Dec 30, 2006

New HiTechnic product

HiTechnic has finally released its new Color Sensor. It can be purchased directly from HiTechnic or from LEGO.

"The NXT Color Sensor operates by using three different color light emitting diodes (LED) to illuminate the target surface and measures the intensity of each color reflected by the surface. Using the relative intensity of each color reflection, the color sensor calculates a Color Number that is returned to the NXT program.
The Color Sensor connects to an NXT sensor port using a standard NXT wire and uses the digital I2C communications protocol. The Color Number calculated by the sensor is refreshed approximately 100 times per second. "

Dec 29, 2006

NXT Software problems

I've received 3 emails since Dec 25 from readers expressing concern about their NXT-G CDs. All 3 indicated that they received errors during the install. 2 of the errors that were described were identical and one was different. One thought is that the CDs are bad, but I'm putting this out here for our readers to provide some possible help...

Error #1: "The installation hangs on install, and if I install the components seperately, the software complains of "Unable to open resource files"

Error #2: "The CD autorun works fine and I select the directory, accept the licensing agreement, etc. etc. and all looks fine, but it stalls on the progress screen (it's the screen with two progress bars and the one on top says "Overall Progress"). It just stalls out. Nothing happens. I can click cancel and it will cancel the operation, so I know the software hasn't frozen on me. I tried restarting the computer, tried two different computers, tried copying the contents of the CD to my HDD and installing, but always the same thing happens. "

Dec 26, 2006

NXT Crossbow

Here's a neat NXT-based crossbow.

If you were the creator, please let us know. Specifically, I'd love to know some details about it (e.g. how the bow is constructed, what each motor does and how much gearing was required, how far the ball flies, were there any injuries, etc.),


FLL Challenge Theme 2007 Announced

The FLL Challenge Theme for 2007 has been officially announced on the FLL U.S. Website. The announcement was the following:
Alternative Energy Resources - Meeting the Global Demand

How do our personal energy choices to do things like heat our homes, fuel our cars, charge our cell phones, power our computers, or even download music to our iPods impact the environment, economy, and life around the globe? Which resources should we use and why? Explore how energy production and consumption choices affect the planet and our quality of life today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. Can FIRST LEGO League teams find the ultimate solution to this global Power Puzzle?


Dec 24, 2006

Is a GPS-sensor for the NXT possible?

From I caught this story about the World's Smallest GPS module, recently announced by Epson. The new chip is 7mm x 6mm x 1.28mm, so I wonder if that would leave enough room inside a typical NXT-sensor housing to fit the electronics required to have it interface with the NXT.

Does anyone know of any homebrew GPS sensors for the NXT?

What could you do with a GPS sensor on a robot?


Dec 23, 2006

Happy Holidays

Whatever your holiday may be...

Merry Christmas.
Happy Kwanzaa.
Happy Holidays.

... or not be - have a great weekend. Signing out for a few days...


Robots are everywhere...

This morning on CNN, they had an interview with a British gentleman/lawmaker who is asking for some research/investigation into Robot Rights. The concern is that Artificial Intelligence research is pacing (or outpacing) robot design and that we may, at some point in the near future, find ourselves with self-aware devices who may or may not have ideas of their own about what they want to do - would a Roomba really want to spend the rest of its days vacuuming and recharging its batteries? Would you? It was an interesting 2-3 minute discussion...

UPDATE: just posted this.

Okay, next I picked up my latest issue of WIRED magazine that showed up yesterday... flipping through it, I find an article on the Pleo - the little baby dinosaur bot that will be released next year. A little discussion in it about whether this is a true robot... it reminds me that the latest issue of MAKE magazine also covers the Pleo but goes deeper into discussing its "learning" capacity and whether it truly could be considered "alive."

Then, just an hour ago, I visit the bookstore to pick up the latest issue of Scientific American. On the cover is one of the most impressive looking robots I've ever seen. I don't really know if it's functional or just a sculptured work of art, but the joints (the knee and elbow joints are amazing) and the features (hands, feet, etc) make me realize that as computer components continue to shrink, servo motors become more powerful, battery technology moves forward - all of this could very well lead to the robot on that cover. The cover caption is "Dawn of the Age of Robots" - and a picture of our buddy, AlphaRex, is found on page 64. (Turn the page, to 66, and you'll see another "robot" made out of Honda Accord parts imitating Rodin's "The Thinker" in an advertisement!)

