in Perl...

Michael has written a "Direct Commands API in Perl based on Lego's specs" - it's on his NXT site and can be found here.

NI's Interactive video tutorial for NXT-G


Bernard sent over this link to a nice little demo tutorial of the NXT-G software... check it out here.

Some nice detailed images inside the Brick

Daniel has posted some up-close shots of the NXT brick internals here. Don't try this at home.

Programming Question...

I was playing around with the MOVE block and found something that I don't quite understand...

I've never actually placed a MOVE block by itself and configured it for UNLIMITED Duration. I did this today and when I ran the program, the motors spun for 1 Duration.

I put the MOVE block inside a LOOP block (set to FOREVER) and configured the MOVE block for UNLIMITED and it ran until I stopped it.

Okay, here's the question. Shouldn't a basic MOVE block configured to UNLIMITED Duration keep spinning the motor without the LOOP block? Can anyone else duplicate this or is it possibly just something with my brick/motor?

Steve H's OMNI building instructions up

Check them out here.

Building Instructions for DogChaser

You can find Step 1 here... 48 steps in all.

I hope the pictures are good enough to demonstrate the proper placement of pieces. Some of the pieces you might be wondering what they're function is - I add some pieces on the underside to keep the cables from scraping the ground... another piece on the neck keeps the cables to the Ultrasonic and Sound sensor under control.

Hey, the book is listed!

Filip over at bnxt.com emailed me to let me know that my book has shown up on Amazon.ca and Amazon.fr for pre-orders - I have no idea why it's not showing at Amazon.com.

Anyway, the book is called "LEGO Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure" and the book is targeted at ages 10 and up. No official pagecount yet, but it'll probably be over 300 pages. The book is a little different in that it uses a fictional storyline to setup situations where a NXT robot can 'save the day' so-to-speak. Each of the 5 bots has complete building instructions and programming instructions, but with commentary and explanations which I hope readers will appreciate... I don't just say "Click here" and set this to 50... I explain WHY my bots are built and programmed the way they are...

Thanks go to Filip for the info...

Jim

Having some fun with the family dog...


What good is building robots if you can't build one to occasionally chase the family cat or dog...

I received an email this last weekend from Andreas, asking me to post some more building instructions for some bots. Well, I've got some time this week so I'll try and post a few more.

I'll have to tear this bot down and photograph it, so the images aren't up yet... but I'll be posting the building instructions on flickr.com (hopefully) today. I'll update this post when they're up, but for now, here are some images of my DogChaser...

The dog doesn't like the Ultrasonic sensor... if I point the bot at the dog, the dog gets uncomfortable because the Ultrasonic sensor never blinks... try it... dogs go crazy when you stare at them without blinking. Anyway, I have the bot move slowly towards the dog... when the Ultrasonic sensor detects movement (the dog moving somewhere else in the room) the bots stops and waits for about 10 seconds. Then it starts rotating in place with the Sound sensor listening for my voice. I tell the bot to stop when it's facing in the general direction of the dog and it begins to move forward and starts all over again... good for a laugh and it'll drive the dog crazy for about 10 minutes before the dog just leaves the room. She's a sweet dog, so I then go play with her for about 30 minutes to make it up to her...

Aug 22, 2006

Competition Discussion & Questions

I was playing around with one of my bots today that uses the Play/Record block an unusual thought popped in my head. Let me see if I can explain it...

Let's say you have a competition where your bot must navigate a fixed-dimension field (let's say 10x10 feet). Let's also add in the fact that there are obstacles and objects to interact with on the field. (Can you tell I'm trying to avoid using a 3-letter acronym here?)

Finally, let's add in the fact that the bot will always start from the same exact position.

Okay, here's the question:

(Assuming memory isn't an issue, because it may very well be in the REAL WORLD)

What's to keep me from setting up a test field, putting in a Play/Record block configured for 5 minutes (300 seconds) and then recording my manually moving the bot around the field, interacting with objects, performing tasks, and then returning home?

If everything is in a fixed location, all I've got to do is drive the bot with my hand into the proper position for a task, use Motor A if required and move it to perform a task, and then move it on to the next task.

I realize that there might be subtle differences in measurements, but if we're dealing with a table of less than 10 feet, the bot probably won't encounter any major problems with playing back the recorded file. If I needed the bot to interact with objects with a degree of accuracy in the millimeters, I could see a problem, but I haven't seen too many competitions with that level of fine-tuned design.

