Aug 30, 2009

NXT 2.0 Hammer Car

This Hammer Car project for NXT 2.0 extends the 3-Motor Chassis design to add a swinging hammer weapon up front, and extends the 2-Button Remote Control program to add wired remote control for the hammer (as well as a fun laughing sound) from the same two buttons that control the driving and steering. In order to squeeze 6 operations (left, right, forward, stop, hammer, laugh) out of only two buttons, timers are used to distinguish the difference between a button being pressed and held down vs. quickly tapped, as shown in this video:

I posted an NXT 1.0 Hammer Car project about a year ago that used only one touch sensor for the remote control. It used a similar timing trick, but was significantly harder to maneuver due to having only one button control.

Aug 28, 2009

NXT 2.0 2-Button Remote Control

The NXT 2.0 kit doesn't come with a handheld remote control (there is a new software one for Bluetooth control from your computer), but it does come with two touch sensors, so you can use them to make some simple wired remote controls. A remote control is useful for several things like prototyping, experimenting, as well as just to have some fun controlling your creations. Also, some creations you build might be partailly autonomous and partially user-interactive, so it is useful to have some remote control programming strategies under your belt.

This NXT 2.0 2-Button Remote Control project is extremely simple mechanically, but the main point is to show some basic strategies for 2-button remote control programming. Two programs are provided, a simple one that just chooses one of four actions depending on the state of the buttons (left, right, both, neither), and a more complex one that adds timers to make driving motions that accelerate smoothly in each direction. More complex or different variations will follow in other projects.

Here is a video of these two programs used to drive the 3-Motor Chassis vehicle:

So what about NXT 1.0? Can you use this stuff too? Yes and No. NXT 1.0 only comes with one touch sensor, but you can easily buy another touch sensor. There is nothing really NXT 2.0-specific about the programs I have posted, but they were created and saved by NXT 2.0. I tried using them on NXT 1.0, and here's what happened. You can open and view them in the 1.X software, but I tried to compile and download to the brick, and I got "Internal Compiler Error". So, you can at least look at them to study how they work, then do something similar in a new 1.X program.

Aug 27, 2009

Building Instructions for Spitting Llama

On the LEGO MINDSTORMS news page, Fay Rhodes has building instructions for a spitting llama, made with the NXT 2.0 kit, pictured in the top photo above. (Photo by Dave Parker).

Included in the instructions is a "Beyond-the-Box" segment, discussing creative ways to make your own animal creations. The link is here.

Why the NXT isn't perfect

I've recently had several different people ask me about "flaws" and frustrations with the NXT - things that don't work the way they "should", or don't always work, etc. The canonical example, sure to be trotted out again this year, is the perpetual quest for grail of FLL: driving in a straight line (one aspect of dead reckoning). And I was wondering why I so rarely such frustrations.

I think this is a really important point: not just about the NXT, but life in general (especially with teaching). Real life is messy, unexpected, and constantly surprising - very often, if you expect perfection (in anything), you can end up frustrated. Especially for folks who are used to everything being pre-prepared, and exactly as advertised, every time.

That's not real life.

The NXT is in a rather unique spot. Billed and marketed as a toy, it's both far more and far less than that.

Far more in that it is, in every sense of the word, real engineering, and real robotics (as some of us have immense fun pointing out to "sheet metal" robotic hobbyists). And that means it has the same real-life problems. The world the NXT is interacting with is messy: specular reflections and saturation levels for color sensors, variable sound reflectivity and geometry for US sensors, uneven floors and variations in friction and surfaces for motors, sampling frequency for light sensors and sound sensors, etc.: the list goes on and on. Here is a product that unleashes an entire life-long (as some of us can attest to) world of learning and growing, because it makes no secret of being able to "cut it" in the real world.

It's also far "less" than a toy. It will work in unscripted ways. It will not always work the same way twice. It will challenge and puzzle the user, not passively entertain them. That's actually a problem, in that some people will get frustrated because, billed as a toy, they expect it to "just work".

I don't think, in my experience, you can have both of these constraints perfectly satisfied. And I don't expect them to be. NXT-G, for instance, makes some things very easy for the novice user... while frustrating the heck out of anybody who wants to take the NXT to a higher level (try trig... and no, tossing floats into the mix isn't the solution. Or arrays, a basic ability for any language, crippled in NXT-G). Having a color sensor that can selectively switch bright LEDs on and off looks great, but compromises in other ways on what the sensor can actually detect: color.

