Mar 31, 2007

"Wii" NXT Bowls a Perfect Game

Construction details and still pictures are here.

(via BattleBricks)

Mar 30, 2007

Philo's NXT "Pong"

Here's a video of one of the projects in Philo's new book. (See below).

There are three other videos of the book's projects here.

Mar 29, 2007

Philo's NXT Book is Now Available

Philo Hurbain's new NXT book is now in stock (twelve days early) at The link is here.

NXT Warehouse

This group built an NXT warehouse facility complete with shelves, crates and a forklift.

I didn't embed the video here because it's too grainy. (It looks clearer if you can reduce the view screen from YouTube directly).

Go to 5 minutes and 50 seconds into the video to see the final product. The video is here.

Mar 28, 2007

Innovation and the NXT

A friend of mine, Michael Fitzgerald, writes a column on innovation for the New York Times. (That's Mike in the photo).

Last Sunday in the NYT, Michael noted companies who improve their products by listening to their customers, and he mentions LEGO and the NXT.

In this same column, Michael has some interesting things to say about how Danish culture and the Danish government look at innovation.

It would be interesting to hear from Danes who read this blog, to see if you agree with Michael's observations. Michael's column is here.

Mar 27, 2007

New Guest Writer - Eric D. Burdo - Who Am I?

My name is Eric Burdo. Some of you may know me from Brick Labs. I was talking to Jim the other day to see if he wanted to reprint any of my articles from Brick Labs (since Brick Labs will be retired on or about the 10th of April). Instead, Jim offered me a position as a guest writer.

I will be moving some of the articles from Brick Labs over to this site, and any future LEGO contributions will be made here, for your reading enjoyment. If there are any particular articles on Brick Labs that you want, please post a link in the comments. I’ll migrate them over, and possible update them if I can.

I have been an avid LEGO collector since I was about 7. That gives me about 23 years of collecting. :) I started into the Mindstorms world about 3 or 4 years ago with the RCX. I tried to get into the LEGO beta program for the NXT, but alas, fate smiled on others… so, I had to wait. My wife bought me a NXT kit for my birthday back in September. My son and I have been dabbling with robots since then.

My Interests:

  • LEGO building
  • Robotics - all forms
  • Computer Programmign
  • Reading - mostly technical materials now.
  • Very beggining bass player (4 string electric)
  • Apprentice-level juggler.

My Robotic Creations:

  • Various tank-bots
  • Several 3 and 4 wheeled bots.
  • I created a RC-style car for my son (using the RCX remote and a rack-n-pinion steering). I learned a lot about differentials and slipper clutches with that project).
  • I built a yarn-winder once based off of a few pictures I found online. I think that was my wife’s favorite project.

Future Projects:

  • Mostly just learning the ins-and-outs of the sensors.
  • I am working on a series of articles on the Ultrasonic Sensor.
  • I want to try and build a room-mapping robot. I’ll keep y’all posted!

New Video - RC control using the Acceleration Sensor

HiTechnic has posted a new video showing how you can use one NXT (with the Acceleration sensor) to remotely control a 2nd NXT robot.

I've built the robot shown and it does work. It takes some practice to get used to keeping the RC level in your hand. Very slight movements left, right, forward, or backwards are sent to the robot, so don't sit it on a tabletop or other area where it could fall off.

Pre-Announcement: Fana'Briques 2007


although it's some time still: also this summer the Fana'Briques will take place in the Alsace again, a two-days event focused mainly on the topic of "LEGO in movement". While last year the Tour de France passed the very location (Rosheim) on the same weekend and thus a huge LEGO race bicycle was manufactured, this time an original-sized Bugatti T35 is planned to be implemented.
Of interest may be the GBC as well (for which I hope to contribute someting again).

Unfortunately, the event's site is available in German and French only presently.

Nevertheless: jot down a big note for June's last weekend in your date book!

Mar 25, 2007

Possible NXT job opportunity

I received the following email from Thomas Johnson, Research Engineer, Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks:

A NXT instructor is needed for a four-week summer camp in Bethel, Alaska. Compensation is $4,000, room & board, and transportation to and from Bethel.

Interested? Post a comment for Thomas...

