Nov 30, 2007

This weekend: Central European FLL finals

For those who still are undecided what to do at the weekend next ensuing, a trip to the beautiful Black Forest in Germany might be even more worthwhile than it is anyway: at Triberg the Central European FIRST LEGO LEAGUE Finals for the actual Power Puzzle competition will take place on Saturday, the 1st of December. There, the best teams from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic will compete against each other and determine the attendees for the FLL World Finals at Atlanta, Georgia (USA) in April.

As a special service, Education Highway from Austria will present the event as a Live Stream in the web.

I'll be there also and bring back some nice images and videos.

The NXT Receives an Award from the Japanese Government

The NXT was one of thirteen first-prize winners in Japan's "Robot Award 2007", sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

This award seems like high praise, given Japan's excellence in the field of robotics. There will be a grand-prize winner announced on December 20th. More details here and here.

Guy Fawkes robot

The military has been using robots for bomb disposals for many years now. Most of them are remote controlled.
However, lately there has been development of more specialised and autonomous EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) robots that do risky operations that human beings don’t need to risk their lives for. I always wanted to design a robot that did something that is too risky for humans – and thus potentially save lives.

So early this month when we had Guy Fawkes night, I decided to use a robot based on my MINDSTORMS NXT to light our fireworks. There has been a lot of concern lately about fireworks maiming and injuring the person igniting it and a few cases of fatalities. So I thought it would be a good idea.

This autonomous NXT robot will light multiple fireworks in a sequence - while the family sits back and watch the display! The robot is incredibly simple - It uses a MINDSTORMS NXT, two light sensors (one for navigation and other to detect a lighted fuse) and an Ultrasonic detector (to detect the top of the fireworks (and hence the height of the fireworks fuse wire) so it can adjust the torch arm height depending on the position of the fuse. It uses three motors - two for motion and the third for the torch arm elevator. For the wheel base we used a simple motor driven wheels + casters based on JennToo designed by fellow NXT Step contributor, Brian Davis, but with a few modifications.

Warning: Working with fireworks is dangerous. Please exercise extreme caution.


The "Green Weenie" NXT

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, my family wanted to build an NXT that bore no resemblance to anything, something that was just plain weird. The result: the "Green Weenie" NXT.

The little bugger is surprisingly agile and can turn on a dime, IF it's on a carpeted surface.

Has anyone else built something that bears no resemblance to any machine, humanoid, animal or anything else? If you have, send us a link so we can see it.

Nov 28, 2007

HiTechnic Prototyping Boards available

HiTechnic has released its Prototyping Board - from its website:

"The HiTechnic NXT Prototype board is available in two models, one with a prototype grid to solder your designs creating a permanent sensor or device interface and the solderless design that plugs into a solderless breadboard so you can quickly create many designs and reuse your electronic components."
Also available in addition to the two boards will be a parts kit (avail. Dec 3) .

So, the big question is: what will you do with it? Take some time to read the product page descriptions here - there's a LOT to read.

Digitizing Super 8 film with the NXT

Harri Kaimio uses an NXT-powered, reel-to-reel gizmo to digitize his old Super 8 movie films. Here's an excerpt from Harri's description:

"The LEGO part has two main functions: it must pull the film from the scanner so that the next unscanned piece of film gets ready, and it must rotate the film reel onto which the scanned film goes. We used 2 Mindstorms servo motors, one for each task.

The film is pressed between 2 soft Lego wheels that are rotated by one of the motors. We placed some guides on both sides of the wheels to ensure that the film moves straight (luckily, some Lego parts have exactly 8mm holes in them!)

The film reel is rotated with the other servo."

More details of Harri's project plus a sample of his digitized film is found here.

Girls Gone Geek nominates NXT as "Ultimate Holiday Gadget Gifts for Women and Girls"

The hosts of Girls Gone Geek, a weekly half-hour audio podcast on technology with a female point of view, have named the 2007 Ultimate Holiday Gadget Gifts for Women and Girls; in the Penny Pinchers category (which means 250 $ and below - so you still are complaining on the price of a NXT kit? ;-) ) , you will find the NXT kit as one amongst five gadgets (including indispensable things like a calories burner watch, a Mickey Mouse mp3 player and an Espresso Machine):
"The Lego Mindstorm NXT robot kit is a great gift for aspiring engineers or robot fanatics. It is well worth the $250 price tag because it can be built in an infinite number of forms and is definitely NOT a toy that is used for a month and then gets stuffed away to collect dust."
So if you still are undecided what to buy your wife or/and your daughter(s) for Christmas - we have it from female authorities now that the NXT is the ultimate replacement for boring perfumes or dolls.

