Nov 30, 2009

RobotC 2.0 Now Available.

After what seemed to be decades, the programmers of RobotC have announced they have finally released version 2.0. If you know anything about the program, it has been updated in the 1.xxxx realm many times and sometimes created more problems than were fixed. If you have paid the $30 for a previous version, the license is still valid and upgrading is free. If you want to try RobotC, you can download it and use a fully functional version for 30 days before you are required to pay the $30 license fee.

The download and upgrade can be done through this link.

From the RobotC website.
ROBOTC, a C-Based programming language for robotics

ROBOTC is the premiere language for educational robotics. It is a C Programming Language with an Easy-to-Use Development environment. It supports several different robotics platforms, including popular platforms such as the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT and Innovation FIRST VEX. Download its blazing fast, High Performance Firmware to your robot. Using its Interactive Run-Time Debugger, you can easily pinpoint the problems in your programs. Try it out today by going to the Downloads section and choosing your platform.

Nov 29, 2009

Smart Move region Finals (NL)

This weekend the FLL Smart Move region finals in Breda and Tilburg took place, I was there as "the Mindstorms Doctor, to help the teams in Distress".

Demo in Breda with the new NXT 2.0 models.

the two winning teams:



Nov 28, 2009

Obama and the robots

I guess this brandnew quote of President Obama (brought to us by Gizmodo) is a good inspiration for the Thanksgiving weekend (as an European, I imagine you have a lot of time then to work on robots with your beloved ones).

After all, I like people in charge with a good sense of humor... :)

Nov 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope those of you celebrating Thanksgiving today enjoyed the food, company, and family... or maybe just a nice day of quiet and rest. Either way, Happy Thanksgiving everybody.


Nov 26, 2009

Resource Collection Reminder

I just came across these great articles by Sean Fears, which offer some practical advice for teaching with the NXT---as well as other interesting science topics.

Every time I come across a new "gem" like these, I wonder what else I'm missing. Do you know of a helpful web resource that might be getting lost on the web? If you do, how about contributing that knowledge to our NXT Resource Collection in the forums?

While you're there, check out the suggestions that have already been submitted.

Nov 25, 2009

NXT timelapse art

Nice video showing how an NXT can be used to create some very arty timelapse images.

Damien Kee

Online Comparison Chart for NXT kits

Clinton has found a hosting spot for his excellent comparison chart - you can find it by clicking here.

URL is

Nov 24, 2009

TV Review of the NXT and the NXT "Zoo" Book

Here's a seven-minute TV piece featuring the NXT and Fay Rhodes' "NXT Zoo" Book. The interview is in Swedish, but the film is fun to view even if you don't know the language. (If a Swedish-speaking reader could give us the gist of the interview, that would be great).

A companion print article, with a rough translation is English, is here.

Nov 23, 2009

The NXT Frog

Some days ago, I received a copy of Fay Rhodes' new book "Robots Alive! Endangered Species" and this weekend, I started to build some of the very nice animals included (of which already two movies have been posted here).
First one was the leaping NXT Frog:

Building time: 20 minutes
Programming time: 3 minutes

Once I've worked through the book (which I like very much already now), I will post a complete review here.

Nov 22, 2009

NXT Parts Worksheet

I've created a worksheet that can be used to figure out what parts you have for a robot and which parts you need. The worksheet includes the Peeron Part Name, the Part#, and the number of parts found in each set. It also provides a space for you to record the number of parts required, the parts you might have in your personal LEGO stash, and which parts you are actually missing. Download the worksheet here.

Nov 21, 2009

Guest Blog - NXT Comparison 2

From Clinton:

"Over the past couple of weeks. I've made up some charts that show which parts are included in the NXT 1.0 Retail Set, the NXT 2.0 Retail Set, and the Education Base Set and Resource Kit. I also have a chart that allows you to see which parts the different sets have in common.

After downloading and extract the .zip file, you can double-click on the .html files to open the charts in your web browser. I've also included a .csv file so that you can parse the data yourself or import it into the spreadsheet of your choice.

You are welcome to make use of the information and the images. Please let me know (in the comments) if you find any flaws in the data."

Click here to download.

Guest Blog - NXT Comparison Chart

Robert emailed me the following:

"I just saw your post on the NXTStep asking for a spreadsheet so I thought I would send in one of mine. It displays; the Peeron parts names, Colors, NXT 1.0 part quantities and NXT 2.0 part quantities, as well as the parts difference between the two sets. The idea is that, through the use of the "sort" feature found in most spreadsheet editors, you can find out just about anything you want to know about the different parts. Negative signs in front of the parts differences indicate that the parts are needed to "convert" a NXT 2.0 kit to a NXT 1.0 kit, and vice versa for a positive number.

