Jan 31, 2009

FTC Delaware Regional Tournament

Team #2945 Power Surge, my FTC team, has been in high gear for the past several weeks preparing for our first regional (state) tournament, which is going to be held in Delaware tomorrow, 1/31. We've had a good amount of time to vastly improve our robot since our first scrimmage, and we're looking forward to an exciting competition. I'll be sure to post all about the tournament after it's over.


P.S. You can learn more about the team and see pictures and a video at our website, http://www.teampowersurge.org/

Jan 30, 2009

PF IR Receiver as Wireless Touch Sensor

Here are the details on the trick that I used in my Battle Tank project to get the NXT to read sensor input from the Power Functions remote control. See the "Method 1". This allows the NXT to see the IR receiver as a single touch sensor, which is actually quite easy to do if you have the two wires needed (PF Extension Wire and RCX Conversion Cable). The "Method 2" was an earlier and much more complex way to get full control from both levers (9 states).

You only get one touch sensor out of this, but with a little timing trick in the NXT program, I made the single PF lever control two NXT-triggered functions on the Battle Tank. A quick press and release of one lever triggers the scissor stabber with one NXT motor, and a press and hold of the same lever triggers the dart gun with another NXT motor. This leaves the other lever on the same channel open to run a PF M-motor in both directions to implement the unfolding saw blade (same M-motor folds/unfolds via a worm gear while also spinning the blade by up-gearing). Then the other IR receiver is attached to the two PF XL-motors to do the driving on another channel.

It looks like you could extend this trick to get two touch sensors by connecting the other half of the IR receiver to a second sensor port on the NXT, but this doesn't work. Pressing either lever ends up triggering both touch sensors. Wondering what was going on here, I consulted Philo, who kindly explained that the whole setup is electrically questionable to begin with because the PF and NXT sides don't share a common ground, but it ends up working and being safe with one sensor, but attaching two creates a strange current flow and also results in a short circuit condition if the levers are pushed in opposite directions. So don't bother trying that...

NXT 2.0 Color Sorter Video

NXT Turing Machine

The model physically illustrates the theories behind the Turing Machine. More details are here. (No, you can't order it. The "infomercial" format of the video is a spoof).

More NXT 2.0 pictures available

New images from toy fairs all over the world slowly pop up. Gadget review blog Pocket-Lint states, "Mindstorms NXT 2.0, will focus on offering 10 to 14-year-old boys a good robot experience rather than trying to appeal to the hardcore fans that use the kit.
Other new features include the inclusion of ten robot instructions from the software rather than two as in the previous model."

The article also tells us that this kit will cost around £200, which is about $285. However, these prices may vary per country: LEGO usually has different prices for different countries.

If follow the article link and click on more images, you will also see something which appears to be a new NXT- G feature, a remote control. This would suggest that the kit comes with newer software than version 1.1, which currently ships with NXT kits.

Update: One of readers correctly states that the target audience referenced on the Pocket-Lint blog doesn't cover the complete audience. Of course, Mindstorms NXT 2.0 is suitable and fun for both boys and girls, and I do not see the reason for a maximum age limit, either.

Jan 29, 2009

Guest Blog - written by Michele Perrin

Guest Blogger: Michele Perrin

As a high school teacher, I’ve used Vernier sensors for years to do science experiments. Now with the introduction of Mindstorms 2 and Vernier’s new NXT Sensor Adapter, I can use those same sensors in middle school science experiments. The adapter is about the size of LEGO’s sound sensor with a Vernier cable socket on one end and an NXT cable socket on the other. There are over 30 different sensors that are compatible with the NXT.

In the first graph, my students used a charge sensor to show how different objects can carry a positive or negative static charge on cold, dry days. The students vigorously rubbed a fleece blanket across a plastic book cover, then brought the plastic book cover near the charge sensor for the first five seconds and the fleece blanket near the sensor for the second five seconds. They used the Data Logger Section Analysis Tool to perform a linear fit on each side of the graph. This activity was even more exciting, because they wrote a small program with a sound block to play a tone that fluctuated depending on the strength of the charge (high charge, high pitch).