UPDATE: A little digging found that the "robot" on the cover is actually a sculpture by Mark Ho. It is extremely life-like. Here are some details on it:

Height: 16.93” (43 cm)
Weight: 13.2 lb (6 kg)
Number of parts: 920 (of which 101 are found in each hand)
Number of mobile parts: 85
Material: Bronze and stainless steel

It really does make me realize that if we're not entering the age of robots now, we soon will be. Just as the PC began to grow in popularity in the early 80's (and the Mac, too!) and is now considered to be a normal fixture in most homes, you can almost see the emergence of robots over the next 20 years. Instead of us talking about the speed of our modems (remember when 14.4bps was so HOT) and whether we want to splurge on a DVD-burner, we'll be comparing notes on our robots' servo motors strength, it's recharge-to-function-time ratio, and whether we want to splurge on the optional True-Voice chip.

The wonder I had as a kid seeing my first PET computer and then typing a program on the Apple II and then moving to the first Mac (with the signatures inside the case!) and beyond... I get this again when I play with the NXT as well as watch my young nephew (last night) snap pieces onto the Brick and tell me where he wants to connect "the eyes" (Ultrasonic sensor). I get to be a kid again...

UPDATE: My friend Tony emailed me this link - plan on spending some time here!


Dec 22, 2006

Dad needs some help...

I got an email yesterday from a father of a 10 year old who "got a NXT set and is eager to find some simple detailed instructions for simple projects he can do. I can't believe this is so difficult to find. Can you point us in the right direction?"

He is aware of NXTLOG and points out that most people just post pictures without building or programming instructions... I told him I'd share this concern with him here and see if readers had any suggestions.

Are there any websites out there with instructions for simple bots for a very young designer? (He's aware of books, mine included, so what we're really looking for here are online resources)


Women, help me out here!

Mothers, Daughters, Aunts, Nieces, Women who are teachers, engineers or just plain interested in things mechanical, Fathers of daughters....

We need your input! While, my fellow bloggers are talented, smart and nice people, they are also all men. If we are to meet the needs and interests of the entire NXT community, your input is very much needed and sincerely desired. (I'm assuming—hopefully correctly—that there are females among the millions of children receiving NXT kits for Christmas this year. )

Girls, what do you like about the NXT? What kinds of things would you like to be able to build? LEGO League team leaders, are there certain kinds of projects that seem to particularly appeal to the girls on your teams?

While our first book is yet to be published, we are already talking about possible future books. I can offer input as an intelligent woman with four sons—but I have no daughters and I'm no scientist. So, please, help me out here!

Dec 21, 2006

Images from the Bricking Bavaria 06

On 9th/10th of December, the Bricking Bavaria 06, one of the major Southern Germany LEGO events, has taken place near Munich.
Mike Brandl, one of the European MCPs, has published a lot of images about it on his web site.
Have a look!

Dec 20, 2006

Quick News

Version 1.0.1.b15 of NBC/NXC will be released today according to John Hansen.

It is available via the NBC website ( Be sure to also download the latest BricxCC test release for updated NXT supportfor both NBC and NXC (

First Impressions...

Many of you who do not yet have your NXT kits are going to be receiving them for Christmas or birthday soon... we'd love to hear from you about your first impressions and maybe even share some photos with us of your early projects.

And over the next few weeks, news and information may be a little slow in being shared as the holidays start and end... so we're looking for your help. If you see or hear of something interesting, please let us know so we can share with others.

Dec 19, 2006


Some of the MCP have been working on a bot for a competition between North America and Europe... here's a sneak look at one attempt (but not the actual competitor - that's a secret!), courtesy of Bryan B. via the lego-robotics newsgroup.

More details soon...



Dec 18, 2006


Received the following from Niels H. -

"I've finished my first version of MindSqualls, a .Net library for
remote controlling your NXT. Although it is heavily inspired by NXT#
by Bram Fokke (, there are some notable
differences between the two. I hope you will like it."

You can check it out here.

Local TV station showcases FLL Team

Some interviews of a local FLL team by a TV station in Charlottesville VA

Dec 16, 2006

Chess anyone?

