Oct 28, 2009

Confusion with NXT kits

I wanted to bring a discussion out in the open that we (the blog contribs and various other NXT book authors) have been having today. It started with an email I received from a father who's son was disappointed to find that his One Kit Wonders book wasn't compatible with his new NXT 2.0 kit.

I'm opening this up for comments from our readers because I think it has potential to grow into a larger, more widespread problem for those who are new to the NXT world.

Let's state the obvious first - in 2006 the NXT was released in two versions: a Retail version 1.0 and an Education version 1.0. Both versions were different in the parts included in the box. In August 2009, LEGO released a new version of the Retail kit we'll call Retail 2.0. Retail 1.0 is no longer being produced and kits are probably slowly selling off from toy store shelves as collectors grab them up.

Okay, so we have Retail 1.0, Retail 2.0 and Education 1.0.

Now the confusing part - books. When a book was written for NXT between 2006 and 2009, most likely it was being written for the Retail 1.0 kit. A few books were done that required additional parts, either from other LEGO kits (non-robotic in nature) or what's known as the Resource Set (a LEGO Education product). There is no Retail Resource Set... the Education Resource Set simply provides more parts, gears, wheels, etc for builders to tinker with. That said, many books written for the Retail 1.0 kit contained robots that COULD be built with the Education 1.0 plus Resource Set. With me so far?

Now we have the Retail 2.0 kit. As far as I know, there are no books currently available yet for the 2.0 kit - but they're coming. So buyers who are purchasing the 2.0 kit from stores are purchasing a kit for which there are really no additional printed resources (books) available yet. Unfortunately, Amazon.com (and maybe some other online retailers) have a habit of recommending products to buyers - so when someone buys a Retail 2.0 kit, Amazon.com says "Hey, you might like this great NXT book called XXXXXXXX" and the buyer gets it thinking they'll have more robots to build... but in fact, the book is for Retail 1.0. Sad and unfortunate.

And now, with new books for 2.0 coming out, those Retail 1.0 owners are going to begin to find books with robots that they, too, cannot build (short of purchasing a Retail 2.0 kit).

(And let's not forget that Education 1.0 owners are completely out in the cold here - few books written just for Education 1.0 kit and no 2.0 kit on the horizon - as far as I know.)

So, this raises a few questions:

1. Will LEGO release a "parts pack" that will provide Retail 2.0 owners with the parts found in Retail 1.0 but not in Retail 2.0?

2. Will LEGO release a "parts pack" that will provide Retail 1.0 owners with the parts found in Retail 2.0 but not in Retail 1.0?

3. How can buyers of Retail 2.0 know if a book is written for their kit or not?

Well, I don't have answers for 1 and 2, but we (book authors) are trying to work with our respective publishers to see if we can get the kit numbers (and version numbers) possibly listed with the books to avoid future bad purchases. This probably won't completely solve the problem, though... suggestions are welcome!

So, what do you think?

17 comments:

Calvin said...

Well, my solution to this is to just have A LOT of parts, lol, my family has had LEGOs for over ten years.

Calvin

NXTDude said...

Very good informational post Jim, fortunately I am not a victim of a bad purchase. =) It would be great if LEGO released a pack for NXT 2.0 owners so they can build NXT 1.0 bots from books and vice versa. Or, if an author was willing too, it would be neat if they made a collection of robots with instructions for both sets (even though they would be slightly different). I hope that people will start to look deeper into the products they are buying so that they are not let down.

mperrin said...

Here's a thought - why in the world doesn't LEGO make ONE MINDSTORMS kit? Except for the rechargeable battery pack, I have never understood why the individual pieces need to be different between the commercial and the educational sets.

Armagon said...

I'll second some of the other comments -- it sure would be simpler to have only one NXT kit, and it would be nice if authors (or the community) could post variations on robots for use with other kits (although one wonders if they might fall afoul of copyright laws). Lastly, it'd be nice to have a simple guide that says, "This model requires these parts, and it can be built with these kits", but, that isn't entirely future-proof, for, if/when an NXT 3 kit comes out, the author could hardly be expected to predict what parts it would contain.

Having said all of this, is there a nice guide that shows which parts all the kids contain, in a side-by-side comparison, and how their quantities differ?

Alexander Feduleev said...

Hi Jim,
I'm try fix this problem by post some advertise in paper and internet forum by excahnge lego parts... but no replies in our city. Maybe make something like that in your forum ?

Tim said...

OK, here is a solution that will help.

There is a website called www.peeron.com that is basically the eBay of all things LEGO. They have just about every part and set available, and the CGI version of most of the parts available. NXT retail set 1.0 and 2.0 are both available, and you can purchase the parts individually. All that's left is a comparison between the parts in each kit. This can be done by comparing the parts list of each kit. Said comparison can then be used as a wish list for the parts required.

The color sensor and zamor spheres look like they could be useful...too bad I only have NXT 1.0 and RIS 2.0...and a spybot...and an extra NXT...and a few thousand LEGO peices...

Eric D. Burdo said...