In the second graph, students used a hand dynamometer to measure the pinch strength of each finger. They used the Data Logger Text Annotation Tool to label each section. Since the hand dynamometer comes with a long cord, they used it to build a “robot walker.” The harder they squeezed the sensor, the faster the robot moved.

The third graph shows the readings taken from a pH sensor placed in a cup of detergent (an alkaline solution). About every 5 seconds, my students added one squirt of lemon juice (an acid) to the mixture. They built a motorized stirrer from NXT parts and they used the Data Logger Point Analysis Tool to label pH values at different points along the graph. This experiment was less messy than doing a color comparison on scraps of wet litmus paper.

Jan 28, 2009

Robotics in Education eJournal

Just a quick reminder to all you teachers (and anyone else interested) that the deadline for submitting an article for our inaugural eJournal is this weekend.

- More details here -

If you have done a great project with robotics in your classroom, we would love to hear about it and be able to share it with the wider education community.

Submissions can be sent to me - info@domabotics.com

Damien Kee

Jan 27, 2009


The new MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 box is shown at a toy fair in Canada.

After some rumors and spy shots that we saw the last few days, now officially the new sets are revealed on a toy fair in Canada.
Lego's Upcoming Sets For August - Mindstorms, Power Miners, and Space Police
by Kris Abel on Sat 24 Jan 2009 02:40 PM EST

Among the many prototypes on display at Lego Canada's booth at this year's Canadian Toy & Hobby Fair were a new set of Mindstorms programmable robots and construction sets for two new science fiction brands. Power Miners is a series of fantasy machines that dig down into the earth to discover rock creatures and Space Police, a futuristic battle between law enforcement agents and the outlaws who try to escape their capture.

a new color sensor, 612 pieces, 4 New models, Cool looking Alpha Rex, a zamor shooter tracked vehicle, an alligator that can walk and snap, a color sorter that can also shoot the balls across the room.
The all new color sensor looks real cool.

Looking forward to see the new Alpha rex walk, on a movie.


NXT + PF Battle Tank

This "Battle Tank" creation uses parts from the NXT (8527) set and the 8275 Power Functions Bulldozer set (sadly, no longer available from LEGO). It combines the NXT and two NXT motors with a LEGO Power Functions setup of 2 XL motors, 1 M motor, 2 IR receivers, and 1 PF battery pack, and various parts from both sets. The whole model was designed from scratch from the ground up. The treaded chassis in particular outperforms the bulldozer chassis in several ways I think (faster, climbs better, treads don't fall off when turning on carpet, more compact, fewer parts), in addition to making space in the center down low for the NXT brick. I built this and filmed the video clips a while back but never got around to editing and posting the video. But now that I am on a roll with remote control...

The NXT part of this is not that complex or interesting, with one notable exception: I found a way to get the Power Functions IR receiver to give sensor input to the NXT, so that you can partially control NXT creations using the PF remote control, which is what made this project possible. I will blog on the details of this in a separate post.

I also put the ultrasonic sensor on it so that I could do something autonomous with it too, but I never got around to it because the remote control was too much fun :-). And then I needed the parts so I took it all apart...

Here is the video. Sorry, no building instructions for this one...

Guest Blog - Andy H.

From Andy H:

Seeing as the iPod Touch was a very popular Christmas item I can't think of a roboteer who wouldn't look at it as something more than just casual gaming and music. Why not a robotics interface? If you've seen an iPod's dock connector (on the bottom of every iPod) and know that it can connect to peripherals like speakers. The dock connector actually unleashes some great capabilities. Did you know there's a serial output? This would allow SPI communication with any microchip capable of it. The iPod touch and iPhone are capable of running apps which could take advantage of serial data. Hook this up to a HiTechnic prototype board and bingo, you have communication with the NXT. There's bound to be an iPhone developer attempting this somewhere, maybe not with NXT, but some robotics platform, and with that the app could easily be ported for the NXT. Imagine the capabilities of an advanced platform like the iPod Touch (featuring light sensor, multi-touch, and accelerometer!) interfacing with the NXT. Neither would be a toy in this situation.