So which do you satisfy? Is it a flexible, messy real-world toolkit, or a safe, controlled, entertainment toy? I'd say you accept some compromises... while using the unique abilities to teach young minds. Making a kid (and some adults!) understand that the world is not simple, and that it doesn't work like a video game, is perhaps one of the most important lessons I think you can teach them. Too much in school ends up being "This Is The Answer", when often you later find out "this is an approximation, or a rule of thumb, or a good idea... but not an absolute truth".

That ability to be flexible, to find solutions to hard problems that no one has just given you a solution for, is something that I find really lacking in the people around me (both in grade school, where I help out, and even more so in college, where I actually teach). And the NXT is the ideal tool to work on these skills.

The next time you or your students complain about how the NXT "isn't working", or "isn't doing what it 'should'", you might want to realize that you've just been handed an amazing, rare, golden opportunity. Not the opportunity to "solve the problem", but something much more useful - to teach (or learn) how do find solutions to problems.

Brian Davis

NXT 2.0 3-Motor Chassis

I recently posted an NXT 2.0 version of the 3-Motor Chassis design from (the NXT 1.0 version is here). This is a vehicle base that includes the third motor mounted low for mounting various motorized attachments, and a pivoting castor wheel to allow it to turn easily on both carpet and hard floors. The treads included with NXT 2.0 are one way to build a robot that can turn on all surfaces, a castor wheel is another, which will generally drive and turn faster than a treaded robot.

This is just a robot base (I will post some more interesting models using it soon), but some may find it useful as a starting point for their own robots.

In addition to the necessary redesign for the different wheel sizes and parts mix in NXT 2.0 vs. NXT 1.0, I added a couple of improvements over the 1.0 version: It will fit either AA batteries or the rechargeable battery pack, and a simple design variation is included to allow you to lock the castor wheel in place so that it will not pivot. This provides an easy way to experiment with the pros and cons of a pivoting castor vs. a straight plastic third wheel that slides while turning, as shown in the following video:

Aug 26, 2009

FLL Resources

If you have an FLL-related website that offers tips, downloads, advice, worksheets - anything that an FLL team, coach, student, or parent might find useful - please let us know here in the comments. I'll collect the information posted here and that our readers submit and provide it to LEGO Education and FIRST for them to share with the FLL community.

Thanks in advance!



Books and Workbooks

FIRST LEGO League: The Unofficial Guide

NXT Robotics Competition Workbook


Useful Worksheets for FLL Challenges: FREE!

TechBrick is again offering a set of useful worksheets and documents related to the “Smart Move” challenge. You can download cleanly formatted assembly instructions, strategy sheets, hi-res images of the table elements, field worksheets, scoring sheets (in Sept) and more. Get the tools that will help your team excel. All the tools from the previous years are available as well.

TechBrick Tips Areas Offer Useful Advice: FREE!

TechBrick has captured some of our best advice in our two tips areas. Check ‘em out for ideas for team building and programming.

TechBrick Offers Great Group Exercises for Team Building: FREE!

TechBrick has captured some of our best advice in our two tips areas. Check ‘em out for ideas for team building and programming.

Here’s the Simplest Way To Raise Money for Your Team found by TechBrick

Tired of the traditional fund raisers where you have to collect money and distribute goods? Check out this program. You get a custom website that is managed for you. Just forward the URL to friends, have them buy great batteries. Products are shipped directly to the customer. And you get checks each month. It doesn’t get any easier. No upfront costs, no minimums. You can see our site here:

Sign Up Here:

Get the Best Training System for FLL/FTC: RobotMats

Check out the new RobotMats universal training fields. Developed by TechBrick after 7 years of FLL and 3 years of FTC teams, these mats provide every possible scenario for programming. They invite creativity. Check out the independent reviews and get your mat today.

FLL teams - Tips for working more efficiently

For teachers and students: I just read a couple of articles over at Techbrick ( that are sure to be very useful to FLL teams, especially at the time when teams are probably assembling. Marco has some great advice on file management, program version control and other "behind the scenes" actions that your team can benefit from...