Okay, thoughts? Is this allowed? Impossible with the current memory limits? What if memory isn't an issue by the time competition rolls around?

NXT USB GUI tool...

Our friend Danny, creator of the JohnNXT5, has created a GUI version of the NeXT Tool - created for those who either don't enjoy command line tools or are not familiar enough with them...

UPDATE: A note from Danny: the tool "implements a real handy NXT file browser,that can be used instead of opening the heavy NXT software"

Check it out here.

Aug 21, 2006

Another thing to do with the blue ball


Mates,

Inspired by some researches of two MDPs in the NXT military sector and pushed by the "Throw it" challenge on NXTasy.org, I've gone in some works for a Blue Ball Gun.

These efforts finally resulted in a NXT robot called "Dicke Bertha" - feel free to have a look.

Feedback is highly welcome (as usually).

Cheers,
Matthias Paul (fond of reminiscent names)

Aug 20, 2006

New puzzle on the RIF site...

Over at www.rifagent.com, it appears that a new puzzle has been added. It took me about 30 minutes but I figured it out (both parts)... a fun one. I have to admit, this RIF thing has got my attention... maybe Poe or the persons responsible for this website can provide some more background on the RIF and how it is tied to the NXT.

Jim

Update on book...

The Sept 4 issue of Forbes magazine has an interview with Soren Lund on the NXT. In the same issue, writer Stephen Manes talks about his experiences with the NXT... overall, I'd say his review is a positive one, but he does have a few complaints, namely with the programming language... he makes a hopeful statement that "somebody will come up with a book that straighforwardly steps you through the ins and outs of programming."

Well, I hope I can maybe deliver on a small portion of that. I'm just now putting the finishing touches on the final chapter of my book. 21 chapters, 5 appendices (possibly more), and 5 new bots (and 1 bonus bot in an appendix) complete with building instructions and programming... the book is geared towards the younger reader, but I hope all ages might get something out of it.

In no way do I go into extreme programming theory, but I do touch on various methods that answer the "why or why not" questions for when to use certain blocks over others... including some good coverage of the LOOP and SWITCH blocks.

Unfortunately, the book is a good 3-4 months away from hitting the bookshelves. I'll try and post an update as soon as possible once I know a little more details, but for now I've just been busy getting this thing done and ready... but it's close and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Jim

Aug 19, 2006

Welcome Dave Levy as a Contributor

David Levy has joined The NXT STEP as a contributor... welcome, Dave!

An RIF download...

Guy over at nxtasy.org posted an email from Poe, the as-yet-unidentified person responsible for this website. There's also a PDF that can be downloaded.

Ah, the mystery continues... (unless I'm mistaken, there are 3 hidden items on that website, correct?)

By the way, I figured out the last puzzle. On a 1-to-10 scale of complexity, I would rank that one a 4 or 5... tricky, but definitely solveable if you just spend some alone time with it - good luck with it!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Jim

Aug 18, 2006

NI Week: the NXT challenge

Well it’s been too long since NI Week, and I really wanted to update some folks on what went on there, so I’ll start (out of order) with a contest and a ‘bot. One of the things that NI (National Instruments, the folks that developed NXT-G) set up for us was a challenge: to navigate around an obstacle course as quickly as possible. Easy enough, but there were a few constraints. First, we had only one hour to program, and second, the obstacles were devilish! A simple ramp (recognize anything?) with a “snake pit” of cables next to it, a giant teeter-totter, even a section of “washboards” to try to drive over or through – the variety and design were great!

The teams likewise were diverse: Steve Hassenplug & I formed “Team Covert”, with opposition from “Team Clever” (Soren Lund and the NXT-G project manager), “Team Cunning” (Dr Rich Crawford & Dr Chris Rogers, the developer of Robolab), and others, including a team of high school students that took 1st in a local FIRST event. After much rushing around and rapid testing (not to mention badgering, teasing, and intimidating), Steve and I hit upon the highly technical solution of “dead reckoning”, without looking for any of the landmarks. You might picture how well this did over the rough terrain, but it still held the promise of being the fastest (it didn’t matter how many times you failed, just what your fastest run was). And at the end of the hour… we lost. To the group of high school students, who also relied on dead reckoning. Watching the NXTbots run up the teeter-totter, only to slam back down on the far side was great (Spike was even at one corner, striking at all in his range), and everyone, participants and spectators, had a wonderful time.