Mar 23, 2007

Gigantic Mech with NXT

On NXTLog, R2D2893 posted this gigantic Mecha, called Gibbous 8, whose head and arms are controlled by a NXT. Very impressive, R2D2893!

Here's another picture of the head, chest, and arms of Gibbous 8, showing the NXT and servo motors:

You can see more about this project here.


UPDATE : There is also a Brickshelf folder with more pictures here.

Mar 22, 2007

Neat NXT Snowcat in Lego Mag

In the latest edition of the Lego Magazine, there was this neat-looking NXT Snowcat made by LEGO Master Builder Dave Gold. It looks really neat, and I was wondering - why haven't I seen this anywhere else? Has anyone else seen it, other than in the Magazine?

Here's another picture of the whole robot:


Fribot 2007 in Switzerland: register now!

remember my earlier Post regarding Fribot 2007, the (as the organizers state) "largest programming competition for autonomous LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robots in Switzerland"?
You can register now (until 14th of April): it will take place on 5th of May in Fribourg (CH) (sorry, the site is french and german only).

Have a look - there are said to be Bond Girls around... ;-)


P.S. Am looking for team mates - next to me, we need three more. If you are interested, comment here or ping me by my contact page.

Skateboarding/Skating Robot

Check out this robot that can skateboard and skate:

Mar 21, 2007

pbLua beta 2 available

pbLua beta 2 is available for download.

As the author, Ralph Hempel states
"This one has many of the missing things such as Bluetooth, floating point, and bitwise logical operators, as well as a more streamlined and Lua-ish API for the NXT specific functions."
I've written some small guide that describes how to install and configure pbLua and how to download and run pbLua programs to resp. on the NXT brick.

Try it and post your experiences here as a comment.

URBI for Mindstorms NXT programming

JC Baillie has hinted me to URBI, a programming environment that supports also the NXT now. Let me cite JC: URBI is
"an easy to use programming interface for
robotics, which has been used so far on the Aibo. I thought you might be
interested to know that we have released a version of URBI for Lego
Mindstorms NXT.


URBI is free, with open source interfaces, and you don't have to change
the original firmware to use it. We have a forum also to discuss
technical matters here: "
Check it out and comment your experiences here!

Thanks JC,

Mar 20, 2007

BrickShelf Gallery Offerings

Well, some days are better than others. Especially, when you are as sapped as I am for building time. So, I cruise over to often to view the recent activity of other builders. Maybe they can spark some creativity in the LEGO world.

Yesterday, I spotted these very cool works by 222Doc. The "TRiTracks" crawler and a folder full of "Mobile Defense" robotics. The rubber/foam pads on his track system are his own creation and they look glued. LEGO likely has a few plans for the pin holes in the track links. There is also a pretty awesome walker there which combines elements from the RIS and NXT systems.

Only a link...since I couldn't find any contact information for 222Doc. Maybe he will see this and let us post a picture or two.


A new Carousel video

Our designer friend, Karl, has done it again. Click here to view his latest video, showing another Carousel.

From Karl: "I've made a new Carousel, and this time its studless.

It uses two synchronised motors to power the large outer ring (the outer ring is from Lego Set 4481 Star Wars Hailfire Droid), this in turn rotates the four turntables.

A light sensor checks the position of one of the platforms that carry the marble cups, the turntables are rotated a fixed distance from the light sensor to be in the correct position for the reciprocating heads to pick or drop a marble as appropriate. The platforms are then rotated again into position for the next marble.

A third motor powers the reciprocating heads. A light sensor is used to detect a 360 degree rotation.

Mar 19, 2007

Discussion forum for NXT hardware hacking

I received an email from Rasmus regarding a new forum that has been created for discussing NXT hardware hacking. If you're interested, take a look at:

More NXT Sumo matches

Reader Will G. has posted another video of some fun Sumo matches... some of these are very funny and others are very sad. But definitely fun to watch.

Color Sensor Bot

HiTechnic has posted a nice little video of a Color Sorter.

LEGO Innovators

The LEGO Company was one of several companies highlighted in tonight's episode of The Business of Innovation on CNBC. The focus of the episode, titled New Tricks & Old Dogs, was on how successful companies use their customers to innovate. Christopher R. Smith, from this blog, was interviewed. There was also a wicked cool video of an RCX LEGO Car Factory in the background of the episode that you can see on YouTube here.