Click here and be sure to read through the " How to Avoid Broken Links in NXT Programming and make it possible for many students to programming independently." and "How to Manage Files and Folders So You Don't Lose Your Work" articles.

Aug 24, 2009


We have two winners - each will receive a Technic set from LEGO for their submission.

Winners were selected randomly, not based on quality of response (as I understand it).

Congratulations to the two winners - you should be contacted via email by LEGO - if you don't hear from them this week, please email me and let me know.


Sebastian K. from Ireland (age 14)

Yip from Malaysia (age 26)

Aug 23, 2009

Robotics in Education eJournal

It has taken a little while, but over at the Robotics in Education mailing list we have put together our first eJournal. With seven articles ranging from using the vernier pH sensor in the classroom to implementing robotics in under served communities, it is a great read for teachers and educators alike.

You can download it from

If you're a teacher, please consider joining our list. We have nearly 300 members, all helping each other to make our classrooms more exciting and engaging for our students.

Damien Kee

Aug 22, 2009

Robotics Workshop Syllabus

Per request, I've uploaded the rough syllabus that I made for my robotics workshops, and you can get it here. Keep in mind that I made this just to give me a rough idea of how to run the classes each day and to portion out the material efficiently. Also, note that I ended up straying significantly from various parts of the syllabus to adjust to my students. For example, I overestimated the skill/learning ability of my students, so I had to downscale or cut out some parts of the syllabus. The final challenge seemed way too difficult, so I changed it to a simpler challenge involving retrieval and delivery of two towers that were placed in pre-specified positions on the NXT Test Pad.

I ran each workshop from 1PM-4PM each day for a week (5 days). One thing not mentioned in the syllabus is a 15-minute break for snacks which we had half-way through each class.


EDIT : Also, for Day 1, I built and programmed Spike to demonstrate to the students instead of Tribot. They really loved this robot's capabilities, and I highly recommend it for sparking interest in a robotics course.

Aug 21, 2009

Sudoku Solver

All I can say is *WOW!!!* this robot is amazing!

This NXT robot firstly sweeps over the sodoku board to find where the existing numbers are. It then scans each existing number individually and does some trick image recognition (segmentation/thinning etc) to work out it's value. Once it knows the values of each of the existing numbers, it can solve the puzzle. Using the pen on the front it proceeds to fill in all the blank space.

Truly impressive.

It would be interesting to find out how long the whole process takes.

More details at

Damien Kee

NXT Robotics Workshops

The NXT Robotics Workshops which I held several weeks ago went very well. Overall 9 children from the ages of 9-13 attended the workshops. Each workshop covered the basics of using the NXT, and by the end of the course the students were able to design, build, and program their own robots to complete a challenge involving retrieval and delivery of objects. The students all had a great time; one boy told me it was the best class he had ever attended! It was nice to see how excited the children were about learning how to create real robots. Some comments:

- Instruction/Lecture Time: For building, I found that much instruction wasn't required. It seemed that the best way for the students to learn how to build was to get lots of practice while I provided tips and helped them when they got stuck. First I had the students build robots with instructions - this seems to be a good way to get them used to the building system without giving overwhelming them with having to come up with their own design. Then I gradually moved them into building their own simple rovers, and at the end of the course had them build their own robots to complete a challenge. For programming, there was significantly more instruction needed. Many of the programming concepts were hard to grasp fully, so there was a lot of review as well as initial instruction.

- Student interest and satisfaction: Wow... fully exceeded all my expectations. All the students loved the workshop, and the parents were thrilled at what they were learning. Most of the students who didn't yet have an NXT expressed their desire to save up and get one or to ask their parents to get one for them. I should have charged LEGO an advertising fee. :)

- Total working time: The workshops involved quite a bit of time on my part, both in preparing them and running them. I spent several days preparing a general syllabus, and I also spent a good amount of time before and after each class preparing for and cleaning up from it

- At the beginning of the first day, the students played an ice-breaker game in which they simulated robots and programmers. One member of each team was the "robot", and the other member was the "programmer". I had an obstacle course set up with a table that had yellow and blue pieces of paper on it. The programmers had to make up a list of instructions to guide their "robots" through the obstacle course to touch the blue piece of paper but not the yellow piece. The "robots" were blindfolded and didn't know what goal they were supposed to accomplish, and then followed the "programmer"'s instructions to complete the challenge. It was a fun way to illustrate the way robots work and the fact that they only know and do what the programmer tells them to do.