The other interesting constraint was the NXTbot itself. To save time and level the playing field (the following day, anybody at NI Week could try the same challenge), all of us were given the same NXTbot. This was designed and built by Laura Hayden & James Loftus, and was really a nice design (it can be built with one kit). It used the blue ball as a front caster (great for traversing rough terrain) with small side wheels to help keep it from becoming snared on the walls, and the US and light sensor in front. One of the really interesting aspects was the floating support for the light sensor: it was held perpendicular to the surface on a parallelogram mount that allowed it to pivot up if it hit an obstacle. A very nice design, thank you Laura & James!

Other things that happened at NI Week: we talked with the NXT-development team (face to face, finally) about the product and future directions (including the Toolbox that NI announced), played with NXTbots, saw some great Keynote talks (including one by Dean Kamen), played with NXTbots, Saw demos of RobotC (and all the nifty sensors Dick Swan and other folks have in the pipeline… accelerometers, cameras, etc.), let other folks play with NXTbots (remote controls are fun), and got to meet some amazing people. Thank you NI for a simply amazing opportunity.

Want more? Here’s the Brickshelf folder:

NI Week ‘06

--
Brian Davis

You have to love a bot that's all about destruction...

A nice little video of a bot doing some damage here. Can anyone translate or give us a rough description of what is being said? Thanks.

Jim

400th POST! And some videos

Not sure what I'm supposed to see, but check out a video here. I think the camera must be attached to the bot.

Here's another one. This one has potential. Notice tape holding down the main body to the table. Using some well-programmed rotational control, I imagine you could program a certain number of keys on a keyboard to be pressed in order (or maybe by selecting the key to be pressed on the Brick's LCD panel). The speed is good, but the video shows the accuracy isn't there yet... but still, a nice idea.

And finally... this is post #400! It's hard to believe this blog was started over 8 months ago... but thanks to all of you for helping us out by providing links, updates, news, videos, images, and everything else imagineable... keep it all coming!

Jim

Updated version of BricxCC available and more

A lot of new stuff released today:

1. version 3.3.7.15 of BricxCC is online

2. new beta of NBC - version 1.0.1.b5 (binaries for Mac OSX and Linux up later today)

3. NBC samples page - two new zips: (1) contains a few simple xamples of controlling NXT motors using the Tachometer limit feature (two examples by Philo) and (2) NXTlib.zip containing library code (by Joe Kinsella)

4. latest BricxCC sourcecode

5. sourcecode for NBC is finally available

Find more details here. Some items might be located elsewhere, so please post comments if I've got the URL wrong or if you know the correct ones... thanks.



OFFICIAL ANSWER on legacy sensors and RETAIL kit

The official answer from LEGO is this:

"There will be a download available later this year with the programming blocks you need to use legacy sensors and motors. There will also be a service item available online with the hybrid wires you need when connecting a legacy sensor/motor to the NXT."

Come on, now... admit it - did anyone actually think that LEGO would hold this from us? I think not...

Thank you, LEGO, for the official answer AND for making it a good one!

Jim

Update to the official Mindstorms website

Details of the 4 bots included in the retail version have been added along with snapshots of the programs (with commentary). Check it out here.

Johnny 5 is ALIVE! No doubts!

I received an email from Danny... apparently there has been some doubt about whether the JohnNXT 5 really works... well, check out the link below and see for yourself.

Images, code, and video are at the bottom...

Thanks to Danny for the update.

Jim

http://unitutor.unisi.it/~danny/JohnNXT.htm

Building instructions


Dearies,

I've started to create building instructions for the robots I've made (mainly for the reason that it's easier for me to rebuild them at need) .
First ones are the instructions for The Slug - others will follow over the next days on the different pages in the Robots section.

Just in the case anyone is interested,
Matthias Paul

Aug 17, 2006

Keep your hand off my donut...

Another video... again, no translation required. View it here.

Bot to feed your dog...

No translation needed :) View the video here.

Pictures of a SWARM bot


Found some images posted on flickr of a SWARM bot... you can view them here.

If anyone has any additional info on them, please comment... thanks.

Jim

Aug 16, 2006

Strange email...

Received this today...