It looks like the author is having problems finishing this, but it's a really impressive start! I've wanted to take on mini-chess on the RCX for some time: a 5x5 board (originally proposed by Martin Gardner as I recall) can support (barely) all the basic legal chess moves, including en passant and castling. Take a look at this:

miniChess on the NXT

Anyone want to take him up on the offer (or is that challenge) of taking this further? The icon set alone is very nice, take a look. Coincidently, I will be playing (make that, "possible getting slaughtered in") a chess tourney all day tommorow with my son... had this come earlier, perhaps I should have entered my NXT...

Brian "touch move" Davis

The power of robots?

I just got this email...

>-----Original Message----->
From: Søren Lund>
Sent: 15. december 2006

Do you need a small break and a laugh?
Then check out the below link. You will see two funny movies recorded with a candid camera.
Please help spread the word - send the link to all your friends, your family, your colleagues etc.
Together we can make the world a little more fun - the viral way!

Best regards

A little off topic, but...

I know this blog is supposed to be about NXT, but I hope you'll forgive me for just a moment to share something a bit different.

I absolutely LOVE The Discovery Store... it comes in close 2nd behind any good bookstore :) Yesterday, while visiting The Discovery Store, I saw some amazing things that parents and kids might want to take a look at - there were Chemistry lab sets, something called the "Try-This-At-Home Science Kit" which I'll probably buy as an investment for my future children (yeah, that sounds good), and the DNA Explorer Lab which had the coolest looking device I've seen that included a centrifuge, mixer, and plenty of tubes and bottles. They had this one things called a Forensic Lab that came with mysteries that you solved by doing the chemistry...

I'm writing this because obviously I love the LEGO Mindstorms NXT and its potential for encouraging students... but I tend to focus so much on robots that I forget about the other stuff out there. It's a great time to be a kid! (And it's a great time to be an adult with a debit card!)

If you find some interesting science/math/technical kits or products that you think parents and kids might find interesting, I invite you to post a comment and share the info here. Not just for Christmas or Hannakuh or Birthdays...



Technical Question

Yesterday while doing some shopping I was in the Discovery store and saw this remote control motorcycle. The thing was very cool and the only thing that kept me from buying it was knowing the look on my wife's face if I brought it home, wrapped it, and wrote my name on it :)

Question: inside the motorcycle is a gyroscope that keeps the motorcycle upright at high speeds. But even at low speed, the thing balanced pretty well. Now, the motorcycle was a little wider than a real motorcycle (if scaled up), but the thing really did run like a motorcycle without training wheels or other support.

Any thoughts on how fast you'd have to get a NXT bot's speed up to keep it up OR how difficult would it be for LEGO or HiTechnic to create a gyroscope? I should add that this has been a discussion on "another board" but not available to the general public. I'm interested in thoughts on the reality/cost/usefulness of this item.


Dec 15, 2006

The Curious Case of Dave Prochnow's New NXT Book

Dave Prochnow has a new book out entitled, "Lego Mindstorms NXT: Hacker's Guide".

Unfortunately, the book has very little about the NXT within it. Most of the book is devoted to a history of LEGO and the old RCX robotics system.

Prochnow's book criticizes Jim Kelly's new NXT book, "Lego Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure". He calls Kelly's book "belittling, silly and mindless" (page xi).

I'd like to weigh in on Prochnow's comments.

Jim Kelly's book is 300 pages about the NXT--programming, theory and design. Young people, the target audience for the book, will find it a helpful guide for learning all of the basics about NXT robotics. Kelly's book has complete programming and building instructions for five robots, plus a helpful guide for building your own NXT creations.

I invite all of you to head to your local bookstore for a head-to-head comparison of these two books. I know which one I would buy.

Dec 13, 2006

The NXT Step Book

All of us contributors have been working for the last several weeks on a special project - a joint book about Lego Mindstorms NXT! This book will be published by No Starch Press, contain building and programming instructions for nine robots, and have additional theory chapters.

By the way, the cover and title (pictured) aren't official yet, and may be subject to change.


NXT Power User Offer

Energizer is running a special that ends on Dec 31, 2006. If you buy a NXT Kit before the deadline, you can get a FREE Power Pack that comes with a light sensor, touch sensor and 8-pack of Energizer e2 Lithium AA batteries (a $50 total value).

Click here to read more about the offer.