NXT-G 1.1 for $7.98US, Free Shipping

Available here.

Jan 26, 2009

Girls Gone Geek?

I love this photo!

It was post on Flickr in 2007, and is entitled Robot Love.

Can anyone tell us about these Girls Gone Geek? Who are they? Where are they now? Are there new Geek Girls?

Jan 25, 2009

NXT Dial Remote Control

By now you know that I like remote control... So, I set out to design an NXT-to-NXT Bluetooth remote control for my Forklift project, for people with two NXTs, and this Dial Remote Control is what I came up with. My goals for the remote were:

1. Simple and sturdy, low part count

2. High "on-center" stability (whenever you take your hands off the remote, the robot should stop, no need to find a center position)

3. The motor power is always applied very progressively (no jerking on or off) with easy fine-control for accurate small movements, but you can still get full power.

For these, I was willing to give up the ability to drive forward and steer at the same time (only straight and pivot turns are available), or drive and operate the 3rd motor at the same time.

The mechanics is very simple, basically just a single motor attached to the NXT. You choose one of four functions to control by pressing one of the 3 NXT buttons (or no button), then use the motor (dial) to apply power/value to that motor/function. The key is that it is the speed of the dial, not it's absolute position, that determines the power applied to the motor. This gives you a nice progressive feel, kind of like an iPod wheel, and the hands-off stability in any position.

The remote can control many different types of robots/machines, many with no modifications to the program (typical 2-motor vehicles with optional 3rd motor), and I also included a wired remote variation for those with only one NXT. All programs and instructions are included. The building is very simple, the programs are not so simple...

Here is a video of the remote in action:

Jan 24, 2009

New Mindsensors.com products

Mindsensors.com is working on two new devices for the NXT.

"NXTHotShoe will allow you to trigger two cameras and/or flashguns from your NXT and you will be able to control the trigger time of each of them individually, with one millisecond granularity."

Obstacle detector
"This rugged design with ample mounting points is specifically made for NXT Sumo Wrestlers.
This sensor will provide information about presence of obstacles directly in front or front-right or front-left."

Read more here.

Twice the NXTway... BallBot

A long time ago at NI Week I remember seeing a (at the time non-moving) version of BallBot. The idea is simple - instead of driving wheels forward or back like a Segway does to stay balanced, use motors to spin a ball that the entire robot balances on - in both horizontal directions. The only solutions I've seen to this in the past have been significant sized robots, with rather complicated control systems, and I wasn't at all sure it was within the reach of the NXT, with the comparably low-speed sensor polling and the way the motors are controlled indirectly (not from the main chip, but from a secondary processor.

I'm happy to say I was dead wrong.

Here is a rather modest little LEGO robot doing an amazingly un-modest thing: balancing itself upright on a LEGO ball, even when bumped or having things stacked on top of it. The builder/programmers webpage is here, with some other amazing works on it (several have been covered here previously). The only input the robot (and here I'd certainly use the term) is using to remain upright is two HiTechnic gyro sensors, (one for each axis), with the programming in nxtOSEK and MathWorks MATLAB. Truly an amazing creation!

Brian Davis

Jan 23, 2009

One-Kit Wonders: Reviews

Quite recently, a lot of reviews of LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT One-Kit Wonders showed up.

Forum reader Jeff reader reviewed the book as 95/100 when it comes to ideas and quality. Whereas the models in the book were designed for the NXT retail kit, Jeff made the SPC with the education kit and several extra parts:

Read his review here.

Another review, which features a video of "The Hand", was posted on the tech blog Make. You can find it here.

Finally, reviewer Jill says the following in her review:
"One great aspect about One-Kit Wonders is that it features something for everyone in the family. The projects included range from an M&M Sorter (my kids favorite) to a dragster (my husbands favorite) to a bike that steers and moves by itself (my personal favorite)."