Missing the point...

I've had fun with the Clustrmaps widget that we've recently popped into the blog - it's kind of fun (and now I want to know who the uber-user is on the edge of the Hudson Bay that hits the blog so many times :) ). But recently one of the ads caught my attention - for having robots built for you. Clicking through to the JFRobot site, at first I thought I had hit a spoof ad. These nice people will build any of the four stock robots for you, and ship it to you complete... for a hefty price jump ($299 for Alpha-Rex, for instance). Is it just me, or has this company completely missed the point of the NXT, MINDSTORMS, and LEGO? If these were kits for robotic lawnmowers and I just wanted to get my lawn mowed, I'd understand - but the whole point of kits (& especially LEGO) is to build it yourself - or am I missing something very fundamental here? Some of the text on their webpage is more than a bit misleading as well. For instance, they mention:

...but you also find out that 100 hours of research and assembly work is unafordable.

(yes, that's their mis-spelling this time, not mine - I love Leopard). "100 hours"?!? What are they building, a general-purpose Turing machine? I've watched a 10-year-old build some of the stock models in 30 minutes, including programming.

So somebody tell me - should I be upset at this, or just sad that perhaps there's actually a market for such a misdirected market demand? I'd be curious if anyone has bought one of these, or knows someone who has. Perhaps I just have a very unusual viewpoint - that the reason you get something like the NXT is so you can do it yourself, and learn something, If I want a coffee-table display, there are plenty of inflexible slick-looking options.

Brian Davis

Nov 27, 2007

Update for Chris Anderson UAV

Got an email from Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief of WIRED magazine) regarding the latest updates to his UAV. Details (edited) below:

"I’ve now upgraded the Lego UAV to use Bluetooth GPS. It took a combination of the RobotC BT and GPS code that Dick Swan and Steven Hassenplug developed plus a port of some of my own autopilot code from a BASIC Stamp autopilot I’d previously created.

The post, with beta code is here. Proper video with onboard telemetry readings coming in a few weeks once I’ve got everything tuned."

I'll post more information as it becomes available. Be sure to check out Chris' website dedicated to UAVs here.

Nov 24, 2007

Lego NXT + wiimote with MSRS tutorial

Alberto Bietti (17) from Paris France wrote on his Blog:

It's time to post the first tutorial on this blog: controlling a Lego Mindstorms NXT robot (but the code would also work for any other differential drive robot supported by MSRS, including the BASIC Stamp-based BOE-bot from Parallax, the iRobot Create, etc.) with a Nintendo wiimote (if you're not yet an expert: the WII controller) using Microsoft Robotics Studio (MSRS) 1.5. I wrote an introduction to this in my first post, and the time has come to write a tutorial about it! I'm also going to introduce you to writing services with Microsoft Robotics Studio.

look at the movie all the way at the end of the tutorial.


Nov 23, 2007

Why is my robot not perfect? (part 2)

So here is the follow up to the post I made last week. Click here to refresh your memory.

There were a few different points of view with the theory so what better way to proceed than some real live tests.

Test Setup:
NXT robot, 2 wheels on a smoothish table.
2 white lines, 500mm apart
Program was written to wait 2 seconds then drive forward 1024 degrees. (the 2 seconds allowed the robot to settle and let me get my hand out of the way before it started driving)

1st test
75% power 1024 degrees, unloaded. I ran this 3 times and it was spot on in every case.

2nd test
50% power 1024 degrees, unloaded. I wanted to try and eliminate slippage with the surface of the table. If there was slippage at high power, it would be less at low power. Again all 3 runs were spot on.

3rd test
75% power 1023 degrees fully loaded. I found a nice heavy book to place over the top (2.2kg). The wheel does deform by a noticeable amount.

This time when I ran it, the robot came consistantly 30mm short. Vary the power and get the same result, 30mm short.

So if there is no slippage with the table, and changing of the wheel diameter does not affect the distance the only thing left is slippage between the wheel and the tyre.

I got some whiteout and marked both the hub and the tire and ran the experiment again. Turns out there is a small amount of slippage, although not enough to account for all the error.

I think it's a combination of hub/tyre slippage and slightly deformed wheel diameter. The rubber is soft enough to compress itself slightly changing the diameter.