Dec 12, 2006

Journal of Bricking Bavaria

Joe Meno has posted some entries on his BrickJournal about the Bricking Bavaria 06 LEGO event near Munich that took place during the last weekend.
Unfortunately, though I had intended to attend, I had been tied up in the last minute. :-(

Images to follow.

NXT On Business Week's List of Best Products for 2006

The NXT is on Business Week's "Best of 2006" list of products. (The list includes not just technology products, but ALL products).
Granted, lists like these are subjective. But this is arguably the NXT's most prestigious award yet, since the list includes some very high-end products--like the $1.5 million Eclipse 500 jet. Read about it here.

PC Magazine's 23rd Annual Technical Excellence Award

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Secures Top Spot in Robotics

PC Magazine will be including this article in its December 26 issue.
Here is the online version

Also - from the Mindstorm's press release page

Update from RoboDNA and a query

Got en email from Lou at RoboDNA:

"I just posted the new roboDNA Dashboard Designer for the Lego NXT. It's
got all the features turned on to remotely operate the NXT from a PC, and you
can now create and edit dashboards and device types. It can be used to drive
any robot including the NXT. User can now build dashboards specific to their
robot design, and how the sensors are connected. We're currently
beta testing the new functionality, but users are welcome to download it and
try it out. "

You can get it here. Be sure to give Lou some feedback if you find this useful!

Thanks, Lou, for the update.

I also receive this bit of info from Lou - maybe a reader can help him out:

"I'm doing up a 'cockpit' dashboard for a Lego NXT replica of a bi-plane. I'm not building the plane, but it will be demo'd at the Aviation Museum here in Ottawa Canada. ( January ). The dashboard will be used to pilot the plane into position on the 'runway' and then initiate an autonomous behaviour for taxi/parking. One of the big advantages with the way I packaged the app is that users can share their dashboards by exchanging XML files. ( the dashboards and devices are all stored in 1 transportable XML file ) This allows me to create dashboards specific to a teacher's curriculum. For example I can do a dashboard which features infra red sensors, or PID motor control etc. Just a matter of distributing an XML file.It would be neat to find someone with a huge LegoNXT train set and have a dashboard for that:)"

Firmware and 1.04 Released

Both the NXT Open Source Firmware and version 1.04 have been released by LEGO. Click here to get it. Version 1.04 can be found here.

Dec 11, 2006

Built On The Rock Wins NJ State Tournament!

Built On The Rock, the FLL team I participate in, had their state tournament yesterday in Mt. Olive highschool, NJ. With two perfect 400's out of three rounds, we won the Robot Performance and Champions awards, and will be going on to Atlanta for the World Championships! The award in the left of the picture is the Champion's award (note it's bigger than the right one), and the one on the right is the 1st place Robot Performance award. Our robot is in the middle on top of a pie (traditional thing in NJ - they give pies to all the winners :) ).


Dec 9, 2006

Ideas for a grade school challenge event

A couple of the NXT Step Bloggers (Tony and Brian) had been sharing some of their ideas about planning quick challenge events so I decided to solicit some folks in my area to gauge their interest.

So far there have been some interesting ideas. Can anyone provide additional suggestions? The idea is to provide a challenge for kids that may have only had their kit for a few months.

I was thinking of having them improve on the line following routine that comes with the NXT Edu Robot Educator. I don't recall if it's available with the retail version but In any case I could always supply it as an example.
David Levy

November 2006 statistics

Well, The NXT Step continues to grow in readership... for the month of November, we had almost 30,000 visitors, of which 12,700 were unique from 105 countries. Thank you for your kinds words and support - this is a volunteer job and all 11 of us enjoy Mindstorms (and LEGO, in general) and bringing you news, information, and random bits of stuff about it...

It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since The NXT Step "opened its doors" - we'll continue to keep you up-to-date on all things NXT in the upcoming year.

Open Sourcing of firmware postponed to 11th of December

From the LEGO guys, there has been the announcement that the Open Sourcing of the firmware has been postponed to next Monday - they do not want to release anything on Fridays.

At the same date, version 1.04 of the firmware is said to get uploaded.


Bricks for Brains FLL Team results

Tom emailed me some information on his rookie team's recent participation in their regional competition. You can read all about the great job they did here.

Congrats to your team, Tom.

Dec 8, 2006

The Texas Lone Star FLL Regional Championship Tournament!