Here are some pictures of the workshops:

The students first built Tribot and its attachments using instructions. Although I didn't time exactly how long it took them, LEGO's claim of 30 minutes to build the starter model seemed pretty reasonable.

The students did lots of programming throughout the course. They started by making simple programs with my help, and built up to making more complex programs without needing much help.The children had lots of fun creating their own robots, and there was much interest in making robots with weapons. This one had spinning blades.
The final challenge required the students to create a robot that could retrieve two towers and deliver them to a target circle on the NXT test pad. This particular robot used an Ultrasonic sensor to find the towers and had a motorized grabber arm to retrieve and deliver them.


Aug 20, 2009

Update: The King's Treasure

The sequel to "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT: The Mayan Adventure" is nearing completion... I've got one more (of 5) robot and challenge to complete and writeup for "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0: The King's Treasure."

All in all, TKT follows the same format as TMA with 21 chapters. The book is broken into 5 sections - each section has four chapters: a fiction chapter, a theory chapter, a building instructions chapter (CAD this time!) and a programming chapter. Each section focuses on one part of the storyline and sets up a challenge for the reader to try and solve using an NXT robot.

Here's some teaser photos and images for you... more details to come.


Aug 19, 2009

Latest issue of MAKE magazine

One of my favorite magazines just arrived... the latest issue of MAKE (#19) has some good robotics projects in it... not NXT-related (too bad) but still interesting. Chris Anderson (Editor in Chief, WIRED magazine, my other favorite magazine), also talks about his Remote Control Drones in a great article. There's a great article on building your own "Makey the Robot" with complete steps that even novices can follow...

UPDATE: Received a correction from Chris: "...these aren't "RC drones", but fully autonomous aerial robots. Like all UAVs, they have a manual mode for landing and takeoff, but otherwise fly themselves. RC aircraft, by contrast, aren't autonomous.)"

Another nice thing that I must mention is a new program that MAKE magazine has started... they have a partnership program for selling subscriptions where they give the organization 50% (!) of the proceeds... sell 200 subscriptions and your team gets $3400! Got a team of 10 members? Have each team member sell 10 subscriptions and take that $1700 and buy some new NXT kits and Technic sets!

If you're not familiar with MAKE magazine, I highly recommend picking up a copy and checking it out - I wait anxiously for this quarterly magazine to arrive and typically read through it in one day...argh.

Guest Blogger - Dream Sensors

Reader Ed B. sent a link to this fun little article about some NXT tech we all wish we had in our box. Thanks, Ed!

Raffle and MCP Update

MCP Update: LEGO is currently reviewing all the applications it received for the MCP group... expect an announcement soon.

Raffle: This one is my fault - I was on vacation all last week and was unable to bundle up all 137 entries into one document as requested by LEGO (I've got about 50 left). I should have that done today and LEGO tells me they'll pick the two winners (each one gets a Technic set) shortly.


Aug 17, 2009

FLL 2009 - Smart Move!

Teams have begun receiving the mats and mission models for this years challenge, Smart Move! Over on Techbrick, they have posted some resources that includes this years mat layout and CAD images of the mission models, as well as planning worksheets, and team info sheets. Go check them out!

Also, artificialintelligence over on NXTasy posted some pictures of a real table with the missions sitting on them... looks good!

More information on Smart Move on the FIRST website - interesting to see that they have already released next year's (2010) challenge, Biomedical!

The kickoff with the release of the challenge mission rules is September 3! Can't wait! Meanwhile, debate what you think the missions might be on the comments or in the forums.

Looking to a fun year, good luck!


Aug 16, 2009

M.O.R.P.H.: The 1st LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Bonus Model

I would like to introduce you to MORPH, one of the bonus robots that are featured on the back of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 box. MORPH stands for Martian Observation Rover & Personable Humanoid. He is a transforming robot that transforms from a rover to a humanoid, and can dectect colours (with the new colour sensor), which tell him to perform special actions.

He was recently featured on the LEGO MINDSTORMS News page, along with his creator (me). There you can download instructions for how to build him, a NXT-G program to control him, a video demonstrating his functions, and the story behind the creation. I had a lot of fun designing him, but more about that in another post.

