Details on Chapters in Idea Book

Okay, so here's the latest cover image for the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Idea Book from No Starch Press. The book is almost here and we, the contributors, are very proud of it. I'm also attaching a link that will allow you to download the Table of Contents which contains a detailed breakdown of what each chapter covers. Take this and add it to the short chapter summaries below, and I hope you'll see why we're so proud of this book.

My own personal opinion - the chapter on Bluetooth, the appendix on CAD installation, and the Design chapter are worth the price of the book alone. And wait until you see the CAD building instructions - IMO they are some of the best CAD renderings around and many of us think they will set a new standard for the publishing industry :)

We hope you like the book - the sheer amount of work that went into creating it is unbelievable and the team is to be congratulated. We feel very honored to be able to add yet another piece to the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT community and hope to do more in the near future.


link to download the Table of Contents PDF file

Book Chapter/Appendix Summaries:

Foreward - Chris Anderson, Chief Editor of WIRED magazine. We've posted information on this blog about his special project, the LEGO-controlled UAV.

Introduction - standard stuff, really.

Part I - Beyond the Basics
Chapter 1 - LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system - written by Jonathan Daudelin and covers the 2 MINDSTORMS systems (RIS and NXT), parts, electronics, etc. If you're a kid, this is a great chapter to let your parents read... if you're a parent, this is a great chapter to help you get your kids excited about what they can do with the kits.

Chapter 2 - Grammar of NXT - Brian Davis wrote this chapter, and if you really want to gain a better understanding of the software, NXT-G, works, this is your chapter. He covers MyBlocks, loops, switches, wires, and more. Even if you're experienced with NXT-G,
it's a great chapter to read because of the commentary included.

Chapter 3 - NXT-G Problems and Solutions - and the follow-up chapter, also written by Brian, is a great little summary of some of the more common problems beginners (and advanced users) find with NXT-G. Pay special attention to his discussion on variables - a great little discussion.

Chapter 4 - Debugging - written by me, Jim Kelly, I realized early on that the debugging ability of NXT-G was limited, but there are workarounds. I show you how to use some of the programming blocks as troubleshooting tools (WAIT, SOUND, DISPLAY blocks) as well as
discuss the value of proper commenting in a program.

Chapter 5 - Making sense of sensors - Fay Rhodes and Jonathan Daudelin co-authored this chapter, and it's a nice discussion of the included sensors and their configuration panels. Also
discussed are the WAIT and SWITCH block variations of the sensor configuration panels. There's also a nice table showing all the data plug symbols and their data type (number, logic, text) along with an easy-to-follow summary of how they are used.

chapter 6 - Design - Lou Morris has written one very thorough chapter on Design Theory. This is a "must read" chapter and has some great stuff in it on how to start planning, testing, and
developing a robot from beta to final version (design cycle). He includes some worksheets, too.

Chapter 7 - Bluetooth on NXT - Another chapter by Brian Davis,this is THE CHAPTER TO READ if you are confused or having trouble with Bluetooth or just want to understand more about how it works. Bluetooth seems to give people a lot of trouble, but this chapter
will clear all that up.

Chapter 8 - Remote Control - Brian's final chapter will have you creating a remote control for your robots. He gives clear instructions on how it works (be sure to the read Chapter 7 on
Bluetooth) and discusses the sometimes confusing READ MESSAGE and SEND MESSAGE blocks.

Part II - The Robots
Chapter 9 - RaSPy - The robot that sort of started the collaboration idea for our book. RaSPy plays rock-scissors-paper and every robot chapter, including this one, comes with complete
building and programming instructions that are easy to follow, easy on the eyes, and easy to understand with good commentary. This chapter was created by Jim Kelly, Matthias Paul scholz, and Brian Davis.

Chapter 10 - Beach Buggy Chair - based on a real-life product, Fay and Rick Rhodes have provided you with the plans to build a robot that will get moving over some sandy terrain.

Chapter 11 - 3D PhotoBot - I created this robot to show you how easy it is to create some 3D images. This chapter not only shows you the robot's plans, but shows you how to manipulate the photos it takes so you can see things in 3 dimensions. It works - no kidding!

Chapter 12 - CraneBot - seen on the cover of the book, Martijn Boogaarts has provided plans for one of the most interesting and complex robots in the book. If you follow the plans, though, you can build and program this thing with no problems. It's amazing to see when it's completed.

Chapter 13 - Slot Machine - Matthias Paul Scholz has provided very detailed plans for the only robot in the book that requires an additional NXT kit. But if you have access to a friends NXT kit or a second kit at school, this is one project to try. Take your time building it and it will work like a charm.

Chapter 14 - BenderBot - created by Christopher Smith, this little bot will have you making your own music (of sorts). The best part is how easy you'll find to modify this robot to do your own twists on sounds.

Chapter 15 - ScanBot - Jonathan Daudelin has provided plans for building another fairly complex robot that can scan in an image (small drawing or other sketch) and recreate it on the screen. A fun robot to play with, but you'll also learn a LOT about programming from Jonathan's project.

Chapter 16 - Marty: Performance Art Robot - created by Rob Torok, you are not going to believe some of the complex drawings this robot can handle. Rob includes plenty of photos of actual drawings that Marty can do, and you'll find this robot also fun to modify.

Appendix A - Differences between Retail and Education kits - Jonathan has created a nice comparison here for those needing more detail on the differences and why one might favor one kit over another.