"To The NXT Step Team:

Thank you for posting about the Robotics Investigation Force. We thoroughly enjoyed the comments your readers posted, too. As a reward to you and your readers for your kind attention and keen observation skills, we have added some new information. We are not going to simply give it away, mind you. We do hope you understand our asking your readers to please refrain from posting the answer until after August twenty.

Cheers,

Poe
www.rifagent.com"

That's all I received... I replied to the email but got a bounceback... oh, well. I don't like puzzles usually, especially hidden messages and stuff. But I'll ask all of you to honor the request not to share whatever answer he's talking about (or she? Is Poe a typical male or female name?). But please do let me know if you find what h/she is talking about... thanks!

Jim

List of NXT-related sites - part I

I say Part I because I'm certain I've missed some and more will be added... so PLEASE comment if I've missed one and I'll edit the post to include... please be sure that it focuses mainly on NXT.

www.mindstorms.com
www.legoeducation.com
http://mynxt.matthiaspaulscholz.eu
http://legoeducation.typepad.com/
http://www.nxtasy.org/
http://www.bnxt.com/blog/
http://www.jstuber.net/
http://www.hitechnic.com
http://www.philohome.com
http://www.ortop.org/NXT_Tutorial/
http://www.nxtbot.com/
http://www.nxtclub.com/
http://www.mindsensors.com/
http://www.rifagent.com/
http://www.vernier.com/nxt/
http://mindstormsnxt.blogspot.com/
http://www.brick-labs.com/
http://robotchallenge.blogspot.com/
http://www.nxtidea.blogspot.com/
http://nxt.natulte.net/
http://www.nxt-mindstorms.com/wiki/Main_Page
http://www.themaurinet.info/mindstorms
http://bricxcc.sourceforge.net/
http://www.astolfo.com
http://www-education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/robotc/
http://www.ni.com/mindstorms
http://www.legoengineering.com/
http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?f=176190
http://bricksforbrains.geekytom.com/
http://www.fll-freak.com/index.htm

Aug 14, 2006

New FLL Challenge

I had a chance this weekend to visit with some Atlanta, GA area teachers who are coaches or otherwise affiliated with the FLL. Kristie Brown, the LEGO Education representative gave a demonstration of the software and had 6 of the NXT bots assembled and available for "testing."

We got to look at the new playing field and the various tasks/challenges associated with the "Nanotechnology" theme... it looks SO FUN! If you have a chance to see a local, state, or national FLL competition, I highly recommend it... I can't wait to see what the kids come up with to solves these challenges.

On another note, I got to work with the NXT-G Education version of the software... the training tutorials are a little more interesting - there's a video demonstrating the motion of each bot which I thought was very cool... and the tutorials are very well done...

I got to see the case that the Ed version comes in... definitely wish we had that option with the retail kit, but that's okay... I like my cases anyway.

Something related to NXT...


The NXT symbol is in the lower left corner of the website, so it seems to be NXT related... A comment was posted with this URL in it... I saw the same URL on some other blogs, too.

If anyone has any ideas, would love to hear them...

Jim

New MDP profiles

A couple of new MDP profiles here.

Michael Brandl

Andreas Dreier

Aug 13, 2006

MacIntel and NXT-G: high gear?

I've heard that the Intel core Macs run NXT-G rather slowly, but somebody recently mentioned a possible fix (at least for the time being, until a universal binary comes out). Since my Mac isn't Intel-based, I'm depending on readers to test this out. It seems that the MINDSTORMS software runs very fast under Parallels, even if it's slow under Rosetta (something like a 10x speed boost). Just to have a test standard, try dropping a Sound block followed by a Motor block, and compile. On my laptop (1.67 GHz G4 w/ 1 GB RAM), it seem the compile time is about 14 seconds, with a sub 2 second download via USB. Can anyone comment on the these times on an Intel-based Mac under Rosetta and Parallels?

--
Brian Davis

Aug 11, 2006

BROC - National Instruments - NIWeek '06

I really have to fight myself to keep this posting short. There is simply too much information I would like to present. It was an incredible conference. So, the comments area can provide a great deal of the exciting information we managed to witness and gather. I will tell you now that this was an amazing gathering of technology and the people that bring it to the world!

For a tidbit of info to wet your tongue…see the videos posted HERE. Especially, the NIWeek 2006 Highlights video and the 5th video down the Tuesday listing - "Lego Mindstorms Powered by NI LabVIEW."