What do you think? Post in the comments.

Damien Kee

Nov 22, 2007

What kind of NXT book would YOU like to see?

There's a lot of NXT-related books out there already and more are to be expected.

Some of them are targeted particularly at NXT beginners (like The Mayan Adventure, the Zoo! book or the NXT Orange Book), some to more advanced users (as The Da Vinci Inventions Book or Extreme NXT), some are collections of NXT robots of different complexity and how to build and program them (The Idea Book, Creating Cool MINDSTORMS Robots and the Inventor's Guide, for instance), and finally some are dedicated to a particular aspect of the NXT universe (e.g. the NXT-G Programming Guide, NXT Power Programming or Maximum Lego NXT) - feel free to correct me if I'm wrong with these classifications.

Yet, if you could wish for a NXT book written particularly for you - how would that very book look like? What topics should it deal with? Which kind of robots (if any) would you like to see in there? How should it be organized?

FLL Mission Overview Part 11 - Oil Barrels

Mission Information: The purpose of this mission is to simply keep the robot-operator from retrieving or "rescuing" the robot too many times. The referee penalizes a team by removing one of the barrels in the team's possesion (whether in Base, Parking Lot, or the foldable table ;-), thus causing a team to lose 10 points because each barrel in the team's possesion is worth 10 points. Also, the referre will prioritize taking white barrels before red. So, a team begins with five white barrels in Base, thus the team starts with 50 points. The team can also retrieve 3 more barrels (2 white and 1 red) from the Oil Drilling Mission. Therefore, there is a lot of strategy to consider: "Should I save time and grab the robot?" or "Should I save points and let the robot come bach to Base?"

Also, we would like to wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving, and everybody travelling do so safely!


Jonathan's Comments: Note that no Barrels will be taken away if none are in Base. By the way, Base includes the Parking Lot only if you move the Barrels there by hand - if the robot moves the Barrels to the Parking Lot, they aren't considered to be in Base (and therefore the robot may touch them, but not the drivers).

Nov 20, 2007

NXT Classroom ready to roll

Remember the post one month ago on a new site being under construction, aimed at teachers and called NXT Classroom
"to provide the NXT community with a place where beginners could learn simple programming, keep up with NXT news, post tutorials and run their own courses." ?
Ross, the maintainer of the site, has announced that the site is ready for use now:
"The site features:
  • A customizable joomla install that allows registered users to submit content
  • Fireboard forums - fast and integrated with the site
  • Chatrooms - big enough to allow teachers to have guests in chats with students (max 40, can be raised)
  • RSS feed from the NXT Step blog
  • A moodle install where registered users can run their own course with their school students or a general course for the community
  • An events calendar for people who like FLL competitions
I just thought everyone would like an update, the site is stable and ready for full use. Thanks for all the offers of help, I hope everyone enjoys the site over the coming years."

Go for it!

NXT SUMO competition

More information (including rules, judges, and a FAQ) on the Sumo Challenge can now be found on the official LEGO MINDSTORMS webpage. This is looking to be one of the biggest events to come around for NXT users of all ages.

We want to hear from our readers - are you going to participate? Any strategy or special plans you care to share? Going it alone or maybe with a friend? Let us know...

Spin Those NXT Deals!

Folks, the season for extreme sales are almost upon us. The clogged stores, parking lots, gas stations, and roads...who needs the stress? Lucky for us, the Internet is free from those problems and allows us to shop from the safety of home.

This is my plan. Save some bucks, the stess, and the possibility of following my Wife to every store in using the trusty old WWW to find the gifts I might need for myself...I mean for my family and friends.

So, there are some earlybird sales and things happening. Here is one (since I deleted the RIS sale link):

- MicroCenter Online is offering the NXT 8527 at $199.99 (+5.99 Shipping) USD Here

Several other online stores (such as, Amazon) are offering Free Shipping to save you some bucks and there will indeed be more (possibility better) offerings before this year rolls out. If you spot a good one post it here or drop one of us an email.


Version 1.1 of ROBOTC released

A new version of RobotC is now available for download. The upgrade is free for those who have a license.

Upgrades / Improvements:
Many small updated and two significant updates:
-ROBOTC is now VISTA compatible.
-ROBOTC now supports NXT to NXT Bluetooth communication, along with improved Bluetooth speed and reliability over other NXT software packages.