The spreadsheet format is that of Microsoft Works Spreadsheets, so it should open in Excel (If not I can see if I can save it in Excel format). If you think the spreadsheet has potential, I will look into adding pictures."

Please take a look by downloading the file and providing feedback - you can get the file by clicking here.

Parts list for Bill Shaw's unofficial NXT 1 to NXT 2.0 upgrade kit

Now, this is a busy day on THE NXT STEP, isn't it? We seldom have no less than four postings on one single day...

Remember Bill Shaw's announcement of selling an unofficial NXT 1 to NXT 2.0 upgrade kit?
He has now updated the site to contain a list of parts that are included in it.

Thanks Bill.
Everyone: what do you think of it?

The Overlap Contest

Post a photo and a brief (5-6 sentence) description of a robot that uses ONLY the parts seen in the Overlap Image posted at in the forum.

I'll pick one random person on November 30 from all submissions and send that person a signed copy of LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0: The King's Treasure that's due out at the end of November.

Please do not email me your submissions - post them in the forum here.

Nov 20, 2009

Guest Blog - Jetro

Jetro shared the following news:

"I just wanted to point you to the recently released Hispabrick Magazine (issue 006 came out this week). It includes the third part in a series of articles about MINDSTORMS written by Koldo. (you blogged his Home Automation project) and this time it is about FLL."

Real World Test

OK, we've been talking theoretically about books and kits. Now, here is a real world example.

As you can see from this list, the parts used in my Endangered Species robots are all very common parts--it's all a problem of quantities. In fact, I first designed all of these robots for the 2.0 kit, but modified them so teachers and FLL leaders could use them.

Does a parts list like this make no one happy...everyone happy...?

Rock and a Hard Place

I appreciate everyone's comments regarding the NXT 1.0, 2.0, and Education differences and how we might find some common ground. I also wish to thank many of you for putting together some resources to share with the community - I've not got all them ready to put up yet, but soon.

I had an interesting conversation with an editor yesterday. The issue of how to satisfy the largest group of NXT users and minimize the number who are unable to use a book is a real hot topic. Hopefully you've all seen the image Laurens put together showing the overlap of the 1.0 and 2.0 retail kits - not a lot of parts to build with, is it? If the Education kit is thrown into the mix, the overlap of parts will be even smaller.

I didn't get a lot of feedback regarding the use of the LEGO Education Resource Set in future books, but the ones I did get were not very supportive of the idea (except for those who already owned the Resource Set for various reasons)... but buying the Resource Set simply to be able to build a new set of robots in a book does not appear to be what people want.

So, where does that leave us? Well, we can return to the Upgrade Kit that sellers like Bill are offering - they may include non-NXT-standard colors, and the Color sensor, software, and mat are not included... but the Upgrade Kit is $70.00 - only $10 less than the Resource Set... so my first guess is that if someone is unwilling to buy the Resource Set they're probably not likely to want to buy an Upgrade Kit either... at least at the current prices. I know nothing about the pricing of individual parts, markup, etc... but I can't fault Bill for trying to make a small profit (if any) on his Upgrade Kit - it takes time and energy to gather parts, bundle them, and ship - and if he's willing to do this, then I hope he's able to recoup his costs plus a little extra.

Another option is to continue to write books for the latest version that can be purchased in the stores and online - 2.0. But that leaves a LOT of 1.0 owners out in the cold and unable to use the newer books that will be coming out. I don't like that option, but designing multiple versions of robots using each of the kits AS WELL AS including those BIs in a new book is time consuming, eats up pages in a book, and reduces the number of robot designs that can be included in a book. Yes, I could write a 400-500 page book, but it won't cost $16.99 from - more likely it will approach the $30 range (or higher). And most of the publishers I've worked with prefer to keep the books at a specific price point that they know, historically, contributes to book sales.

My new book "The King's Treasure" uses the 2.0 retail kit. Most (or all) of the robots in that book can be easily redesigned using the 1.0 kit, but it will require some thought on the 1.0 owner's part... I struggled with this, but my publisher wanted the book to use the 2.0 kit and LEGO, while not putting any pressure on me to do so, expressed interest in my writing a 2.0 book. I'll definitely be curious to see the robots that 1.0 owners come up with to solve the 5 challenges I've created.

So, right now... I'm in planning mode. I have a request to do a new LEGO book but nothing is firm yet. Do I do a combo book - with 1.0 and 2.0 instructions? Do I focus on just 2.0? It has been suggested to me to do a book for the Ed version plus Resource Set - that might REALLY open some options for more complex robots...

