Jun 29, 2009

MCP4 applications...

Are You a Hardcore LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT User?

Do you want to have a seat in our closed web forum, the MINDSTORMS Community Partners, where we involve you in our development and tests of new ideas, concepts, prototypes, products and discuss various issues around our SW, HW, FW and wetware…?

Then send an application via email with a description of yourself, your involvement with LEGO MINDSTORMS, your special areas of interest, and a paragraph on why you are eligible to be an MCP member!

Send it to mindstormsnxt@lego.com with the header ‘MCP 4 application’.

Applications will be received from now and until 31 July 1200 GMT. All email applications received after this date will be rejected.

Applicants must be 18 years old to apply.

Jun 27, 2009

NXT 2.0 storage suggestion



I was at Home Depot the other day and found this very nice 10 compartment storage box from Stanley for $10.00. You can add and remove any of the 10 yellow inserts to change the compartment sizes. Brick, Ultrasonic Sensor, two Touch Sensors and two motors not visible in box because they're in use ;) Everything fits nicely, though, when disassembled.

Jun 25, 2009

Raffle for Prizes

It's a RAFFLE!

UPDATE: A few questions have come in that I'd like to respond quickly to - (1) LEGO would like to use the feedback you provide for internal and external use - anyone who has already submitted a writeup that would like to withdraw their submission, just email me. (2) Focus your writeup on LEGO MINDSTORMS, the robotics kit... consider including the current generation in your thoughts, and the impact on children and adults alike (and the world).


LEGO is interested in what you think about LEGO MINDSTORMS! Write up,
in 50 to 100 words (English please!) your thoughts on MINDSTORMS. You
can choose to write about what MINDSTORMS stands for, compare it to
other LEGO products, describe how you compare it to the vast array of
robotics kits on the market, or any other comments you'd like to share
with LEGO.

Two winners will be selected at random from all those who submit a
response. If more than 250 responses are received, the two winners
will each receive one of the new #8547 LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 robotics
kits. If between 200 and 249 responses are received, one winner will
receive a robot kit and the other will receive a Technic kit of LEGO's
choice. Less than 200 responses and each winner will receive a
Technic kit of LEGO's choosing.

Deadline to submit is August 10th, 2009 3pm Eastern Standard Time.

Email your submission (no attachments) to thenxtstep2009@gmail.com - the Subject line
must be "LEGO MINDSTORMS Raffle Entry"

Please include your first name (ONLY), gender, country, and age. The
NXT Step blog will NOT share your email address with LEGO. If you're
under the age of 18, please ask your parent or guardian for permission
to participate. Your email address will ONLY be used to contact you
if you are a winner. After the contest ends and the two winners are
notified, all emails will be deleted.

So, in a nutshell, here is a summary of the rules - so read them carefully!

1. Email a short response - plain text, no attachments - , 50 to 100 words, about LEGO MINDSTORMS.
(101 words? Delete!)
2. Subject line must be "LEGO MINDSTORMS Raffle Entry" (Subject
line "LEGO Raffle Entry"? Delete!)
3. Include First Name ONLY, gender, country, and age. Do NOT include
any additional personal information! ("Hi, Jim - I hope I win!"
Delete!)
4. Deadline is Aug 10, 2009 3pm EST. (email received August 10, 2009
3:10pm EST? Delete!)
5. Do not post your entry in the comments section - questions are
okay but may not receive an immediate response.

Any emails received that do no adhere to these rules will be deleted -
no reply will be sent. The NXT Step contributors are NOT allowed to
enter (sorry, folks!).

LEGO will be reading these! So be nice. Tell LEGO what you think.
Tell them about your thoughts about or experience with LEGO MINDSTORMS. You might win!

Good luck!~

Jim Kelly

Jun 24, 2009

Robot Idea

I feel an idea coming on... has anyone strapped a 3.7HP airplane motor to an NXT yet? No? Time to go shopping...

http://www.crazybuilders.com/item.php?id=000015&type=project_section

New development product for NXT

Received the following info from Matteo B. at AdaCore:

AdaCore is a provider of a development environment around the Ada programming language.

AdaCore has ported its compilation technology to target LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT.
This effort is purely oriented toward education (it is not a commercial product), and the whole technology is released with the GPL license. The toolset can be downloaded for free from our website.

If anyone downloads it and would like to provide some feedback, we'd love to hear from you.

Jim

Jun 23, 2009

Hello Moon!

http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/lcross-lunar-swingby/index.html

NXT 2.0 Retail Kit - Robot Summary - Shooterbot

One of the robots that you can build with the new NXT 2.0 kit is called ShooterBot - it uses the included Zamor Sphere shooter, the Ultrasonic Sensor, and the new Color Sensor. Add in using all 3 motors and the new rubber treads, and you've got a robot that you can program for all sorts of mischief.

Instructions for building ShooterBot are included in the NXT 2.0 kit's software - you can follow along with the instructions and create the more detailed program or use the nice new feature of simply clicking on the "sample program" icon to immediately have a smaller, simplified program ready for upload to your robot.