Jan 22, 2009

Not sure how to title this one...

Okay, so I received an email a few weeks back from a reader who sent me a picture of his VEX robot with some Technic parts used to create a small basket in front (maybe back?) for holding small items. I was asked if I'd include the picture and his writeup on the blog.

I politely responded that our blog focused on NXT robots (with an occasional off-topic post but we try to keep it related to NXT or at least robotics in general) - "Thanks for sharing... sorry to have to say no, but keep up the good work... etc."

I got a reply back stating that the VEX robot was using NXT parts (he seems to not understand that Technic parts are Technic and not limited to just NXT) and that he couldn't get an NXT robot to complete some challenge map (he didn't specify). He then went on to rip on NXT and saying how VEX was better... blah blah blah. Nothing I haven't heard in emails before. But then... he goes and says this:

"I can drive my VEX robot around and finish the challenge in half the time it took (NXT team name) to do the same stuff because they don't have remote control! LOL LOL LOL"

Hmmm... where was I to begin? I responded politely (again) that driving a robot around via remote control completely negates the "robot" description. I included Webster's online definition:

1. a machine that resembles a human and does mechanical, routine tasks on command.
2. a person who acts and responds in a mechanical, routine manner, usually subject to another's will; automaton.
3. any machine or mechanical device that operates automatically with humanlike skill.
4. operating automatically: a robot train operating between airline terminals.

I mentioned the key to me: "operating automatically" and congratulated him. Of coure, I couldn't just let it go completely, so I added "Technically, the NXT team wins the challenge in my mind as their robot completed the challenge without human control."

And this started a firestorm which has since caused me to block that user's email due to some not-so-nice language and unprofessional behavior. No follow-up info to report.

But this brings me to the purpose of this post - do you consider a remote controlled "robot" to be a robot? If something is being manually controlled by a human versus performing actions autonomously, which do you find more interesting - challenging - impressive?

In the NXT world, I'm sure this is bordering on the Mac vs. PC debate, so keep your responses clean and professional. I'm just curious to know what our readers think...

NXT SALE - Last 2 1/2 Days

If you missed a Christmas gift for a special someone, here's your chance to make everything better! The Scholastic.com eStore has limited quantities and only a couple of days to go before the sale ends. Here's the details:

Online Coupon - 25% Off the 'LEGO Mindstorms NXT'
Coupon Code: ACCESS01
Expiration: 01-23-2009

***Enter the coupon code during checkout to receive the discount. This coupon is only valid at store.Scholastic.com.

Jan 21, 2009

"Science and Data Logging": First Look

This is a new curriculum by Carnegie-Mellon, designed to introduce students to data logging with NXT-G 2.0. Included are lesson plans and video tutorials for the following experiments:

1)Motion: Program a mobile robot to obey the posted speed limit
2)Heat: Investigate how effectively various materials block radiant heat
3)Sound: Investigate the sound sensor's response to different kinds of sounds
4)Light and Color: Investigate whether or not your robot can detect "rust" and "mold" in narrow "ventilation ducts"
5)Light: Program your robot's light sensor to detect structural weaknesses on the underside of a "bridge"

The curriculum includes high-quality instructional videos, student worksheets, quizzes and an extensive teacher's guide. Purchase includes a classroom license.

A VIDEO that features the motion experiment is here.

BUILDING INSTRUCTIONS for the stand used in the sound investigation are here.

An OVERVIEW of the curriculum is here.

Where is Jim?

I've received a lot of emails and personal messages wondering where I am. Everything is good, I'm fine. I've just been swamped with a lot of work lately (that stuff that pays the bills). While I'd love to write 100%-LEGO-related material, it's just not realistic (at least not yet).