I've got some thinking to do, but I always welcome input from the community.

Nov 19, 2009

Kinetic Art from NeXTSTORM

Here's another NeXTSTORM piece of art for our enjoyment--Space Molecules.

Question for book buyers

How likely would you as a Retail 1.0 or Retail 2.0 owner be to purchasing a book that required your kit plus the Education Resource Set?

One of my editors is following our recent discussions and the question has been raised about taking the Overlap Kit (Lauren's image) and adding the Resource Set.

By adding the $80 Resource Set to the Overlap Kit, writers would have a pretty substantial parts inventory to build from... but is the price of the Resource Set going to deter sales of books that would use this inventory (RS plus OK)?


Another challenge for our readers

Okay, the Overlap Kit discussion went well enough... and Laurens was very fast to provide the image showing the shared components between retail versions 1.0 and 2.0.

So, here are four more challenges:

1. Add the LEGO Education Resource Set to Retail 1.0 and create an Overlap Kit with the Retail 2.0 kit

2. Add the LEGO Education Resource Set to Retail 2.0 and create an Overlap Kit with the Education Base Set

3. Add the Resource Set and Education Base Set together and create an Overlap Kit with the Retail 1.0 kit

4. Add the Resource Set and Education Base Set together and create an Overlap Kit with the Retail 2.0 kit

The goal here is to find out which kit(s), when combined with the Resource Set, provide the best variety of parts (or closest match) to another kit. Does that make sense? The way I'm thinking is this - if we can find the parts inventory that is shared between 1.0/ResSet and 2.0/ResSet, authors may have a reasonable amount of parts to create books that both 1.0 and 2.0 owners can build by purchasing the $80 Resource Set.

Nov 18, 2009

Lauren's Overlap Poster

The NXT Step blog contributor Laurens sent me this great image... thanks, Laurens!

Redesigned MINDSTORMS website up and running!

New Mindstorms website -

Let us know what you think!


Nov 17, 2009

The Overlap

Would one of our creative readers be able/willing to put together a detailed spreadsheet that contains part #s, part name, quantity, and maybe even a small thumbnail picture of the parts that are found in both 1.0 and 2.0 retail kits?

The goal is to provide an overlap chart for those wanting to put together an "Overlap Kit" - a kit that contains only those parts and quantities found in both kits so that builders could easily design robots (and BIs) that both 1.0 and 2.0 owners could build.

If someone creates this spreadsheet, please email it to me or give me the website link where it's located and I'll share it with the world along with full credit to its designer. Multiple submissions are okay - we can give our readers more options.

Let's Find a Way: Part 2

One of our readers has submitted a website (via a comment) that offers one possible solution to the NXT 1.0 to 2.0 upgrade... you can read more information here.

A few details I pulled from Bill's website:

"There are three differences between using this kit to upgrade your NXT and buying a new set.

  1. We don't include the sticker sheet, the new color sensor or NXT-G version 2.0 (the CD-ROM). Programs requiring the color sensor would have to be adapted to read grayscale values using your existing light sensor. As for the CD, LEGO has a very restrictive license prohibiting resale of their software. It's written so restrictively, you technically couldn't even include it if you sold your own original kit!
  2. Due to availability, the elements probably won't be the exact same color as ships with the official NXT 2.0 kit. I'll match them when I can, but there are no guarantees as to colors included.
  3. THIS KIT IS $200 LESS THAN THE PRICE OF A NEW NXT KIT. Why rebuy all the parts you already own?
At $79.99, this kit is a fraction of the price of buying a brand new Mindstorms NXT. We created it by comparing the inventories for both sets as listed on Bricklink."

If you purchase this kit, please let us know what you think!


Nov 16, 2009

Let's Find a Way: NXT 1.0 to NXT 2.0

I've received emails from many NXT 1.0 readers regarding their frustration with not being able to take advantage of some of the new books coming out. Trust me, I understand... (and I apologize for responding to many of your direct emails with a "form letter" response - it's just I got so many I had to create a standard response.)

So maybe now it's time to really start brainstorming. I'm not 100% familiar with BrickLink, having never ordered any parts from it. But I have browsed it quite a bit and realize that there is a vendor for just about every part... if you're willing to pay, right?

So, what's a solution? Well, we've had a discussion in an earlier post about possibly trying to convince a BrickLink vendor to create an "upgrade pack" - this would be a pack that would include ONLY those pieces in the 2.0 kit that are NOT found in the 1.0 kit. This would include quantity matches, so if the 1.0 kit comes with 4 of a particular part and the 2.0 kit comes with 10 of that same part, the Upgrade Pack would come with 6 of that part (4 + 6 = 10).

