Jul 20, 2008

New NXT Book by Owen Bishop: First Look

Bishop's book is an impressive tutorial for NXT-G, geared to the intermediate or advanced user.

Bishop covers sensors, variables, loops and switches, with special sections on mathematics (Sines, Cosines, Square Root, Factorials) and the compass sensor. All of the blocks and MyBlocks covered in the book are included on a DVD that comes with the book.

The DVD also includes a list of book illustrations that are cross-referenced with the programs on the disk. For example, illustration "13.14" in the book refers to the "Maze Runner" program found on the disk. This cross-referenced list makes it easy to find a particular program discussed in a particular portion of the book.

Some programs covered by Bishop:

1) "Housefly" Program: A fast-falling shadow on the light sensor (like that of a fly swatter) causes the robot to quickly move, in order to escape the "swat".

2) "Maze Learner" Program: The robot "learns" each section of a maze by having the brick's left button pressed at each juncture of the maze. The robot will then repeat its "learned" route.

3) "Magic" Program: A pointer on the robot will "read the mind" of the robot's operator, by pointing to an illustration which only the operator knows. (The program is a trick, of course, but a clever one).

I haven't yet tested any of the programs in Bishop's book but am eager to do so. The book reminds us that NXT-G is a fairly sophisticated programming language that can challenge even an expert.

Two quibbles with the book:

1) The DVD is never referenced in the book; therefore, the buyer doesn't know the disk's contents until he/she puts it into a computer. A listing of the DVD's contents within the book would have been helpful.

2) The book's cover price: $41US is a lot of money for a 185-page book printed in black-and-white, even if it includes a DVD of programs. Fortunately, Amazon.com sells the book for $27US, which includes free shipping.

Amazon's link to the book is here.

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