"Bear" with me...I'm a little behind with this.

The Texas Lone Star F.I.R.S.T. LEGO League Regional Championship Tournament was Sat. December 2nd, 2006 at the University of Houston. This championship is the largest FLL robotics tournament in Texas. 76 teams (1000 participants) attended this year for the fun and fast-paced action. The awesome competition was fueled by the excitement and high energy of the fantastic students. The place was wild! Here’s the gist... 1st Place went to the Pirates (Homeschool); 2nd Place went to the Nanobears (the team I mentored)...

Team 724 the Clear Creek Independent School District's Brookwood Elementary School Nanobears consisting of 10 5th grade roboticists. As the event rolled on the Nanobears were gaining some recognition and camera time. In total the Nanobears’ teamwork snagged 3 trophies! A "Robot Performance Finalist Award" for the best score on the competition field (their best run achieved 310 points), a "Project Finalist Award" for quality research, innovative solutions and creative presentations that best reflected an in-depth understanding of the various scientific disciplines and issues involved with the Challenge Project (Nano Technology), and the tournament's "2nd Place Champion's Award". Coach Barrington could not have been more proud of the team! It was a wonderful experience to mentor the Nanobears for this FLL season. These rookies achieved quite a few spectacular accomplishments during their first season of FLL action.

Congratulations! GO NANOBEARS!!

Click Here to the whole folder of Pictures.
Click these direct links for a couple of the pictures...Here and Here


"Vintage" NXT

This is the first vintage NXT I've seen, designed to look like an antique car or truck. It was designed by "chefchen007". View the details here.

Can anyone else point us to other "antique" NXTs?

Another Great Musicial Mindstorms Video

Karl has created yet another video, with some interesting music, of a Mindstorms creation... watch it here.

Thanks, Karl, for the notice - and PLEASE keep building!

Dec 7, 2006

HiTechnic Compass block update

There was a minor bug in the HiTechnic compass block that caused the comparision plug to output faulty values (the Absolute and Relative plugs worked just fine; it's just the logical output that had a glitch). HiTechnic has put out an updated version of their NXT-G Compass block, so if you've been using their previous release, please download and install the new one. Note that the Import/Export tool in the NXT-G environment will not remove a block from NXT-G: you have to do this manually. The HiTechnic download has very good, detailed instructions in the ReadMe file that comes with it on how to uninstall a block from NXT-G. Also note that when you install a new block like this, the Import tool may notify you that there are old version of some files you might overwrite (some of the image files are hard to find and remove); that's OK, just go ahead and install it.

HiTechnic homepage (go to the downloads page for the updated 1.1 block)

Brian Davis

Christmas came a little early...

I received my copies of "LEGO Mindstorms NXT - The Mayan Adventure" today... the book is OUT! Amazon and Barnes&Noble are still showing the incorrect cover and have the wrong description (there are 5 bots, not 4), but I'm hoping to get this fixed.

For all of you who pre-ordered - thank you! My goal in writing the book was to provide incentive to create, some (hopefully) useful tips on formulating an idea and moving it to a real, working bot, and some simple fun challenges to try and overcome. Trying to convince a technical book publisher to consider a book for a "younger audience" wasn't that difficult once I explained that programming and building LEGO robots usually progresses to more advanced programming languages and hardware and the key is to generate an interest NOW in science and technology that will continue throughout school and afterwards...

A Tale of Two Robots

Guy Ziv over at nxtasy has posted a really wonderful demonstration. Using what looks to be stock Tribots with the addition of HiTechnic compass sensors, he's set up a demo where one finds a can, and then is "directed home" by a second, master Tribot via BlueTooth. Very nice, and fairly well explained on the nxtasy blog and in the YouTube video. Note that the first robot has no idea where the other robot is, and once it has ahold of the can it is unable to use its US sensor effectively anyway - essentially, it is blinded by the can it is carrying. So the second robot has to do all the directing of the "blinded" robot, finding it and directing it as to what bearing to follow, and letting it know when it is at the correct distance to deposit the can. This is a very slick demo of what can be arranged with a couple of compass sensors and some good thoughtful programming. Heck, with this set-up, the "master" robot could find its way through a maze or other narrow path, and then communicate the sequence (bearing distance pairs) required back to the cargo-carrying robot. There's a lot of nice potential here. Here's the YouTube video, but you really should read Guy's description over on nxtasy as well:

Tale of Two Robots video

Brian Davis

Open Source Firmware Release Update

The word on high says the release date has been moved to tomorrow, December 7, 2006.