I hope that you have a lot of fun with this model!

Happy building.

PS: Keep watch for other bonus models to be released created by members of the MINDSTORMS Community Partners team.

Aug 14, 2009

New from NeXTSTORM

My favorite LEGO Artist, NeXTSTORM has done it again! He has designed "The Magical NXTree and the Crystal Palace Dance" for his daughter, Alexandra, and all the others princesses out there.

But don't let the girls have all the fun. Men and boys will still appreciate the amazing mechanics of this creation.

Aug 13, 2009

Money Counter

A nifty little money counter. It uses the size of each coin to determine it's value.

From the creator -
I made a little projekt with the aim to get an automatic money counting machine.
The Robot contains:
3 Motors
The Robot decides wich coin it has by the size of the coins, then he ads the values and displays the result.
When all coins are counted the robot recognizes this and gets itshelf back to starting position. ready for the next coins.
again its programmed with nxc , and took me 2 days. (works with euros and cents)

Damien Kee

Raffle Update

I received 137 raffle entries by the deadline... it'll take me a few days or so to consolidate the entries for LEGO. I hope to have a response from them on the winners by next week. More info as soon as I get it.


Aug 12, 2009

September LEGO event in Switzerland

One date to keep in mind for all who are not too far away from Switzerland next month:
On 12. and 13. of September, the SteinCHenwelt 2009 is going to take place in the Swiss Technorama Science Center in Wintherthur, hosted by the Swiss LEGO® Users Group.
Not only will you meet a lot of LEGO stuff there (I will be present myself with two football-playing NXT robots that can be controlled by the visitors), but also the Technorama itself is a fantastic and most interesting location.

Besides: a good opportunity for a trip to one of the most beautiful countries of Europe.

Aug 11, 2009

Robot for the MoonBots challenge

On Sunday, Gizmodo published an article on the new MoonBots challenge (see post below), including a video of a nice first robot for it, created by NXTSTEP blog contributor BluetoothKiwi:

Aug 8, 2009

Google X-Prize and LEGO Mindstorms Contest


AUSTIN, TX – NIWeek (August 5, 2009) – The X PRIZE Foundation, Google Inc., LEGO Systems, National Instruments, and Wired’s GeekDad will announce “MoonBots: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Challenge” today at National Instruments NIWeek 2009. The new contest will challenge small teams comprised of children and adults to design, program, and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a private race to the Moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public.

full information:


Aug 7, 2009

Google X-Prize and LEGO Mindstorms Contest

Way too much information to try and summarize, so just point your web browser to and get your thinking caps on...

"The Mayan Adventure" movie...

A bit of a lengthy post, but I hope you enjoy the information, pictures, and videos (links at end of post):

From John Kendall:

I have taught multimedia and web publishing for the last ten years or so for the Rutgers Preparatory School Summer Session, until three years ago, where I tried splitting up the same course repeated in each of our two-hour-and-fifteen minute periods into separate courses on "Robotics and Introduction to Programming" and "Multimedia and Digital Film." The students entering 6th, 7th, and 8th grade in the fall all take the course as enrichment (no grades, although they receive lengthy narrative evaluations halfway through and at the end of the five weeks).

I have used MicroWorlds EX Robotics as the basic program for animation, multimedia and programming, so it was easier to lean more towards making animation and game projects in MicroWorlds and small films in iMovie with the Multimedia course, and using the RCX LEGO kits two and one years ago, and then switching over to the NXT models this summer.

Since I have taught English for 35 years, and computers for about 20, I naturally lean towards finding narrative threads even in the robotics class. Three years ago our very first robot was customized into a stage coach, which inspired a several minute long Western, complete with stagecoach robbery. Two years ago, the robotics class programmed a lengthy series of maneuvers into one of their vehicles which evolved into a "Fire-Fighting Rescue Robot," complete with invading aliens and a fire threatening a forest of popsicle stick green construction paper trees. Last year, in our 14-minute film epic, "The Siege of Castle Lego," my engineers built a trebuchet with the NXT providing a lift winch and another robot raising and lowering the drawbridge, which the multimedia class turned into a French invasion of an English castle.