Also, there are some handy debug functions in this new version.
More details about the updates can be found here:

Nov 16, 2007

"Someone has the dam from table 2A; please return it for the next round"

The Berthoud Recorder has published an online article on an FLL event that was held on last Saturday in Berthoud, Colorado. It was the first time an FLL competition was performed there, and according to the article the hosts were quite surprised on the tremendeous repercussion it found in the area (not an uncommon experience when it comes to FLL): no less than thirty-four teams took part.

There was also "a team-building exercise that had the students walking to the Little Thompson Observatory where volunteers explained the workings of the observatory". Nice idea!

On a sidenote: there's an announcement on the page that
"If this article receives more than 100 hits on any given day between now and next Wednesday we will include a link to the slide-show"
of pictures of the event - guess we will achieve that, won't we?

Addendum: Obviously, we did. :-) View the slideshow the site's web admins have put online now.
Addendum 2: There's been another online article of an FLL event in Colorado this weekend - this time in Ft. Collins.

Nov 14, 2007

NXT "Sokoban" Solver

"Sokoban" is a puzzle in which the player pushes pieces around a maze and tries to put them in designated locations.

It takes this NXT about six minutes to solve the puzzle. More details are here. Toward the end of the linked report, there is a download link to a more detailed report, outlining the NXC and Java source code used to solve the puzzle.

Nov 13, 2007

What is a "Real" programming language? Or a "best" one?

Chris Anderson, the inventor of the UAV NXT drone, has posted an entry to the GeekDad blog where he strongly promotes RobotC and drops some thoughts regarding a "best" and a "real" programming language for the NXT.
While I consider RobotC indeed a tool quite well adapted to NXT programmers' needs, I rather disagree with some arguments of his (and left an according comment).
What do you think about his opinions on that subject? It's an interesting discussion that has been led many times already in the past (and will no doubt go on in the future) with a lot of aspects involved.

Leave comments there!

Tribot Sumo and others...

Beside building Bulldozer-based sumo robots, the "Robotics Posse" also built a few other sumo robots during our sumo event, starting with a speed Tribot build-off. LEGO claims you can have a working robot in 30 minutes... so we tested that. The fastest Tribot build was Steve Hassenplug, with a time just a shade over 10 minutes... and everyone in this picture completed a working Tribot in 20 minutes or so. I'd say the LEGO claim is a fair one. In case you think this was stacked in favor of adult builders, the young man in the background is my son: Ben is 10 years old, and had never put the Tribot together before.

Once we had five brand spankin' new Tribots, we immediately reprogrammed them for sumo, and did slight modifications to them, adding front attachments or modifying the back caster, but that was about it. "Semi-stock" Tribot sumo was actually a very good time - some had wicked-looking front weapons, some tried to flipped the opponent, and some actively looked for targets. But of course, we didn't stop with Tribots. How about Tribot vs. Alpha Rex? Or Tribot vs. a Bulldozer? Or other odd match-ups? Well, here's a video, showing the results of some fun (if chaotic and always unpredictable) NXT-based sumo:

Steve Hassenplug will be putting some more up about this event on his website here over time. Perhaps some of you will be inspired by this to enter the NXTlog Sumo event as well. I certainly am...

Brian "Cameraman" Davis

Nov 12, 2007

Bulldozer Sumo

On the 3rd of November, a number of the MCP got together over at Steve Hassenplug's house for a little bit of a contest. Bryan Bonahoom, John Brost, Jay Kinzie, Steve Hassenplug, and myself all brought autonomous LEGO bulldozers. Take a stock #8275 Bulldozer, and have an NXT drive it using a Hitechnic IRLink. Equip it with edge detectors, US sensors to locate opponents, and perhaps a few special custom weapons, and let the LEGO pieces fall where they may. A good time was had by all, and Bulldozer sumo was a resounding success.. even if all of the matches didn't go exactly according to plan. Take a look at the highlights here on YouTube:

Brian Davis

FLL Mission Overview Part 10 - Personal Vehicle Choice

Objective: Bring the yellow car to the house's property and take the red truck back to the parking lot or to the farm (white area enclosed by the two rivers).

Point Worth: 25 points.

Mission Location: Near the Northwest (top left) corner of mat.

Estimated Difficulty Rating: 6/10

Time Length Rating: Long

Unique Challenge Aspects: Requires you to both deliver and retrieve mission objects.