Peeron uses the BrickLink.com system for purchases. Although, sometimes it's easier to find the part on Peeron, and then go search BrickLink for it. :)

BrickLink is here: http://www.bricklink.com/

Peeron is here: http://www.peeron.com/

tim said...

Well, I sort of got burned by this recently, so I'm feeling a bit frustrated. Exactly the situation - bought Mindstorms (R2.0) and a few books, and was disappointed that in one of the books the main series of models was based on one that I couldn't build with the parts I had. I have all my parts on Peeron, so I knew what I was missing, but even using bricklink I estimate it would take about $30-40 to 'fill out' the missing pieces when you account for shipping (there is never one shop that has all the pieces). Now regarding parts packs, if I ran a bricklink shop, I'd put my own parts packs together and sell them aftermarket... I'd still be willing pay $30-40, but at least I could get them all from one source.

Matthias Paul Scholz said...

Armagon,
Dave Parker hosts a table on his web site nxtprograms.com that lists the parts of the original NXT kit (#8527) that are not included in the NXT 2.0 one (#8547).

Armagon said...

Matthias,

that's a nice table. Thank you.

It would still be nice to have a table that included the educational kit.

Armagon

Conchas said...

IMO opinion the LEGO kits from 1.0 to 2.0 and vice-versa, are very unlikely to be produced by TLG.

My suggestion would be to create a kind of stamp, that would be applicable to books and individual robots, stating the kits with which it would be compatible.

Some standardized graphical stamp with:
- Compatible with Retail 1.0
- Compatible with Retail 2.0
- Compatible with Education 1.0

It would be easy to apply online and at new books cover.
For future releases, new stamps would be created and in the case of old books, editors could apply them via stickers.

Brian-J said...

I just bought a NXT 2.0 set. After noting some of the superficial differences between NXT retail versions 1.0 and 2.0 I proceeded with caution when selecting a currently available book-- I chose the "Inventors Guide" by No Starch press. I see these books primarily as "idea guides" and understand that I may not be able to follow building instructions step-for-step.

As for why an educational version and retail version exist? Schools do NOT want to purchase a kit that tout models that shoot, or humanoid robots that appear inspired by "Transformers". Yes, I know what kids like, but schools are not spending their own money.

They also don't need to get a software disc with each set-- the education version of the NXT does NOT come with software. The educational version of the software contains different model instructions and challenges suitable to the classroom environment. Or at least they are models that could be considered more "educational" than "fun". :)

I can't ever see LEGO producing "upgrade kits" to provide some parts parity between the two kits-- it just sounds too confusing. That's what the aftermarket exists for.

RDewsbery said...

In the days of the RCX Mindstorms kit, Lego did indeed produce an "upgrade" pack that allowed owners of the 1.0 Robotics Invention System to get the extra pieces that were included in the 2.0 RIS.

When NXT 2.0 was announced, I enquired of Lego whether they were planning anything similar this time around. I got a pretty terse reply telling me that they never release details as to what sets might or might not become available in the future, but that left me with the impression that I shouldn't hold my breath!

I could live without the pieces, but I would have liked to get my hands on the updated NXT-G software.

jbartig said...

I'm a FLL coach. One of the kids on our team has a Retail 2.0 kit. When we tried to use his 2.0 brick, we discovered yet another incompatibility. LEGO Education Support tells me that Retail 1.0, 2.0, and education all use different versions of NXT-G and have differing firmware for the NXT bricks.

The education software wanted its own firmware on the brick. Once this was done, it no longer supported the color sensor that comes with Retail 2.0.

I asked Support if there would be a new release of the education NXT-G software. They said that since the LEGO Education Store did not sell the color sensor, they had no plans to release an update that supported the color sensor.

Jeff

Jim Kelly said...

You are right, Jeff - if LEGO Ed or FIRST ever decides to support the Color sensor with the FLL competition, then you'll probably see the firmware support, but not until then is my guess.

jim

Tim said...

Why? Why won't LEGO EDUCATION allow the use of whatever technology is available, instead of limiting participants to ITS hardware? Aren't they supposed to be "preparing us for jobs in the real world"? I haven't seen any reason to purchase expensive servo drivers that are accepted by expensive software. Mindsensors.com offers servo drivers that cost half as much, and run with free software, and that free software is compatible with ALL hardware. I could take control of CARS, FACTORIES, and CAR FACTORIES, or HID DEVICES, COMPUTERS, and THE INTERNET! Besides, who wants to sit at home, manually telling a "robot" what to do, all of the commands down to each motor, with nothing but a camera to guide them, ALL DAY LONG! In today's world, you can, and should, have robots perform all actions that do not require any creativity, unless the necessary hardware is unavailable.

Kritonas Iordanidis said...

First of all the book's title is: lego mindstorms nxt One kit wonder so it is for nxt 1.0 because if it was for nxt 2.0 the title would be: lego mindstorms nxt 2.0 one.....
Secondly if the parent of the boy had searched the internet about this book he had figured out that this book contents models with sound sensor.(the lego mindstorms nxt 2.0 kit DOES NOT have sound sensor

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