Dec 6, 2006

NXT and Linux

I received an email from Anibal P. from Portugal asking about using the NXT with Linux. I know that the software only runs on Windows or Mac, but does anyone have any suggestions for Anibal? Has there been an NXT compiler for Linux possibly created by a 3rd party?

FLL Team Pick at State Championship

Finally had a chance to post our team pic from the Virginia state championship

LabVIEW Toolkit released

Well, if you are a fan of LabVIEW, or want to take NXT-G to the next level, it looks like Christmas has come a little early for you. National Instruments has finally released the LabVIEW Toolkit for the NXT, which allows you to program the NXT in LabVIEW itself (the “parent language” of NXT-G), and with a little more work will also allow you to make your own blocks for NXT-G. To download it to try it out, take a look here:

NI Mindstorms page

Some folks have already been playing with this Toolkit, including Steve Hassenplug, the folks at HiTechnic (check out their Downloads page), Guy Ziv over on, and Jason King who has already developed some Text manipulation blocks, as well as myself (although I must admit, the others on this list have done significantly more than me at this point). More than one person is already on the way to adding proper array blocks into NXT-G, as well as math blocks, special display blocks, etc. The gloves are coming off…

The Toolkit allows a lot more than just making new NXT-G blocks as well: it will allow you to program the NXT in LabVIEW itself, as well as communicate in realtime between the NXT brick and the computer. Essentially, it allows you to control the NXT just like you would other hardware, using LabVIEW controls and indicators. Here’s a screenshot of a program someone else has written to make Spike “do his thing”, all under LabVIEW. Notice how the data from the sensors (like the sound sensor) can be sent back to be displayed while the program is running, and commands (like the "distance to strike" setting) can be sent from the computer to the NXT program. That whole sound sensor graph is programmed by using just three symbols in a loop (the light gray rounded rectangles): essentially you just tell the NXT to send the value of the sound sensor to a graph (“history”), and LabVIEW does the rest for you.

I must confess I had not used LabVIEW before starting to work with the Toolkit, but I’ve rapidly grown to like it. NXT-G is a great language to learn some things under, and for a long time folks have liked Robolab on the RCX and NXT… and it looks like with the Toolbox, NI is opening the doors to the next level of graphical code complexity.

Brian “can I run my FPGA under NXT-G yet?” Davis

Amazing FLL solution

Check out the remarkable performance by an RCX robot in this year's FLL competition.
Notice that all attachments are changed autonomously by the robot!

NXT related questions.

1) What kind of resources will there be for students to be able attempt this level of sophistication using the NXT?

2) What's the best process to put in place to get students to come up with these types of solutions? Should they be taught to reverse engineer a complete solution or should instruction be limited to component design fundamentals?

I'm a first year coach with a rookie team and now that the season is over, I'd like to help the kids explore what areas to improve on.

David Levy (coach)
Team 1936 - Super Nanobot Extremes ( winner of the Virginia State Rookie Team Award)
Robotics Club Coordinator Forest Edge Elementary School
Teams 1936,1937,1938,1939,2687

Updated LDraw parts

Philo emailed me about some additional parts that have been added to the LDraw NXT collection. Click here to read about the work that's been done or the link below to download the collection.

Dec 5, 2006

Updated NXT Resource

If you haven't paid a visit to "LEGO engineering" recently, take a look - they've updated the site with some new content. Check it all out here and here.

A27 Bionic Glove Program

Due to several requests from folks to release the program for my A27 Bionic Glove, I got the program and My Blocks together and uploaded them to the web. You can download the main program here, and a zip file with all the necessary My Blocks here. Remember, you'll need to put all the My Blocks in the Mindstorms folder for them in order for the program to work.

This program will let you watch the snail animation I had on the Glove, and you can see how the menu works. You could even attach motors and sensors to the NXT ports and see how they act when you go on the different icons.


Next Year's FLL Theme Announced

Hint given during the award ceremony at the Virginia State FLL Championship.

"Without next year's theme, your iPod would be useless"

Anyone? Bueller?