With the Ultrasonic Sensor added to the robot, your robot will scan its surroundings for any nearby "intruder" (less than 40cm). When it detects the object, it will emit a loud chirp (and the Color Sensor's LED will change colors) as a warning to back off! If the intruder is still there after a short pause, ShooterBot will let loose with the Zamor Spheres.

This robot has PLENTY of room for expansion, too - you've got two Touch Sensors included with the kit, which means you can add some additional protection to the robot - instead of waiting for the intruder to move, if a touch sensor is triggered, you could program the robot to immediately turn in the direction of the triggered Touch Sensor and begin shooting.

Other options include using the Color Sensor as a way to distinguish colored targets that you place around your room - have a friend build his/her own ShooterBot and have a contest to see who can find and knock over the most targets of a specific color.

ShooterBot is the first robot in the RoboCenter portion of the NXT-G software, but it may not be the first robot you build... other options include the RoboGator, Colour Sorter, and the new and improved Alpha Rex.

More details on these other NXT 2.0 kit robots coming soon...

Jim's Laptop Update

Wednesday, June 10 - Laptop dies, approx 8am
Thursday, June 11 - no laptop, no Next Day Service that I purchased
Friday, June 12 - no laptop, switching to backup machine but it doesn't have all my software
Monday, June 15 - no laptop, replacement part arrives
Tuesday, June 16 - technician installs new part, laptop not working 1 hour later
Wednesday, June 17 - tech called and came out to try and fix laptop
Monday - June 22 - Dell laptop working.

Summary:

Next Day Service - very disappointed
Laptop Working - satisfied
Future Dell Customer? - unknown

Jun 20, 2009

More information on NXT 2.0















This is the parts list inventory of the new set. Notice that the set also includes 4 wheels with tyres, even though the latter parts are not used in any of the set models.
The box includes more smaller beams than the old set, and the amount of length-15 beams is reduced to 2. However, you get a lot of other useful beams in return. Apart from new parts, some of the older parts have a different color.

















Here's a more detailed picture of the back side of the box. Two new features of the software are shown here: Remote control (USB or BlueTooth) and the possibility to create custom sounds and image files for the NXT.

The box also promises 10 models with downloadable building instructions from mindstorms.com upon the set's release. Two of the models are shown here. One of them is a six legged Mantis, and the other one is a cool transforming robot.
















This image is not very new, but it shows the color sensor functionality, with three separate functions:
- It can be used in Color Sensor Mode. Using the standard software, it can detect six color: black, white, red, green, blue and yellow
- It can be used in Lamp mode: It is possible to control the colored LED on the sensor, by setting it to either green, red or blue. In this mode, the light intensity would be just around the same brightness of the old Light Sensor.
- It can be used in Light Sensor Mode. In this mode, it acts just like the old light sensor: it returns a value from 0-100 where 0 is darkest, and 100 is brightest. In this mode, it is also possible to pick a desired LED color (again, red, blue or green).

(Information from the Junior Mindstorms Developer Program, JMDP)

Jun 17, 2009

Update on Jim's Laptop

Well, Dell came out yesterday and replaced the video card... worked fine for 1 hour and then the screen started blinking on and off... after a few reboots, it boots up (I think) fine but nothing is displayed on the screen.

So, the scoreboard:

Wednesday, June 10 - Laptop dies, approx 8am
Thursday, June 11 - no laptop, no next-day-service that I purchased
Friday, June 12 - no laptop, switching to backup machine but it doesn't have all my software
Monday, June 15 - no laptop, replacement part arrives
Tuesday, June 16 - technician installs new part, laptop not working 1 hour later
Wednesday, June 17 - tech called and is scheduled to come out today...

5 full days of basically non-productivity - I've now crossed over the $2000 lost billable hours line... behind schedule on 3 chapters for one book (give you a guess as to which book) and behind 1 chapter for a second book.

Dell - my backup PC is being transitioned to the controlling computer for my CNC machine tomorrow. How about sending me one of those $400 to $500 desktop units as a replacement and as compensation for my lost time/revenue (or send my wife one of your netbooks - either solution works for me) and let's put this to rest and get back to work?

NXT Sequencer

One things I'm always keen to explore is the use of MINDSTORMS in ways that are not immediately obvious. I was lucky enough to have the chance to play with the new colour sensor that will ship with the 2.0 kit and came up with this little music sequencer.

Each coloured ball represents a different note. As the colour sensor passes over the top, the note assigned is played. Different rhythms are possible by placing the zamor spheres in different places on the holder.





Inspiration for this came from the BeatBearing project. http://www.beatbearing.co.uk/

--
Damien Kee

Update - Books, Computer, Life

A few things to report:

1. Books - "The King's Treasure" is moving forward... slowly but surely. It's for the 2.0 kit, so I'm still wondering how 1.0 owners are going to be able to build these robots, but I'm working on it. One idea is for LEGO to do something similar to the Mayan Parts Pack that allowed NXT Education Kit owners to build the robots... another idea is to try and find a Bricklink partner who can package the missing pieces...