Oh! I can see my arm(s) again in the Highlights video! My Team’s Mission Possible bot is the one falling over on the Challenge course. Just after a shot of Steve Hassenplug and Brian Davis' bot 3/4 of the way through the video. I might add that the real "LEGO MINDSTORMS experts" in the NIWeek'06 Mission Possible Challenge are the attending high school students in the FIRST LEGO League program... "Taking first place with a time of 15 seconds, the team from LBJ High School's LBJ LASA Robotics team outraced their competitors to win two LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT kits."

More information to come! Be sure to check the comments of this thread for a while.

Christopher Smith

ROBOT magazine article part 2


ROBOT magazine is supposed to be posting building instructions shortly for the bot I submitted for the Fall 2006 issue - keep checking here if you want to build one.

This one was done for fun... just to see how many parts I could throw at it from the retail kit... I ran out of most of the beams, all of the little black connectors, and all the Hassenpins and those similar-looking grey pins. I also was asked to use all the motors and sensors...

My wife didn't like it because it looked "creepy" (her words)... if it weren't so loud, I'd put it under the bed or couch and have it grab her ankle (of course, then I'd be sleeping on that couch).

Aug 9, 2006

New Wiki needs your help

Mitchell emailed me and asked "do you think that the RCX world is "Fractured" as such? I kinda do, because there is no one place that everyone can look at everyone's stuff, it's just plastered all over the internet."

Mitchell pointed me to www.nxt-mindstorms.com and is asking for contributors to help build the wiki. Check it out here.

Runtime environment for NXT

Received an email from Matt@transterpreter... would like to pass it along:

I don't know if your readers would be interested in this kind of thing, but the Transterpreter group will be porting our virtual machine for concurrent programming languages to the NXT over the next few months. (Hopefully, things will go quickly... I'd prefer if it took weeks...) We maintain a weblog at http://www.transterpreter.org/blog/ where we'll be writing about the process as we go along.

The Transterpreter itself is just a runtime environment; however, it provides support for a family of concurrent programming languages that take for granted that you will want to do lots of things at the same time, and communicate between those concurrently executing processes. This means that writing programs that appear to do many things simultaneously is natural, safe, and straight-forward.

If people are interested, I'd start with some of our thoughts regarding the role of robotics in education: http://www.transterpreter.org/papers/jacobsen-jadud-sigcse-2005.pdf

And, if people are really keen, we do have a complete simulation environment available for larger robots: http://www.transterpreter.org/wiki/RoboDeb

Lego NXT start shipping in Europe, to MDP applicants

For those who do not know, when Lego announced its MDP development program in the February issue of Wired magazine it was overwhelmed with over 9600 applicants for the 100 places. (See the March 3rd Lego press release: http://mindstorms.lego.com/press)

In March failed applicants were given an opportunity to pre-order NXT kits before the general pre-order started, with despatch for the UK in September. I later received an email saying that delivery was delayed until around 29th September. (I posted the email in a comment here)

So I was very surprised this morning at 8am when my post man called and asked me to sign for a big box with 2 Lego NXT kits shipped from Germany! (I was thinking to reduce my order as I had got the Eductional Kit already.)

Plusses:
1. Wow, its early.

2. The box looks great.

3. Stickers and Test Pad - these were not in the Educational Kit.

Minuses:
1. These are the North American kits - the advertised Duracell batteries are absent.

2. I hope not too many people miss their delivery, through being away on their family summer holiday.


Ttfn, Tony

Some nice resources for kids and adults...

Over at hightechkids.org, they've got 2 documents worth taking a look at... one is a PDF and the other is a PowerPoint slideshow. These documents cover the NXT-G programming language and are in color and very detailed...

Go here to get the files.

Interesting Walker...

Check out this video of a walker... controlled by a remote Brick connected via cables and not BT.

Nice upright base...

If you've got access to tank treads, this designer has created a nice upright base to expand on... it looks like two motors are in use, so that leaves one motor (with a basic kit) to play with...

Need some news, LEGO Education...

Okay, LEGO Education... it's been over a month since we've heard anything from you. Anything new on the horizon?

NI press release: LabVIEW Toolkit for Lego Mindstorms NXT

A fairly important press release - the toolkit should enable custom VIs to be created for use with NXT-G, supporting customs sensors & such.