For this mission, your robot has to move one object (the car) from base to a location, and another object (the truck) to base from a location. Also, the delivery location of the car might not be directly adjacent to the truck (it can be anywhere in the property of the house). These two factors make this a somewhat tricky mission, and we may be seeing some teams completing this in multiple runs.


Nov 11, 2007

"Snout": The Alligator NXT

From the book, "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT ZOO", a collection of nine, kid-friendly robots to be published by No Starch Press in early 2008.

Nov 10, 2007

Lemon: comparing LEGO(R) models and checking against the NXT kit

Remember the beta release of a Model Differ application I posted about some days ago?
Finally, the first productional of it is available now, called Lemon 1.0.

It features
  • comparing LEGO(R) models laid down in LDRAW (.ldr) or LEGO Digital Designer (.lxf) format
  • comparing such models against the NXT Retail Kit
  • listing parts contained in each model only
  • listing parts commonly contained in both models
  • easy one-click installation and running using Java Web Start (the only thing you need is a Java 5 (or above) runtime on your computer - might already come pre-installed on your operating system)
  • supported on all platforms Java 5 is available for (in particular Windows XP, Mac OSX, Linux)
If you ever needed to know if your (or other people's) model can be built with a single NXT Retail Kit and which parts you need in addition, or if you ever were curious in which parts two models differ, this Java-based application might prove useful for you.

Nov 9, 2007

New NXT Book

The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide by David J. Perdue is now available. The book contains:

- An examination of the pieces in the NXT set and the roles they play in construction
- Practical building techniques, like how to build sturdy structures and work with gears
- Programming tips for NXT-G (and a bit about several unofficial NXT programming languages)
- A strategy (called the MINDSTORMS method) for creating your own robots
- Step-by-step instructions for building, programming, and testing six sample robots (all of which can be built using only the parts found in one NXT set).

Additional details can be found at

Mac OS 10.5 - the return of "CBS"?

I've heard some reports that under the newest Mac OS (10.5, codename "Leopard"), NXT-G will run fine, but is not able to update the brick firmware. I personally upgraded to 10.5 just about a week ago, and have had no problems with NXT-G (or anything else really - it was an amazingly painless installation)... but I've not tried to update the FW under this system as yet. If any of you Mac users do have a problem with this, please let us know, and when we hear more about this (one way or another) we'll try to post an update.

For now, if you do have this possible problem, just make sure you have access to a version of NXT-G running under something other than Leopard. After all, the rest of it seems to work wonderfully. Now, I've got to go see if I can verify this and brake my NXT...

Update, 9 Nov 2007 - I've verified this on my system. Under Leopard, the FW download process stalls out while preparing the NXT. I could take this newly-bricked NXT to a second Mac with OS 10.4, and repeat the process to restore the NXT to full functionality with the 1.05 FW, so as long as you have a back-up, this is not a critical problem. But if your only computer is a Mac running Leopard, it appears you can not update the FW currently.

Brian "Leopard bytes NXT" Davis

Nov 8, 2007

Why is my robot not perfect?

I run workshops with students all the time, and one of the first activities I do, is make them get their robot to drive forward 500mm. For the younger kids it's mainly trial and error, for the older kids I get them to calculate circumference and mathematically work it out.

But I was finding that the theory wasn't quite matching up to real life. I have in the past explained that every robot is subtly different. (this also helps to stop kids running to another computer and stealing other students values)

So I sat down and worked through the math to have a look at why my students were getting what I considered fairly different numbers for the same 500mm.

(warning, basic maths ahead)

If we take the diameter of the NXT wheels as 56mm (as written on the side) we get a circumference of:

c = pi * d
c = 3.14 * 56
c = 175.84

To go 500mm, we divide 500 by the circumference
x = 500 / 175.84
x = 2.8435 rotations
x = 1024 degrees

But I was finding that some kids needed more than this. Let look and see what happens when our wheel diameter shrinks by 1mm due to either a hot days softening the rubber or a heavy robot, both conditions which will cause the rubber tyre to sag, and hence a smaller diameter. Both conditions are entirely plausable and could infact result in more than 1mm deflection.

c = pi * d
c = 3.14 * 55
c = 172.7

x = 500 / 172.7
x = 2.8952 rotations
x = 1042 degrees

So there you go, 1mm difference in the wheels results in 18 degree difference across 500mm.
The discrepancy is even more pronounced when you are trying to rotate your robot on the spot.