The podcast of Episode 3, New Tricks & Old Dogs, should be available soon and you can also visit the series' homepage.

Mar 18, 2007

NXTs Perform in "Swan Lake"

A UK team is headed to the RoboCup Junior Nationals with a production of "Swan Lake", using NXTs. Read more details here.

Our own Rob Torok has built a "performing artist" NXT that will be featured in the book, "Lego Mindstorms NXT Idea Book", to be published in the spring of 2007.

Anyone else know of other NXT "performing artists" out there?

Mar 17, 2007

Brick Sorter 8527

This is a third generation brick sorter posted by Laurens Valk. It uses two motors and a light sensor to sort bricks into three different piles based on color. You can read more here (there is also a video there). The program is posted and building instructions are promised for later.

You can also see several other of Laurens' creations at

Happy St. Patrick's Day

My daughter's first grade teacher asked them all to design and build a trap to catch a leprechaun this week. She told them leprechauns are tricky and notorious for ignoring signs and doing whatever they please. My daughter is pictured here with her NXT invention for catching that pesky leprechaun!

Here is a view from behind and to the side of the leprechaun "jail".

Happy St. Patty's Day to one and all!

Mar 16, 2007

Meet Team Tiki - FLL Champions from Virginia

[ Click here ] for Washington DC local news coverage of Team Tiki - FLL Champions from Virginia

Will there be 40+ more sensors available for the NXT soon?

Vernier Software and Technology has been working with the LEGO NXT and their Vernier sensors for months. They are working on a prototype of an adapter that would allow the NXT to work with 40 of their analog sensors. Software blocks that would be used with the sensors and adapter are also being produced. Vernier hopes to have the adapter commercially available early this year.

There are videos of 8 different NXT projects here. I like the "Leveler" (pictured here) that uses a Vernier Low-G Accelerometer as a tilt sensor. This simple robot can carry a cup across uneven terrain without spilling it.

Which is your favorite - and how would you use it?

CNBC TV Segment To Check Out!

CNBC (cable news US) recently interviewed individuals about LEGO's business techniques and one of our own contributors, Chris Smith was one of them!  

CNBC is airing a 5 part series named "The Business of Innovation" on Sunday nights. The website is They have posted the episodes that have aired to this point and will post the remaining parts as they air.  

In part 3 - "New Tricks & Old Dogs" they will discuss companies that ask customers what they want.  LEGO used this somewhat unorthodox business practice during the LEGO MindStorms Robotics NXT Development Program.  As part of this program, Chris was one of the 100 roboticists worldwide asked to help out.

When & Where:
Sunday - March 18th at 8pm Central
Time Warner cable channel 45 - CNBC  (the regular CNBC not the world version)
Podcasts available!

Mar 15, 2007

LEGO Autopilot

Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, has posted a great article on a LEGO Autopilot implemented with a light sensor.
Have a look!

Mar 14, 2007

Wish List for LEGO


There will be some important LEGO Mindstorms individuals in Atlanta for the FLL tournament, April 12-15. It is my intention to take all the comments and suggestions here and present them to these visitors. So far, we've received some great suggestions for new products, upgrades, improvements, etc... please keep them coming. And PLEASE do read through the existing comments to avoid posting the same ideas. While it does give me an idea of how popular a suggestion is, this isn't the purpose of this post (right now). Thank you! - Jim

I don't know why I haven't done this sooner, but after reading some forum postings and emails from NXT users, I figure it's time to create a Wish List. As with most Wish Lists, they don't always come true.

In a few weeks I'll forward a compilation of this post's comments to LEGO. So, tell the world what you'd like to see in terms of future NXT developments and/or Mindstorms products, software, books, etc...

[Keep it realistic - I'm not seeing LEGO investing any time or research or money on "Turbine engine" or "Seismic sensor" - but they would be cool, huh?]

I'll start:

1. A larger variety of motors
2. Individually packaged Remote Control Kit (with BT control for 3 or more motors)
3. ...

Mar 13, 2007

Gyro working... UPDATED

Check out this video of the HiTechnic gyro... very very very cool.

Some additional information:

The basic difference between a gyro and acceleration sensor is what they measure. The Acceleration sensor can be used to measure tilt by coupling the “g” vector into the result and thus measuring tilt based on the fraction of “g” detected. This however only works in static situations.