I know people have been looking out for this, and as I have not seen this appear on any news sites yet, please excuse my posting the whole release ....

NI Introduces LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO(R) MINDSTORMS(R) NXT; New LabVIEW Toolkit Encourages Development of Third-Party Software and Hardware for Next-Generation Robotics Systems
NIWeek 2006
AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 8, 2006--National Instruments (Nasdaq:NATI), a global leader in virtual instrumentation, today announced the NI LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO(R) MINDSTORMS(R) NXT. With the new toolkit, LabVIEW users can create and download VIs to operate and control the MINDSTORMS NXT robotics platform. Third-party software and hardware developers also can use the toolkit to create native blocks for MINDSTORMS NXT software. MINDSTORMS NXT, the next generation of the popular LEGO robotics invention system, became available earlier this month and includes a new programming environment, custom developed by NI and powered by LabVIEW.
The LEGO Group and National Instruments worked together to develop the new MINDSTORMS NXT software that includes a simple drag-and-drop, graphical interface optimized for the target MINDSTORMS NXT consumer -- children 10-14 years old. With the new LabVIEW toolkit, more advanced MINDSTORMS NXT users, including adults, students and secondary school and university educators, now can program the NXT using advanced graphical programming tools available in LabVIEW. 2006 marks 20 years of LabVIEW innovation, and this toolkit continues its evolution by making LabVIEW accessible and intuitive enough for an audience it has never before engaged -- children.
"The availability of the LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT is critical for encouraging the development of additional tools for the system," said Soren Lund, director of LEGO MINDSTORMS. "One of the key reasons for working with National Instruments to develop the NXT software was the ability for third-party developers to use LabVIEW to create add-on software blocks for our software. In addition, experienced MINDSTORMS users can easily migrate from the graphical drag-and-drop environment of MINDSTORMS NXT to the more advanced graphical programming in LabVIEW. Providing the tools advanced users need to take our system to the extreme is what made the legacy MINDSTORMS platform a huge success, and the NI toolkit furthers that tradition."
With the toolkit, users also can interact with the NXT robot while a program is running. By dropping a LabVIEW control, the toolkit can send data to the robot and influence the currently executing program. By dropping an indicator, the value at that point in the program is sent back to the PC and viewed in a regular LabVIEW front panel.
Developers of third-party sensors and other hardware add-ons for MINDSTORMS NXT can use LabVIEW to create native blocks that program and control their hardware for use in MINDSTORMS NXT software. For example, HiTechnic Products developed the Digital Compass Sensor for MINDSTORMS NXT and is currently using the new LabVIEW toolkit to create blocks for this and other sensors.
"The LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT makes customizing add-ons for the NXT extremely easy and encourages users to expand the MINDSTORMS experience," said John Barnes, president of HiTechnic. "This type of customer-driven functionality will extend and enhance the experience of MINDSTORMS fans of all ages."
LabVIEW 7.1 and 8.20 customers can download the beta version of the toolkit from ni.com beginning this fall. For more information, visit www.ni.com/mindstorms.
About the LEGO Group
The LEGO Group (http://www.lego.com/) is a privately held, family-owned company, based in Billund, Denmark. It was founded in 1932 and today the group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of play materials for children, employing approximately 5,600 people globally. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children's creative and imaginative abilities. LEGO products can be purchased in more than 130 countries.
About National Instruments
For 30 years, National Instruments (http://www.ni.com/) has been a technology pioneer and leader in virtual instrumentation -- a revolutionary concept that has changed the way engineers and scientists in industry, government and academia approach measurement and automation. Leveraging PCs and commercial technologies, virtual instrumentation increases productivity and lowers costs for test, control and design applications through easy-to-integrate software, such as NI LabVIEW, and modular measurement and control hardware for PXI, PCI, PCI Express, USB and Ethernet. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,900 employees and direct operations in nearly 40 countries. For the past seven years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.
LabVIEW, National Instruments, NI, ni.com and NIWeek are trademarks of National Instruments. Other product and company names listed are trademarks or trade names of their respective companies.
LEGO, MINDSTORMS and the LEGO logo are trademarks of the LEGO Group. (C) 2006 The LEGO Group.