Just something to keep in mind :)

Damien Kee

I may be wrong with this. Check out the comments and put in your 2 cents worth

New Vernier video

We all know that Vernier's sensors are going to be able to work with the NXT using an adapter - well, my friendly LEGO Ed sales rep, Kristie, emailed me a link to a video that I hadn't seen - check it out here.

On the left side menu, click on the "NXT Robot Movies" link and you can view a whole bunch of other movies using the NXT and Vernier sensors.

NXT-G blocks are also available on this site as well as more information about the NXT adapter.


New product from LEGO Education

I'll let the press release speak for itself. This isn't out yet, but it does sound... very interesting. Given the target (the "One Laptop Per Child" program), I would suspect a low-cost solution, but at this point it's just speculation. The LEGO Press Release:


Sao Paolo, BRAZIL (NOVEMBER 7, 2007) – LEGO Education, The LEGO Group’s educational division, today begins testing of creative curriculum solutions in three schools in Brazil to establish the best technology platform for bringing 21st Century skills to students ages seven and older in underserved and developing countries.

LEGO Education will provide selected classrooms with concept products that foster the hands-on, minds-on creative play for which the LEGO® brand is universally known. The company is building on 10 years of research, product development and success as a consumer robotics pioneer with LEGO MINDSTORMS®, harnessing technology to bridge the physical and virtual play worlds to provide advanced teaching methods that integrate science, math, engineering, language, social skills, and more. LEGO Education’s goal is to provide cost-effective, high-impact, versatile tools that foster creative exploration and learning for those schools and students who need it most to prepare for the future. In developing these solutions the company is once again collaborating closely with MIT Media Lab and Professor Mitchel Resnick.

“A global discussion is taking place right now about how to address the educational needs of children to best prepare them for the future and Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child program has spotlighted much needed attention to the curriculum gaps in developing countries specifically,” says Jens Maibom, vice president, LEGO Education. “Our experience in both the consumer toy market and the educational environment uniquely prepares us to take a lead along with Negroponte and others in establishing affordable classroom solutions that challenge and inspire today’s children, the builders of tomorrow, to successfully meet the ever-changing demands of today’s global workforce. We are confident that the results of the curriculum test in Brazil will help us establish the best platform to meet this objective.”

Concept testing runs through the end of 2007, with additional development and product launch to a number of developing countries scheduled late 2008. Lars Nyengaard, Director of Innovation, LEGO Education is the lead for the project.

This new classroom concept further supports The LEGO Group’s recent announcement of its membership in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a group that has emerged as the leading advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills like creativity and innovation into education. The organization brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers to define a powerful vision for 21st century education to ensure every child's success as citizens and workers in the 21st century. In his role as leader of LEGO Education Jens Maibom represents The LEGO Group, the only toy manufacturer on the Board, to champion the company’s commitment to preparing children for the future through creative play and learning activities.

# # #

About The LEGO Group
The LEGO Group ( 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 4,500 people globally. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children's creative and imaginative abilities through its products, which can be purchased in more than 130 countries.

LEGO, MINDSTORMS and their respective logos are trademarks of the LEGO Group. © 2007 The LEGO Group.

Brian Davis

NXT Robots built for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

During the summer, four members of Virginai FLL Team 668: Super-Nanobot-Extremes had an outreach opportunity to work on the set of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", on location in Pennsauken NJ. They were tasked with building NXT Retail Kit robots to be displayed in a child's bedroom during the revealing of the house to the family. During a four hour period, the kids managed to build two models and complete a third model that had arrived at the set partially built. All three robots were programmed by the children and in working order before the day was out.

I recently received word from the show's producer who said the robots that the kids made were a huge hit and "read" well on camera! There were two on the desk between the computers, and one in the back on the silver cubed nightstand.

The show will be aired nationally this Sunday November 11th on ABC ( check your local listings)

Included below are some pictures that were taken during the shows taping back in August.

David Levy

Nov 7, 2007

Comparing LDRAW models and checking against the NXT Retail Kit

As someone who is running simply a large trunk with LEGO parts where a new NXT kit gets emptied out to for further building I have found it hard in the past to answer frequent questions like
"Can this model of your's been built with a single retail kit?"
- figuring out the answer to that was somewhat troublesome and required a lot of comparing to the according parts inventory at Peeron.

Hence I finally implemented a Java application that may come in handy: Model Differ (working title).