Appendix B - This is another one of those "MUST READ" sections of the book. Christopher Smith has created a tutorial/walkthrough for installing the CAD programs that were used to create the building instructions used in this book. If you want to create BIs like the ones you see in the book, this is your starting place. Chris has done an excellent job in clearing up some of the confusion and complications involved in getting CAD installed and working properly.


Micah E. said…
First of all I can't wait to get this book, and this post only made me anticipate that event more. I did have a small question about RaSPy, is it going to be the same robot shown on this blog a while ago, or a whole new robot that plays rock paper scissors?
RaSPy is the same as on the blog - this chapter just has more information and commentary on how to properly program it along with some history of the collaboration. Some readers were lucky enough to be able to download the RaSPy BIs for a while, but they aren't rendered as nicely as these BIs in the book, either.

Glad you're looking forward to the book - believe me, even the contribs can't wait to get our copies!

Anonymous said…
I preordered the book on July 5th and can't wait, i was just wondering if this included installing hitechnic sensor blocks because i've been having trouble with mine.
Hi, Jared.

This book doesn't cover HiTechnic sensors... sorry. Our decision was to try and offer as many robots as we could using on 1 NXT kit and nothing else. Not everyone has the 3rd party sensors and we think it was a good decision to try and give people who only own 1 kit as many bots to build as possible.

I hope you enjoy the book, and give us some feedback when you get your copy and let us know what you like (and dislike, but what are the odds of tha happening?) ;)

Brian Davis said…
jared h, if you are having a problem maybe you could drop me an email and we could explain it on the blog... if you have a problem, others probably do as well.

Heck, I wrote this book, and I'm looking forward to seeing it all together as well! Thanks for the very kind words on my chapters, Jim... now I just hope the live up to the expectations! The toughest judges of all are about to get to have the final word.

Brian Davis
Anonymous said…
Jim and anyone else who can comment...I recently received "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Programming Guide" by Kelly and "Building Robots w/ LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT" by Astolfo and Ferrari. Tell me why I need to own this new book? 8-) Give me your best sell. I am new to robotics and LEGO NXT. I'm helping my 7yr old son who quickly knows more than I do about programming and building from doing the tutorial that came on the CD w/ the retail kit. 8-)

Hi, Sybil.

Did you read the post??? Kidding.

One of the things I hear a lot from kids (and their parents) is for more robot designs. Places like NXTLOG are a great place to see what other people are building, but most (99% I'd estimate) do not include building instructions. Now, many do include the programs, but not with much discussion on the "how" and "why" of the program's design.

Trust me, we understand what you're seeing - many kids are overtaking their parents and teachers in their understanding of robotics and programming and it can be difficult to provide for them if you don't have a good understanding yourself.

Most of the robots in this book will be a nice challenge to your child BUT not beyond his grasp.

Now, if your son is having no issues coming up with robots and programs on his own, then the book will simply be a nice reference if he wants some ideas.

And finally, building robots and programming robots is fine, but we include a lot of chapters on various topics that will help broaden the reader's skills. We know that many of our chapters will provide information that's not found in the software HELP files. It's called the "Idea Book" because that's how we see it - plenty of ideas and room to modify and tinker and learn more.

Anonymous said…
Thank you so much Jim! I also own "The Mayan Adventure" which IMHO is simply brilliant! OK, I did read the post but missed the TOC. I also a old and 4yr old so things often go in both eyes and out the back of my head. 8-) The TOC's indicates there is sufficient new material to warrant purchase of another book. 8-) I simply hadn't had time to read the two books I have to know if there is a lot of overlap. Thanks so much for your help. I look forward to reading your second book.

DS and friends will be doing a Junior FLL this year as a warm up to FLL while we learn more about the NXT.

I enjoy this blog and appreciate the time and effort the contributors put into it. My philosophy is to understand the science so you're not simply copying someone else's design and programming. I'm a lowly biological scientist but am having a great time delving into the world of engineering. 8-)

have a GREAT day!
Brian Davis said…
Hey, I'd not begin to knock biological science: I teach a 100-level course titled "Biophysics", and it's anything but easy. It's a wonderful science, and one with a ot of applications to robotics!

Brian Davis
Phil said…
Hi brian My name is Phil and I have met you at BF 06. You helped me a little with NXT-G programming. I'm glad that there is finally a book only on the NXT-G programming langauge. I went to Barns& Noble and found 3 other NXT books all of them were about all kinds of other programming code and homebrew sensors. I am looking for a book on the parts and sensors that I allready have and the programming that I'm still trying to learn, not something new and confusing. I have yet to get a acceleration sensor that is the next one for me. I look forard to the book soon. Phil
Phil said…
Hi brian My name is Phil and I have met you at BF 06. You helped me a little with NXT-G programming. I'm glad that there is finally a book only on the NXT-G programming langauge. I went to Barns& Noble and found 3 other NXT books all of them were about all kinds of other programming code and homebrew sensors. I am looking for a book on the parts and sensors that I allready have and the programming that I'm still trying to learn, not something new and confusing. I have yet to get a acceleration sensor that is the next one for me. I look forard to the book soon. Phil
Zach Katz said…
We would like to get in touch with Matthias Paul Scholz, who provide instructions to a slot machine.

My name is Zack and I can be reached at

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