In the freelance world, available work is often like a rollercoaster - up and down, slow and fast - but with the economy the way it is right now, most of the freelance creatives I know (graphic artists, photographers, writers, etc.) are extremely busy. I've probably taken on more than I normally should, but when it's raining, freelancers tend to put out as many cups as they can :)

I've got a few things in the works that do involve LEGO - one relates to a new contest I've discovered that I'll be blogging about shortly. As for books/workbooks, Mars Base Gamma is close... so close... to being done. I just had to put it on a sideburner and apologize for its long delay. (The Mars Base Command has been popular, but sales of the workbooks aren't overwhelming and priorities must go to paying work...)

Anyway, just wanted to catch up with The NXT Step readers and let you know I'm okay, just busy and not able to post as often as I'd like on the blog. I'll try to get something up soon that should be of interest to you NXT engineers out there...

Jan 20, 2009

Software tools for legacy MINDSTORMS products

Philo, the new (well-deserving) lauréat of the James Jessiman Memorial Award of ldraw.org, has published a site where you can download the tools for the legacy MINDSTORMS products that LEGO® has stopped supporting: RCX™, Scout™ and Spybotics™.
LEGO® removed these tools from their web site in 2008, so this site of indefatigable Philo will be welcome by all the people that are still developing for these products.
It features

  • the MINDSTORMS SDK 2.5
  • updated USB tower drivers
  • RIS 2.0 XP patch
Note: as Philo states on his site, usage of these tools is completely at your own risk.

Jan 17, 2009

James Jessiman Memorial Award for 2008 awarded to Philippe (Philo) Hurbain

The SteerCo is pleased to announce that the James Jessiman Memorial Award (JJMA) for 2008 will be awarded to Philippe (Philo) Hurbain. As a prolific contributor to the LDraw Parts Library, Philo has contributed not only numerous parts but has also given his many software tools to aid in the creation of parts to the LDraw community. His dedication to reviewing parts has further facilitated the addition and improvement of many other parts to the library. In particular it is fair to say that, without Philo’s work, building modern Technic and NXT models in LDraw would be a significantly poorer experience. Overall Philo has, perhaps more than any other single person, made the parts library which forms the foundations of the LDraw experience into a better resource through his invaluable contributions of parts, tools and reviewing.

On behalf of all the NXT authors, I would like to add my thanks to Philo for his unselfish effort to create ldraw NXT parts---without which it would not have been possible to publish building instructions for our NXT designs.

Philo has a website full of cool things--- www.philohome.com. Learn more about LDraw at www.ldraw.org.

Comparison Data Logging with NXT-G 2.0

While Brian overheats and I freeze to death, I'll show you an example of comparison data logging with the sound sensor and NXT-G 2.0.

The faint, wavy yellow line is my prediction of what my voice would sound like (graphically speaking) if I counted to ten, speaking into the sound sensor that's connected to the brick in another room. (To be honest, I just drew a squiggly line across the screen, but we'll call it a prediction for purposes of contrast).

The solid line with sharp peaks and valleys is the graphical depiction of my actual voice, rising as I speak and dropping off in the silences in between.

As you can see, my "prediction" is woefully out of sync with my actual voice. Both the predictive and actual lines are overlaid for comparison. You can see the minimum, maximum and mean for each data set if you click the graphic.

Junk Science: Taking My Temperature with the NXT

To see how NXT-2.0 and the new temp sensor performed, I ran the following test. (Click on the graphic for an enlarged view).

1) The bottom bar graph shows the temperature in our living room: 65.4 degrees Fahrenheit, proof of our extremely low natural gas consumption. (This has its downside, as you'll see from the next graph).

2) The middle graph shows the temp when my hand is wrapped around the temp sensor. (I didn't hold it long enough to actually warm it up, but 80 degrees Fahrenheit is a frighteningly low temperature for a body extremity).

3) The top graph shows the temp when the sensor is placed next to my body, underneath my shirt and fleece pullover. (It was only there for about 30 seconds, but an 87 degree body temperature indicates severe hypothermia--I'm heading for the fireplace).

I did establish a Bluetooth connection with the new software and firmware, so the next step is to test remote data logging. I want to test the exportable MyBlocks feature as well. More later.

Update: I thought I'd toss up another graph to show the sensors time response.