It allows for comparison of two models that are laid down in LDRAW format and lists the parts that are mutually not contained (honoring also the number of occurrences of a particular part). For convenience, it's possible also to check a model directly against the NXT Retail Kit.

If you are into CADing your models with LDRAW, have a look - the only thing you need is a Java Runtime (version 5 or above). And some LDRAW model, of course.

Nov 5, 2007

FLL Mission Overview Part 9 - Coal Mining

Objective: Get the Rail Car to roll down the track. Only when the car has touched the stoppers at the end, is the team allowed to retrive the cart by hand to Base.

Point Worth: 10 points

Mission Location: South (bottom) East (right) side of the mat.

Estimated Difficulty Level: 4/10

Time Length Rating: Medium

Unique Challenge Aspects: This mission in itself is not difficult. Bump the trigger, cause the car to roll down the tracks, and then pick it up. Then why the relatively high ratings for difficulty and time? The trigger is in the corner of the table. To achieve the presicion required to bump the trigger, the robot is going running a rather slow speed, so we have rated this mission a medium time length rating. Also, to get into the corner, bump the the trigger, and get out of there without getting tangled is why we have rated the difficulty 4 out of 10.

This mission is also rather unique, due to the unusual use of human hands. This was once done before, in Ocean Odyssey, when you were required to bump the pipeline. But in this case, the human hand cannot be shaky or hasty, or they may cause the car to spill all the coal! Which is a good question... "What happens to the coal that is spilled in the case the human hand splls it in an attempt to retrive the car?"

Finally, this mission is required in order to fully complete the Power Plant Supply. Another interesting aspect is in that somehow, either by human hand or by robot, the red coal must be sorted through the black coal, in which the black coal must be sent to the Power Plant Supply. When sorting, it has to be relatively quick in order to save time, not waste time sorting.

What appears to be a simple mission actually turns out quite complex...


LEGO Shop@Home - The NXT Step Idea Book

Now, you (or our parents) have an additional option! LEGO Shop@Home is now offering the NXT Idea Book in the Fall/Winter (you know, Christmas) season catalog. In case you missed it...find it here on page 43 within the 2 NXT pages! Same goes for the print version if you received a copy.

The NXT Idea Book really is a nice way to expand your NXT experience. Enjoy!


Nov 3, 2007

What Happened to ILENN?

For quite awhile now, the International LEGO Enthusiast News Network (ILENN) has been providing worldwide news feeds of "all things NXT" and "all things LEGO". That is, until about two months ago.

The ILENN home page is now full of scripting errors and seems to carry no news whatsoever. Does anyone know what happened to it?

I emailed someone named "Kelly" at ILENN but received no response. Any solution to the mystery would be appreciated. Their web site is here.

Nov 2, 2007

WIRED Living Home

WIRED Magazine and LivingHome's hi-tech house in Los Angeles is open for tours November 1st through the 18th. If any of our readers are able to make it out for a visit, please let us know what you think.

There will be some LEGO MINDSTORMS robots in the house, too... read this article for some more information on those robots. A few members of the MCP2.0 team submitted some robot ideas and 3 were selected to participate.

You can read more about the project here.

PBS and WIRED magazine's new TV show covers UAV

Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of WIRED magazine has a story on his UAV and other flying vehicles that are taking advantage of the current technologies becoming available for hobbyists and beyond. (Just a few seconds into the piece, you can see "HiTechnic Compass Sensor" written on the underside of the sensor attached to the plane!)

Check out the video here.

FLL Worksheet

I've received quite a few emails from various coaches and teams requesting the FLL Worksheet I referenced in my presentation at Bot'oberfest back in October. This worksheet is free - use it, modify it, make as many copies as you like.

The idea behind the worksheet is to get teams thinking about each FLL mission before they ever start building and programming. If you examine the mission objectives, potential pitfalls, and physical characteristics first as well as identify the components possibly required (motors, sensors, grippers, etc.), it'll make it easier when you reach the building and programming stages.
You can download the zip file containing the worksheet and instruction sheet here.

Nov 1, 2007

NXTLog Sumo Challenge

NXTLog has come out with their next contest - a LEGO Sumo Building Challenge. They added some nice new twists to it, though. From the Sumo bots entered, judges will select some finalists. Then they'll actually recreate the finalist entries and have a competition with them! The winning robot in the competition wins the NXTLog contest. The winners, along with the Sumo Match, will be covered and featured on the MINDSTORMS site.

Read the NXTLog here.

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