I am neither a native builder of LEGO robots, nor an innate programmer, especially with the newer NXT-G software, which we were forced to use with the new models. When I saw blurbs of Jim Kelly's "The Mayan Adventure" book, which provided not only detailed planning, constructing and programming directions, but also integrated the idea behind the five robots with a story line, I said, "this is a guy who thinks as I do." My big creative vision soon developed into a plan whereby my robotics class would build and program the five robots, and my multimedia class would combine their LEGO-mation style of digital film-making with live video clips of the Mayan robots performing.

Six students enrolled for robotics (the ceiling is eight), and with three pairs of two students working as teams from the start, we had a good time frame for still having them program a video game project on-screen with MicroWorlds and some time to develop other robotic projects, but complete the five robots for the film comfortably. However, when I saw only two students registered for multimedia only a few days before summer school was supposed to start at the end of June, I feared the administration might cancel the course for insufficient enrollment. I was fortunate in two respects. My Summer School Principal, Carole Glantzow Zboray, ran the course even with the small number, and those two multimedia kids, Divya and Stephanie L, were fantastic in taking on three times the amount of work being thrown at them from the other class.

The Multimedia class began the project by the end of the first week of classes (four days that week, and then five days for each of the next four weeks). We used Jim Kelly's five chapters and epilogue to begin a storyboard, and I wrote the "audio script" adapting faithfully his original narrative into dialogue which four of my students would speak, as Uncle Phil (Neel), Evan (Jason), Grace (Stephanie G) and Max (Brian). Divya and Stephanie L scanned the LEGO figures for the characters, used Adobe Photoshop Elements and MicroWorlds to clean up the scans and convert them into transparent "turtle" shapes and to generate still images for the movie. We took it as a good omen that among the several dozen background images in MicroWorlds was a Central American (not Egyptian) pyramid.

I constructed and programmed two of the robots, the Explorobot and the GrabberBot, to get a feel for the book and to field test Mr. Kelly's instructions. Then two of my teams actually sent the robots through their paces (Brian and Abhik with the Explorobot, and Stephanie G and Depika with the GrabberBot), until we had designed a simple "set" for the tunnels, and then filmed video footage to use in the movie.

While Multimedia was continuing to find Mayan glyphs, artwork and spider monkeys (which figure PROMINENTLY in the plot), my three robotics teams started from scratch and first built, then programmed, then field tested the other three robots. Neel and Jason had early success with the SnapShotBot taking a photo, and eventually figured out how to balance the robot to move slowly enough to not overshoot the line following around the basket with the key in it (more plot action), while still having enough power to turn the heavy vehicle.

Depika and Steph G were able to use a side room within the library, thanks to Sandy Kalista's aid, and strung the twine from one window to the other for the StringBot. With Multimedia providing a bright orange Mayan border on top of foamboard to mask the library wall, the girls soon had the StringBot tooling back and forth on the twine and dropping pebbles into an earthen jar.

Abhik and Brian had fits and starts with the PushBot. They learned many aspects of using sensors the hard way, from the light sensor being too high off the floor, to the sound sensor not picking up the correct signal to putting together a series of seemingly simple procedures into one complex maneuver of pushing four statuettes onto four pressure plates.

In the last week or so of classes, my two Multimedia students ran a furious race to generate enough still image scenes and spice the five video clips together into a record-breaking (for us) 30-minute movie. We were pleased with the final product, and managed to make case studies for the five robots, plus some interviews with the Multimedia students and other robotics projects.



HiTechnic Experimenter's Kit A & Solderless Prototype Sensor Board

The wonderful folks over at HiTechnic have released a new offering that will interest electronics beginners, science teachers, and advanced tinkerers with a very cool way to play, learn, and create! HiTechnic's Experimenter's Kit A with the Solderless Phototype Sensor Board will enable you to go far beyond what LEGO has in mind for the NXT. The HiTechnic Experimenter's Kit A is a clean and easy way to integrate the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT with the world of homebrew electronics and circuits while keeping your NXT warranty intact. Crack into the potential of the NXT without cracking the NXT! Control something with the NXT...Have something control the NXT! Prototype the next big 3rd-party sensor! Bend the NXT, some circuits, and your mind!