Here I took
one 10 minute long run, first putting the probe under my arm, then under my tongue (not recommended!), and then after a short cool-off into a cup of hot tap water, & finally directly into a cup of ice water. I could even read off values, annotate, and rescale all in the software... and I did all this in about 15 minutes (including the 10 minutes for logging). It really makes it easy. This is showing only a portion of the things you can do with this new extension to the environment - hiding data, multiple sensor or multiple datasets, zooming on portions of the graph, and even built-in screenshots and saving data. Very handy. And no, I don't have a fever, I'm just warmer than Rick is ;).

Brian Davis

WeDo sensors and NXT

The LEGO WeDO set - discussed in previous posts - was made for the classroom, but it comes with two little sensors that can be used in NXT robots too. The set includes a tilt sensor as well as a proximity sensor. With a converter cable, it is possible to read the sensors using the NXT brick.

The video below illustrates the two sensors. Based on the (analog) sensor value, a tone is played. The signal from the tilt sensor is rather discrete - it only tells you wether it points up, down, left, right or wether it is held parallel to the ground.

The proximity sensor responses to changes in relative distance quite fast, making it a good solution for movement detection


Here's a diagram of the converter cable by Daniel Wittenaar (MCP):

Caution: Do not use this cable to connect a battery pack to your NXT. This will damage your NXT instantly.

Other than that, you can safely use this cable to connect PF sensors and Motors to the NXT.

Jan 15, 2009

New Products From HiTechnic

There were several very nice surprises in the new LEGO Education catalog. Besides WeDo, there are three gems from HiTechnic. The first is a simple touch sensor multiplexer for the NXT. The idea is that by combining multiple touch sensor on one input port (but giving each a slightly different resistance), you can detect not only when one is pressed but which one is pressed. This was something that was commonly done with the RCX, but there hadn't been a commercial product to do it as yet for the NXT: it appears HiTechnic has stepped up and filled that gap. Four touch sensors can share a single input port on the NXT, greatly expanding the number of touch sensors you could use (at least 16; enough to build a simple keyboard, perhaps). The square "bumps" on the housing are spaced so that a studless beam nestles neatly between them, allowing you to "clamp" or "bracket" the housing in place (without going to the trouble of LEGO-certified pinholes etc.). The NXT-G block (downloadable from HiTechnic) is also well-designed, with a lot of careful thought into how to make using this sort of system as easy as possible, while still allowing the user a huge range of combinations. At $29 (without the extra touch sensors), it's not a bad price either, and you can buy it from LEGO Ed as a package with extra touch sensors for $98. One caution: this will only multiplex touch sensors, not other types.

The other interesting thing is the Tetrix system, designed to be used in FTC and based on the NXT brick. Tetrix uses metal pieces in place of some LEGO elements, but more interesting for many of us is that it uses true servos. It turns out both the servo controller and the DC motor controller are built by HiTechnic, and can be bought individually from LEGO Ed. At $80 each (either version), these aren't cheap, but they are at least now available... and very tempting. The catalog says you can daisy-chain up to four units off a sensor port (not a motor port), and they have their own battery connections so the power driving the DC motors and servos is not coming from the NXT, but from supplementary battery systems. Ideal for powerful motors, and this can greatly expand the number of motors potentially under control (I might end up with something like this for HALE-style, light-weight missions that still need a lot of actuators, for example). These elements do not have (to my knowledge) any NXT-G blocks for them (and they are currently sold only through LEGO Ed), but that makes sense in that FTC generally uses ROBOTC or LabVIEW or similar... and I'd be surprised if it wasn't at least possible to interface them down to NXT-G (it's all the same hardware, so at most it might be a firmware issue). Other interesting robotics products are DC motors, motor encoders, servos, LEGO "hardpoint" connectors (allowing the LEGO elements to interface with the Tetrix metal pieces), as well as lots of other hardware). Take a look.

Brian Davis

LDraw parts for WeDO

As an addendum to yesterday's post on WeDo: the according LDraw parts are available now, again provided by Philo:


I don’t normally blog about something without trying it out first. However, I could not resist this one:At last LEGO has released the WeDo range of products via the LEGO Education channel. 