If a robot is being moved around by motors, there will be acceleration caused by the motors which cannot be distinguished from the acceleration caused by gravity so the measured tilt value is no longer a valid measurement of the angle with respect to the “g” vector. Because of this you cannot easily use accelerometers to create a balance feedback loop necessary to make a robot balance.

A gyro measures the rate of rotation change or angular acceleration. So in a balancing robot it would measure the acceleration caused by the robot rotating on the horizontal axis perpendicular to the rotation of the wheels. This measurement is not affected by the accelerations caused by the motor movements.

Mar 10, 2007

Acceleration Sensor block released

HiTechnic has released the NXT-G block for the Acceleration Sensor. It can be downloaded here.
I'm including a picture of the expanded data hub. From top to bottom, the plugs are Port, X axis coordinate, Y axis coordinate, Z axis coordinate, Yes/No logic value, Trigger Point, and Greater-than/Less-than.

Mar 9, 2007

Chimney-Climbing NXT

More pictures and info are here.

(A thank you to Motocube for this link).

Ball-and-Beam NXT

This NXT uses a pulley to balance a ball on a beam. (The "ball" is actually a wheeled cart).

More pictures and info are here.

(A thank you to Motocube for this link).

NXT plotters

Alfonso Martone from Italy has built a NXT Plotter that plots by making holes into the paper.

There must be other NXT-based plotters around - for instance, there's Andreas Dreier's Egg Plotter.

Do you know of other ones? If so, please comment!

Bionics: salamander-like robot

Researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne (CH) have built a salamander-like robot that is able to mimic a salamander's way of moving both on land and in the water. Yet, the target was not primarily to build such a robot but to verify some theories on the way the legs are internally controlled in real amphibians.
This is another benefit of robots: they may be used as models for real-world entities and to gain some idea on the way processes e.g. in living beings work.

NXT Hack with a Wii Remote

Jose Bolanos has this NXT hack using a Wii remote control. The response from the controller is a bit slow, but it's still fascinating to watch.
More info is here.

Fun with the Acceleration Sensor

I've been playing with the HiTechnic Acceleration Sensor. Here you'll see a small program (a modification of a test program HiTechnic created) that outputs the values of the X, Y, and Z axes.
As the Surveyor rolls up and over objects, I can see the values change. Now what I need to do is translate those values into useful information that can help me determine if the robot is at a dangerous angle (possibly ready to tip over on its side). In Surveyor, I originally used the Acceleration Sensor to determine the up/down position of the camera as well as to center the camera parallel to the floor. (Brian Davis used the sensor with his LNE robot to determine if it was "upside down.")

I'm working on a special little bot now that will use the Acceleration Sensor to keep an object it is holding in a very specific orientation. More on this soon...
You can find more info on the Acceleration Sensor here. HiTechnic will also soon make the NXT-G block available for download soon, so keep your eyes open.

Sneaky robots

Swiss researchers have created robots that "evolve" to learn to work together - and to trick outsiders. Sounds like the basis for a great NXT project using Bluetooth... Check here and here for more details.

NXT Sumo

Will, a reader of the blog, sent me two links to videos of NXT Sumo events:

Sumo Battle with NXT robot competitors
Melee Battle with an NXT robot competitor

Additional pictures and more can be found on the Battlebricks web site.



NXT-G Programming Guide

A few people requested that I provide more information about the NXT-G Programming Guide, published by Apress. It's currently got an August 13, 2007 release date but I'm trying hard to get that date pushed up so the book can be released sooner.

Some details:

1. The book covers the NXT-G programming environment that is provided with both the retail and the educational versions of the kit.

2. The book does NOT cover the RoboCenter or the RoboEducator tutorials that are included in the software.

3. All the blocks are covered from all 3 palettes, including small sample programs showing you how to use them.

4. Wiring is covered - I've included an entire chapter devoted to the concept of using these drag-and-drop wires that I'm hoping teachers and coaches will find useful.

5. Creating My Blocks is also covered quickly and with a small sample program.

6. There is an NXT robot included in the Appendix and the directions are in CAD format - my photos were converted by Jonathan Daudelin and I owe him some thanks for doing that for me. This robot can be used to test the programs in the book.