HiTechnic has added The Experimenter's Kit Handbook…a fantastic guide full of detailed step-by-step projects teaching beginner electronics and sensor prototyping on the included Solderless Breadboard. This handbook provides a wonderful way for Mindstormers to learn about electronics and have fun at the same time. They have included enough components to build 8 experiment projects detailed in the Experimenter’s Kit Handbook, every one providing many different educational aspects of user electronics. Each chapter of the handbook explains how to identify the components, construct the project’s circuit, and run an example program. Programming examples and custom blocks for NXT-G, LabVIEW, NXC, and RobotC are available for each project.

The real treat is that this kit allows experimenters to design and build custom circuits and sensors to interact with the NXT through a normal cable connection. If you create something worth saving permanently, try their Solderable Prototype Board.

Take a Look! The Experimenter’s Kit A Handbook and sample programs are available for download here. Look through it and let the ideas flow! If you create something, send me some details and I'll post it to the blog.

I’m in the process of reviewing this kit and going beyond the kit projects by spinning it through a few of my own dark experiments and homebrews. In the coming months I’ll show off what’s being twisted in my own secret lab. (covert photo..)

Christopher R. Smith

Aug 6, 2009

Want a job with HiTechnic?

HiTechnic has posted a job posting... read the requirements here.

Aug 5, 2009

Raffle Reminder

Just a quick reminder that the deadline for the raffle is August 10, 2009. I've only received 80 responses at this point, so please submit your response if you want a chance to win one of the two prizes LEGO is offering.

Wires ShooterBot NXT 2.0


Although LEGO did their very best to check and double check the instructions, this somehow slipped through. A small error in one of the printed materials was discovered after the new NXT 2.0 box (8547) was packed and shipped.

As you can see in the below picture, form the LEGO MINDSTORMS User Guide (page15), two of the connections wires for the two drive motors from the starter model “ShooterBot” are misplaced. Although you can easily switch the wires it does not seem as an obvious error for those who are new to MINDSTORMS, resulting in strange behavior on their starter robot.

WRONG connection wires in ShooterBot BI

The software that also holds all the building and programming instructions have the wires in the correct order. Some of the older MINDSTORMS fans will remember that always the port B and C are used to power skid steer driving or walking, this is because they share the same motor driver IC and therefore they stay better synchronized.

CORRECT connection wires in ShooterBot BI


The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book

The new NXT 2.0 has just been released, and there are multiple books coming out to cover the new robotics kit. You can find most of them by following this link

I'm happy to announce that I'm also working on a book for the NXT 2.0: The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book. It is written for the new MINDSTORMS user.

The book introduces programming from the basics onto “advanced” programming with data wires and advanced programming blocks. All of the new programming techniques are introduced while constantly building new robots. With this mix of building and programming, the user won’t easily get tired of playing with the NXT 2.0 kit. Furthermore, there are over 50 challenges in the book which encourage the reader to explore the newly discovered programming techniques by him/ herself.

All of this is packed in a space-themed adventure story, as depicted in the book description below. The book is aimed at younger MINDSTORMS users, but even the experienced user will find some challenging robot designs in this book. All of the robot designs in this book can be built with a single NXT 2.0 kit.

Book description:
From the creative mind of author, robotics instructor, and frequent NXT Step Blog contributor Laurens Valk, The LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT 2.0 Discovery Book is packed with building and programming instructions for eight innovative robots. The Adventure Book follows two astronauts through rigorous ground training in the basics of programming NXT robots. As the book progresses, the astronauts (and you) learn how to build and program increasingly sophisticated robots. When the astronauts depart for their mission, you will learn essential programming skills, including how to make robots move and how to use sensors. With solid programming instruction and crystal clear, full-color building instructions, you will create robots like Strider, the six-legged walking creature, CCC, a vertically moving vehicle, and BS-61, and a machine that sorts by color and size. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book gives you the knowledge to not only build these models, but to develop your own out-of-this-world creations.

Note: The cover can still change, because this is just an early version. More information will follow later on. Can anyone guess what the model on the cover is?

Aug 2, 2009 updating for NXT 2.0

In preparation for the official launch of NXT 2.0 (any time now...). The web site has been updated to start providing projects for the new NXT 2.0 kit as well as the original NXT kit.

To start with, I posted a few projects based on a castor wheel chassis (a useful vehicle type not included in the standard LEGO NXT 2.0 instructions), including an NXT 2.0 version of the classic Explorer project from More details on the projects will be posted after the official launch.

More projects will be rolled out as time allows.

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