Aug 8, 2006

More Details on the 2007 FLL Challenge

Dave Doerr was kind enough to email me a link to some photos of the new FLL Challenge setup... the subject is "Nano" and the photos are very interesting.

Check out the photos here.

If you have any questions for Dave, please post comments to this post and I'll ask Dave to check in on it if he can.

Aug 7, 2006

New MDP Profile: Bryan Bonahoom

As "maniac000" mentioned in a comment, there's yet another MDP profile up on the LEGO website, for Bryan Bonahoom, yet another MDP member from Indiana. Check out some of his creations, which have a lot of FLL applications. Additionally, he just recently took away several honors in a bi-annual robot games here in Indiana called NEIRG, including a NXT-based line follower and a NXT-based sumo. Nice job, Bryan!

Bryan's MDP profile

And yes, he's very good competition for both Steve and myself, as well as a lot of other LEGO builders in the area. In fact, I really have to get my rump in gear and learn some faster languages, to push my line following skills more to the limit like he and Steve have been doing.

--
Brian Davis

Aug 4, 2006

DominoBot Building Instructions

Dave Astolfo, MDPer, has revamped his website and is including building instructions for his DominoBot. He's also got a review of the Mindsensor.com multiplexor and how he integrated it into a build.

Check it out here.

Tetris on the NXT?

See for yourself.

And here's the Etch-a-Sketch.

Results of small survey with DK announcement

Check out the press release from LEGO regarding the developer kit releases... there's mention of a small survey they conducted which might be interesting to those of us who work with kids...

Check it out here.

Some new additions to My Portal

Check with your NXT Software under My Portal... some new stuff has been added.

Windows
1) Copy extra/custom sound files to
c:\program files\LEGO Software\LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT\engine\Sounds
2) Copy extra/custom display/image files to

c:\program files\LEGO Software\LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT\engine\Pictures\

Mac:
1) Copy extra/custom sound files to
Applications > LEGO MINDSTORMS NX > engine > Sounds

2) Copy extra/custom display/image files to

Applications > LEGO MINDSTORMS NX > engine > Sounds > Pictures

Aug 3, 2006

Clicking Brick Syndrome update #2...

For those of you still stuck with the annoying clicking brick, you might want to take a look at something LEGO has recently posted...

NXT Software Update

Please let us know if this works for you! Add a comment to that effect, especially if you still can't update using this!

--
Brian Davis

Custom sensors for NXT


Vernier Software & Technology has published some nice images and videos of NXT robots they created to illustrate the usage of their custom sensors (amongst others a Low-G Accelerometer, a UV sensor and a magnetic field sensor).

Have a look there.

Reasons to buy the Lego Mindstorms Education NXT kit

Some highlights from the LME NXT kit.

1. A choice of wheel sizes; 4 big ones, 4 smaller thin ones and 2 small wide ones.

2. Three lamps, that connect through the converter cables to the motor ports. (The sensor ports do not supply enough current.)


3. The rechargeable battery, I promised a while back a photo with the charger connected. (Though I had to cut out the several feet, >=1m, of wire.)

4. And of course the minifig, with choice of baseball cap or ponytail, something else I promised a picture of.


5. The LME NXT software includes blocks for the old RCX/Technic motors, the Technic lamps and the old RCX sensors (touch, rotation, light & temperature). As shown below. Hopefully these blocks will be available as a downloadable add-on for the shop bought kits when the conversion cables go on sale.






- Regards, Tony

Important note: Lego Education kits are distributed according to territories. I guess this is to do with providing support to the schools and colleges who make such purchases. You should order from a company that distributes to your delivery address. You can local distributors from this page:

http://www.lego.com/education/default.asp

Received the following message from Dave... thought it warranted a post:

I found that both NXT-G-retail and NXT-G-LME can be installed on the same machine. However, on XP they share the same default profile so you may want to create a custom profile on each installation.

NXT-G-retail

1) from edit menu: manage profiles create...

2) select the new profile from the User profile dropdown.

3) close the app so it comes up next time by default

NXT-G-LME rinse and repeat

---- Problems that may arise

NXT-G-LME has some programmable icons that may not be supported in NXT-G-RETAIL so it's best not to save a program in NXT-G-LME and try to open it in NXT-G-retail... or so I've heard from LME Customer support.If anyone else has feedback on this topic then please comment.

Aug 2, 2006

NXT Radar theory

Jeff has posted another great technical article, with programming block code, over here.