2. In addition to the King's Treasure book, I'm also working on another book that may be of interest to some of you - "Build Your Own CNC Machine" - due out around Oct/Nov 2009. Yes, your very own CNC machine... it can do wood, plastic, metal... the book will walk you through cutting, drilling, and all the other stuff necessary to build a working machine (2 feet x 4 feet work surface~!). I'm sure a lot of you can think of ways to use the CNC machine to enhance your robot building :)

3. Laptop - a technician showed up today and got my laptop up and running. Yay. Now I'm goign to wait and see what Dell does to make me a happy customer. Not only did I pay the extra $150 for next-day business service, but I also lost 4 days of work (2 actually since I was able to use a backup PC to do some stuff, not all)... all in all, I figure I've lost about $400 in billable hours plus the $150 extended warranty payment which didn't deliver as promised. I've got to reallocate my destkop PC as the controller PC for my CNC machine, so it's going out to the workshop - now I need a new destkop... nothing super-powered... just a good solid desktop... how about it Dell? A $400 to $500 desktop in exchange for holding onto a long-term customer? I'll keep you informed.

I am glad to be back to writing...

Jim

Jun 16, 2009

The NXT on Java One

As most of you might know already, leJOS is an Open Source project that provides a Java platform for the NXT. On JavaOne, World's largest Java conference that took place at beginning of June again in San Francisco, there also was a presentation by two members of the leJOS project that was very well attended and met:



The slides of the presentation can be found here.

Jun 12, 2009

Jim's Computer Problems

UPDATE June 14: Apparently the part is being shipped to my home on Monday - I'm to call once it arrives and I'm guessing a tech will come out to fix. I'm not hopeful, however, that this will be done on Monday so that's another day lost (Wed, Thursday, Friday so far). The main issue for me is lack of software on my backup computer because I can't afford to buy 2 copies of all my software (I like to stay legal when it comes to software).

Not an NXT issue, so please accept my apologies, but I feel that a 45,000+ readership might help me get something done.

No long essay, just the facts:

1. Yesterday - my Dell laptop took an electrical hit - bad video card is the culprit. Called Dell Tech Support to test whether the $150 next-business-day fix service would work. Scheduled a technician to show up today, June 11 - "They'll call you before 12 noon to let you know what time to expect someone."

2. Today - June 11 - no call. I called them. My replacement part wasn't overnighted to Atlanta, but someone in California will be getting an unusual gift today. Given number and extension to call. Called, no answer - left message (loudly).

3. 3pm EST now - no call back. No follow-up. Called Dell Tech Support again 20 minutes ago - pressed the right keys but got routed to 'Printer Tech Support' area... hang up, try again. Same thing - "Printer Tech Support" area. One more time... wouldn't happen 3 times would it? Yep.

4. Log on to Blogger and share with 45,000 readers how someone who relies on his Dell laptop for a living cannot write today... or yesterday... must use a different computer and inefficiency goes out the door.

5. Questions for Dell: Will you please refund me the money I paid for the extended next-day on-site service? If not, please send me explanation for how this service works because I must be the only person in the world who doesn't understand what "next" and "day" mean.

Bottom Line: I like Dell computers and laptops, but if you're considering buying an extended warranty, you might want to rethink it. I'll keep you informed on how Dell handles this situation. Thanks for letting me gripe a bit, friends.

Jun 8, 2009

NXT Torture Test

I love a lot of the complex, massive LEGO robots out there... but sometimes what really impresses me is thinking outside the box. I recently ran across this example of using the NXT as anything but a "toy"... but as a serious way of rapidly generating a solution to a real problem.



This group needed a way to torture test a DVD player, and rather than generating some special solution, they turned to the NXT, and quickly tossed together a solution to the problem. When the player ejects the DVD, the NXT robot gently grabs the disk (sensing it with the light sensor), and then after a short time reverses and re-inserts the disk.

And when they're done torturing the drive? 100% reusable parts. I like the way they're thinking.

--
Brian Davis

Jun 3, 2009

3D simulation of the NXT

SimplySim, a French company specialized on 3D simulation, has used Microsoft's Robotics Studio to create some 3D simulations of the NXT:



The NXT simulation package by SimplySim can be downloaded from here.

Jun 2, 2009

INXT - Control the NXT from an IPHONE or IPOD


Daniel Siemer made a NXT remote for the IPHONE. It uses the same principle as my network-server which means that you can control the NXT from anywhere in the world by sending commands to a server running on a PC. Daniel wrote a server for MAC OS called OSX server. INXT can be use with either the MAC OS versrion or my Windows version. The servers are free but you need to buy the IPHONE remote though ITunes by following this link; the remote is 4.99 USD. You will find the support site here, if you need help to set up either the windows or MAC OS server. It looks really cool great job.
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