Many of us here at TheNXTStep blog are very passionate about the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT. However, we also work with the community and schools – and well aware of the challenges faced by educators when working with the NXT kits in a classroom type environment.

So the WeDo offering has a lot of significance to us. If you are involved with a school that has already invested in MINDSTORMS NXT, the WeDo kits are an excellent addition to leverage that investment even further. I personally think this is a fantastic learning aid for 7 – 15 year old school children – especially given we have three children of our own in this age range.

The activity pack (which can also be bought separate) allow children to explore four different themes – Amazing Mechanisms, Wild Animals, Play Soccer, and Adventure Stories... So kids can create simple machines, program models they design and create, measure time and distance etc. It comes with 12 activities (each lasting about 2 hours) together with Teacher notes and building instructions.

The question is, what is the most cost effective way to purchase this, if you are a school? Perhaps your LEGO Education rep can help you. I personally think the LEGO® Education WeDo™ Robotics – Getting Started Package is really perfect for an average sized class room (i.e. about 24 children) working in pairs:

What do you think? I especially want to hear from anyone working with children or anyone working in the Education sector.


Jan 14, 2009

Project Involving the New NXT Temperature Sensor


According to the creator, the reading range of the sensor was deliberately narrowed in order to conform to the limitations of the model's mechanism. More documentation and photos are here.

Jan 13, 2009

AlphaRex's RoadTrip to LEGOWORLD in the Netherlands

AlphaRex did visit LEGOWORLD, in the Netherlands.

Last Fall Alpha-Rex was happy to join the Mindstorms team, in Zwolle at LEGOWORLD.

Find out about his visit and view the picture album here.


Hall of Bricks

Travis over at Hall of Bricks was kind enough to let me know that The NXT Step has been added to its listing of LEGO related blogs - NXTasy made the list, too.

Hall of Bricks looks like a nice site - a LOT of information, too.

You can check out the list here.

Jan 11, 2009

NXT Forklift

This NXT Forklift project was designed to take advantage of the cool Bluetooth Vehicle Remote program for PC keyboards by Anders Søborg. Using this program you can drive around and operate the lift by wireless remote control from your PC keyboard. You can also program autonomous tasks as shown in the sample "Forklift Test" program, which uses the ultrasonic sensor to find the platform to place the load on.

The Forklift is buildable by a single NXT retail set (plus one piece of string), but just barely. I had to redesign it several times to free up beams and pegs in order to finish it. It is based on the same 3-motor Chassis as the Hammer Car project.

Here is a video of the Forklift in action:

Temp Sensor, NXT-G 2.0 Now in Stock in US

Here and here.

Jan 10, 2009

CMU Data Logging Tutorial for NXT-G 2.0

Carnegie-Mellon has posted eight, flash-based videos on how to use the new data logging feature in NXT-G 2.0. The videos are here.

(Image courtesy of CMU's "Robotics Academy" web site)

Jan 9, 2009

Another use of the NXT in the "real world"

Remember the post on the Lunar Robotics Challenge where robots simulated a moon mission? I said that no NXT took place, but a reader of our German sister blog Die NXTe Ebene proved me wrong: there was a NXT involved! Not in a robot directly performing the mission in the crater, but as a supplementary system: it ran the device that operated the power line and the rope that pulled the robot from there.

This is another nice example where the NXT kit is used in "real world" robotics.

Have you heard of other such projects where the NXT played a role in rapid prototyping or in another supplementary way in the academic world or the industry? Tell us!

Jan 8, 2009

Nokia Research Center uses NXT

The Nokia Research Center is using the NXT as the robotic platform in a robot named Jeppe. Jeppe is a domestic pet robot designed for telepresence applications to allow a person to be virtually present, though that person is absent, which allows a more interactive form of video conferencing. The following video shows Jeppe perform:

The Jeppe robot has the following capabilities:

- make video calls (2 way audio, 1 way video)
- has 6 pre-defined gestures for movement
- can be controlled to move via a Nokia Internet Tablet, but only in the same WLAN (so far)

Below is a schematic of how Jeppe works.