7. The concept of Pseudo Code (well, at least MY concept of it) is introduced and I show how it can be used to develop an outline of a program before you start dropping blocks.

... tons of screenshots of the software are included, too.

Mar 8, 2007

Create your Own Cables

Karl has emailed me with an update to his previous work on the NXT cables. You can read all about it here.

Mar 7, 2007

Power functions elements

Hi all,

Some lucky ones of the LEGO community have received from LEGO early samples of the new Power Function™ elements that are to be available late 2007.
Mark Bellis has set up a Brickshelf gallery with images of some of them, and Philo has built a tower crane with them.

Have a look!

Thanks, Philo, for the hint,
Matthias (looking forward to late 2007)

Robot Butler Anyone?

Researchers in Japan have created humanoid robots that can serve tea and clean up afterwards. In an article you can view here, you can read about how researchers are now shifting their focus from walking robots to a variety of other "practical movements", including holding a cup without dropping it - or crushing it...

Bird Watching Robot

Ken Goldberg, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley has been working with colleagues to develop a robot that can search for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker. The ivory-billed woodpecker was once thought to be extinct, but was spotted by a bird watcher in 2004. The project poses some interesting software engineering challenges that you can read about here.

Mar 6, 2007

Distance-Sensing NXT Model for Teachers and Students

Here's a basic, distance-sensing model for students and teachers, found on the "Matsu Blog" web site. (Click on the above picture for an enlarged view).

The model's pivoting, ultrasonic sensor is connected directly to a motor. The sensor pivots 180 degrees to search for the "open road", then heads in that direction.

See a video here.
See the basic program here.

Robosapien Robot is NXT-compatible

NXTstep reader Michaël Ludmann asked us to remind our readers of the new Robosapien Robot. Robosapien is now compatible with the NXT brick, which fits inside Robosapien's backpack. Read about it here.

Thank you, Michaël!

Mar 3, 2007

First Robotics Degree in the U.S.

Do you want to take your interest in robotics to the next level? Read here about a new bachelor's degree in robotics engineering that will be offered by Worcester Polytechnic Institute starting in fall of 2007.

Japanese Snowplow Robot

Where I live, we need one of these--right now. It's an autonomous, snowplowing robot with a built-in GPS and video cameras for eyes. It "eats" snow then expels it out the back in blocks, to be used as alternative coolant for various things.

I want a Japanese family to adopt me so I can enjoy all of their robots.

Read more about it here.

NXT nominated for the INDEX award

The NXT Mindstorms product has been nominated (and shortlisted!) for the INDEX award, an award given every two years for products that improve life. Very nice, very prestigious, and if you browse through the list of other nominations, I think you'll see it's in very good company (Second Life, for example, is also one of the "short listed" nominations... there are lots of others).

NXT nominated for the INDEX award

Brian Davis

Mar 1, 2007

What to do if your new NXT kit is a missing part

I've always been amazed at the consistency and reliability of LEGO's packaging (as well as the product), but it seems that occasionally a kit escapes without all its parts. The good news is that the solution is very simple...


New Blocks & Pinging the US sensor

Steve Hassenplug has just put up two more nice custom blocks developed using the LabVIEW Toolkit. One is a block that will take the output of a NXT-G timer (a number of milliseconds) and display it on the LCD in terms of minutes and seconds. The second was developed by Steve and a wider group of folks bouncing ideas off each other. It is a bitwise logic block, that will perform binary operations on numbers (instead of just logical wires), such as performing an AND between two numbers, etc. This can be really handy for dealing with low-level things on the NXT. Visit Steve's NXT page for these and actually a whole lot of other custom blocks: line following blocks, display blocks, array blocks. Take a look. To install these blocks, you need the dynamic block update installed (there's a lot of other good updates on this LEGO page, check them out).

Another fun thing that has come out is a tutorial from Guy Ziv over at NXTasy about how to use the I2C read/write blocks to "ping" the US sensor, allowing it to be used in an on-demand fashion. He also discusses ways to access some of the deeper functions of the sensor, such as the ability of it to return not just the distance to the nearest object, but essentially the distance to the nearest eight objects. Those I2C blocks open up a lot of deep calls into the NXT digital sensors.

"and, uh, get the machine that goes... ping!"

Brian Davis
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