Click on the "A Radar Style Display for the NXT" link.

Some new videos

Drew over at bnxt.com posted a link to some nice tutorial videos (and more are planned). Check them out here.

LEGOSapien???

Thanks to Dick Swan for pointing me to this interesting article... I'll let the content speak for itself. Check it out here.

Some video coverage of "Big Robot on Campus"

View the 10-minute video here.

Photo's can be viewed here.

NXT SDK, HDK and BDK finally released by LEGO

Today, LEGO finally released
  • the NXT driver interface specification and necessary tools for creating third-party programming environments (SDK)
  • the documentation for the executable file format on the NXT
  • the documentation and schematics for the NXT and related sensors (HDK)
  • the communications protocols to the NXT brick (BDK)

Now, community, lift off!

Aug 1, 2006

FLL Schedule for 2007

Teams should be receiving their NXT kits now... and FLL (FIRST LEGO League) will be giving them about 1.5 months to play with the kits and start experimenting. On Sept 15, 2007 FLL will release details of the next competition; it's supposed to have a "Nano-technology" theme. You can see the complete schedule here.

FLL is still moving forward with their plans to integrate the NXT into the competition. I'll be (hopefully) helping in the local competitions and (hopefully) the World Championship that will be held in Atlanta in 2007, so I'll get a good look at how the RCX and NXT kits match up...

CMU Education Curriculum

A reader recently posted a question about the curriculum offered by Carnegie Mellon University. I couldn't find much other than the original link, so I'm reposting that here...

CMU link: http://www-education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/

CMU NXT Curriculum link (takes a bit to load): http://www-education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/nxt/

Lots of new NXT images



Over at flickr.com it seems a lot of people are starting to post pictures of bots and stuff... just do a search for "Mindstorms NXT"

Here are a couple of bots I saw, but I don't know what they do... so if you post, add comments if you can.






This one appears to have a rotating Ultrasonic sensor only... so it's probably an obstacle avoider...

NXT challenge on NXTasy.org: throw it!

Ladies,

Check out the new NXT challenge on NXTasy.org: create a robot that throws the blue ball as far as possible (without using rubber bands, mind!), and win some nice gadgets.

Note that the deadline is rather far away (1st of December) to allow also people to attend who can purchase their NXT in late Autumn yet.

Another NXT book on its way...

It doesn't look like it'll be released until the end of this year or early next year, but here's something in the works.

Quiet again over at LEGO Education...

The LEGO Education blog is quiet again, but for those of you who have purchased (or are preparing to purchase) the Education NXT kit, fellow contributor Tony Naggs has provided a parts inventory over at Peeron... complete with pictures! This was mentioned in a comment, but I think it deserves to be posted so it doesn't get lost. Check it out here.

Subeditor's special effect: Tony corrects the spelling of his name above.

Creating the inventory was easier than I expected as Philippe Hurbain had previously created an inventory, and uploaded some pictures, for the shop version of the Mindstorms NXT here.

Green text added by Tony.

The MDP Grand Challenge

Back in late May, the MDP were issued a building challenge... the contest ran until early June. I am including here the details of the challenge as well as some photos and videos of a few submissions. Some of them are funny... some of them followed the "letter of the law"... and some of them were just plain strange.

Here is a summary of the rules:

“Make a mobile NXT robot that can find and recognize a wall and negotiate (get over) it, without touching the wall”.
1. The challenge field is one square meter (10.764 square feet) and the robot must start from the perimeter of the action area.

2. The challenge field's perimeter can be marked in any way you like (wall, black line etc.) as long as the physical marking does not aid the robot in the actual mission other than marking the boundary of the Action Area.
3. The challenge field must be a square.
4. The wall must be 10 centimeters (3.937 inches) high, 20 centimeters (7.87 inches) wide and about 2 centimeters (appr. 1 inch) deep - (possibly made of LEGO bricks)
5. The wall must be placed in the center of the Action Area.
6. The robot must not be pre-programmed to travel towards the wall, but has to find it autonomously.
7. Remote controls and BT commands are not allowed.
8. Only the elements and sensors found in the NXT tool set must be used.
9. Any possible programming language can be used.

The winning robot (and inventor) is the one that completes the Challenge the fastest and by not touching the wall as it goes over it.

Here are some links to videos and pictures submitted by challengers:

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