The makers of Jeppe also request for help to develop it further, including:

- to be remotely controlled via the internet
- allow for users to create their own gestures
- allow Jeppe to move independently through knowing its position
- gather data (from surroundings, devices, etc) and transmit to users

You can go here to express your interest to help collaborate. Go here to learn more about the Jeppe project.

NXT-G 2.0 Available in the UK

It's still not available in the U.S. One UK link is here.

The aforementioned link is from a British company called "Active Robots". A couple of years ago, I ordered an NXT supplemental set from them. (The set was sold out in the US). A person from Active Robots emailed me immediately, to inform me that the set was available for a lower price elsewhere. Any company willing to cancel a sale so that the customer can save money elsewhere is a good company.

Let us know if 2.0 is available where you live.

Jan 7, 2009

Emotional attachment to your creations

Another MCP hinted me to an interesting video by wired.com that deals with an research project on emotional attachment to a robot that you build by yourself.

So you'd better not build AlphaRex by yourself if you want to use him for clearing mines later on...

Registration for BrickFest 2009 is now open

Registration for BrickFest™ 2009, the largest LEGO® event for AFOLs on the American West coach, is open now.
If you have time to visit Portland, Or., on 27th through 29th of March, go there!

Jan 4, 2009

NXT Electric Guitar

I updated this Electric Guitar project from nxtprograms.com to extend the building instructions to show how to build the body of the guitar as pictured. This was previously left as an exercise to the reader, but I got lots of requests for the instructions... Also, I added this video:

Treads available for LDraw

Philo, MCP and relentless Wizard of LDraw parts, has published LDraw files for the treads contained in the NXT Education supplemental kit (other configurations of the treads can be found here and here).
Hence you can model your NXT robots that run on these treads now in LDraw.

Thanks, Philo!

Jan 2, 2009

New York Times Article on Battery Life; Includes Photos of the NXT

An article in today's New York Times addresses battery usage in toys and other electronic devices. It also features photos of the NXT. It states that:

1) The primary drain on batteries is external heat (naturally).
2) Rechargeable batteries suffer significant power leakage, whether being used or not.
3) Alkaline batteries have less power leakage and last longer.

The article goes into detail about all types of battery usage and is well worth the read. Find it here.

Bobcat from the One Kit Wonders book

I recently received the Author copy of the ‘NXT One-Kit Wonders’ book from the publishers. The book looks really neat and we are really proud of it. It is well bound and the printing and imagery are crisp and clear.

If you got your first NXT kit over Xmas and you are reading this, consider ordering a copy. It has some excellent reviews already and well worth the $19.77 special from Amazon.com. Some of the larger books shops are starting to stock it in their shelves as well.

One of the coolest models in the book is the BobCat that can be built with a single NXT kit. The BobCat is pretty unique model and both the skid steer and the arm works really neatly and it is really nice to watch it in action.

My kids had great fun building the Bobcat from the Book. They adopted it to carry drinks from one part of the house to the other:

Happy New Year

To our readers,

We wish you a Happy New Year and hope that 2009 is a good one for all of you. Most of us are still on break/holiday, but The NXT Step will resume shortly with news and information related to your favorite robotics kit.

If you received an NXT robotics kit recently and have just discovered The NXT Step, you've got a LOT of reading to catch up on :) Just kidding, but we do have over 3 years of archived postings for you to sift through - and we invite you to join our forum where you can comment, post questions, answer questions, and discuss the NXT with others.

Again, Happy New Year and thanks for your support and participation.


Jan 1, 2009

FLL Virtual Setup - somewhat?

I recently came across this on Youtube.

and the second part, that shows you how to setup the enviroment.

This seems really interesting, and I think could be a big help to FLL teams... if anyone tries it, let us (or the poster at least) know how it goes!

Happy New Year to everyone,

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