Update on NXT Orange Book

I received an email from Yoshihito Isogawa-san regarding the NXT Orange book I wrote about early last week. He has translated the Table of Contents to English to give a better description of the chapter contents.

You can find the Table of Contents translation here.

Thank you, Yoshihito Isogawa-san.


Dec 4, 2006

NXT: Meeting Your Algebra Needs

Recently in algebra, I learned about matrices and how to solve equations with them. One of the excerices I had to do was write a computer program that would solve two equations with two variables in the form ax + by = c (where a, b, and c are constants) using matrices. The user would input the 6 constants (a, b, and c for both equations), and the program had to solve the equation and give the x and y values.

My brother had done this last year with his game programing software. Not wanting to be outdone, I put together a program over thanksgiving break that succesfully solves the equations. Using the NXT buttons, a user inputs the 6 constants, whereupon the NXT instantly displays the x and y values (unless the equations were inconsistent or dependent, of course).

It's really neat - especially because I now have an excuse to have my NXT during schooltime! ;)

You can download the main program here, and a zip file with the needed My Blocks here (you'll need to put the My Blocks in the Mindstorms folder for My Blocks).

Here's a picture of inputting the constants (the 6th one is currently being input).

And here's a picture of the solution set (x and y).


Dec 3, 2006

Steve Hassenplug's NXT page

Steve Hassenplug, one of the original four members of the MUP, has posted two new custom blocks for NXT-G: one customized for line-following, and another one for running the (not yet released) HiTechnic acceleration sensor. I've used the acceleration sensor block quite a bit for datalogging all ready, and a specific block for line-following is perhaps even better; Steve is very very good at line following, and it will be interesting seeing how he cranks it up a notch by going under the hood in NXT-G. From the format of this page, I expect it will expand over time as well...

Brian Davis

Dec 2, 2006

Open Source code available next...

Wednesday - December 6, 2006

Subject to change, of course, but this is the expected date I've been given.


Call for Proposals - Fourth Annual 2007 FIRST Robotics Conference

The following is an email that was sent out to this year's FLL teams.

Subject: **FIRST EMAIL**/Call for Proposals - Fourth Annual 2007 FIRST Robotics Conference, April 11-13, 2007 at the FIRST Championship!

Greetings Teams:

FIRST is seeking presentation proposals for the fourth annual FIRST Robotics Conference. Forty-five (45) minute workshops on topics of interest to FIRST Robotics (FRC), FIRST Vex Challenge (FVC) and FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams, coaches, mentors, students and prospective leaders will be accepted. You may present alone or as a team.

The goal of the conference is to provide personal and professional development for K-12 educators, non-engineering mentors, technical
mentors and students.

We encourage presentations in all technical and non-technical areas that might interest current and future FRC, FVC, and FLL teams and coaches. This year, we have a special interest in seeing proposals from current students in addition to the usual proposals from mentors and coaches.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal for a 45-minute presentation in Atlanta, please send an email to: on or before December 15, 2006. Please submit the following information in the body of your email:

Presenter Details:
Your name(s)
Team number(s) and programs (FRC, FVC, FLL), if applicable
Affiliation (school, company, agency, etc)
Are you a coach? Mentor? Professional? HS student? College student?
Faculty? Teacher? Team of the above?
Email address(es), phone number(s), address(es) of presenter(s)Presentation Details:
Have you given this presentation before?
Title of presentation proposed
Program the presentation is geared towards (FRC, FVC, FLL)
Technical presentation or non-technical (gears versus team dynamics, for
Special equipment FIRST would need to provide (laptop, extra power,
table for demonstrations, etc)
Preferred day (Wed, Thurs, or Fri) and time (morning, afternoon,
evening), if applicable
A short abstract outlining your presentation (no more than 250 words,

Due to the Conference Planning Committee's workload, proposals significantly longer than 250 words cannot be considered. Please adhere to the above guidelines.

Selected proposals will presented at the conference in Atlanta on April 11-13, 2007. Travel and accommodations will not be provided by FIRST.

Thank you all in advance.

Go Teams!

Dec 1, 2006

Demo with NXT in toyshop

In the Netherlands I was asked to give several demonstrations with the NXT.
I had build the standard models and also showed the Clock.
The Clock worked perfect during the day, and Spike was the all-time favorite.

The demonstration table, and 48 NXT boxes.
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