Someone mentioned that some of the parts are rare or hard to find in small quantities and have to be extracted from other LEGO kits. That is a problem. Given that LEGO is very unlikely to start adding Technic parts to the "Pick a Brick" bin at your local LEGO Store, I'm not sure how this could be solved. Maybe a BrickLink vendor is buying in such large quantity from LEGO that they could request special parts in larger quantities to create the Upgrade Pack. Ideas? Thoughts?

Another option is to appeal to LEGO directly. Well, many of us have done so... and the offical response seems to be no response. I don't think this means that LEGO is being unreasonable, just that they've probably got bigger production issues on their agenda than the issue of an Upgrade Pack. That said, if every 1.0 owner... and I mean EVERY 1.0 owner suddenly emailed LEGO saying "I'd buy an Upgrade Pack" than likely we'd probably get our bag. Why? I'm guessing here, but let's assume that LEGO sold over 250,000 NXT 1.0 kits (probably a very low guess, but they're not giving us actual numbers)... well, if they figured they could sell 250,000 Upgrade Packs, I imagine they'd find a way to get that bag into production. My guess only... I could be wrong.

Another option is to book writers to provide building and programming instructions for 1.0 and 2.0 kits. Speaking as a writer, this is a VERY difficult sell to a publisher. First, most books have a maximum page count... let's say 250. With a 250 page book, I (the writer) can provide building and programming instructions for, say, 10 NXT 2.0 robots. If I choose to provide 1.0 instructions, now I have to cut that to 5 robots - the building and programming instructions are double the pages now. It's totally possible to do this, but I think (and my editor who I talked to about this thinks the same thing) that sales of the book will be lower than if the book focuses on just the 1.0 kit or the 2.0 kit, but not both. And while I'm on the subject, publishers are not likely to publish two versions of a book. Why? Because they have to pay the author twice for a large portion of the same content (two books, two contracts, two advances, etc.) and they have twice the risk if both books don't sell as well.

What options are left? Telling 1.0 owners to buy the 2.0 kit is easy to say, but at $250.00 or more, it's not a realistic expectation.

This entire issue could be compared to a game console changeover or even software version updates... some will say "Hey, onward and upward - buy the latest version" - just like PlayStation, XBox, and Nintendo owners complain about the products new version every 3 or 4 years (or less). But I'm not sure that argument holds - as I understand it, most game consoles will play games for earlier consoles... 2.0 owners can't necessarily build or use the programs of earlier robots designed with 1.0, right? Some, maybe... but not the majority is my guess.

So, I'll open this up for more discussion - maybe LEGO will even be listening. I have to admit it would be great as a writer to be able to offer up new books and know that both 1.0 and 2.0 owners can use my material... but I can't assume that will become a reality... therefore I have to write for the latest kit (2.0) because it's what my publishers want. But in reality, it comes down to what the community wants. I'm fairly certain the 1.0 owners outnumber the 2.0 owners (for now)... I truly wish that 1.0 owners had the ability to upgrade their kit to the 2.0 (like Windows XP and Vista upgrading to Windows 7 for a slightly lower price). Speak up, let LEGO know, and maybe something will happen. But don't count on it - instead, let's try and find a way to get the 1.0 to 2.0 upgrade on our own. This is one of the most creative, "make it happen" groups around... let's see what we can come up with...

Nov 15, 2009

Color Sensor Comparision

Philo has just put up a really well-done comparison of two of the color sensor that are currently available for the NXT. The first is the official one from LEGO, included in the V2 NXT kit, while the second is the HiTechnic V2 color sensor which can be purchased separately. I'm not going to bother summarizing Philo's excellent presentation too much, because reading it is an education in itself - not just on how the sensors "perform", but on how to compare sensors properly: developing tests, and understanding the results. Please read his page for the whole scoop. A dirt-simple summary is both have strong points, with the HiTechnic one being amazing at detecting multiple colors and handling challenging ambient light conditions, and the LEGO one (by virtue of using the rapidly-reading AtoD converter on-board the NXT) being much faster (probably important for line-following, for instance).

Thank you Philo for doing comparisons like this - and please read his summary, it really is excellent.

Nov 14, 2009

Gorilla from the Book: "Endangered Species NXT"

Above is a page from the full-color book, "Endangered Species NXT". It shows partial instructions for building the gorilla in the video below:
In addition to building and programming instructions for the gorilla, the book includes building and programming instructions for a sloth, a frog, a Komodo dragon and a polar bear. Educational activities in math, literacy and critical thinking are also included.

The book is available here.

All robots in the book are built with the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education NXT Set (#9797), plus the NXT Education Resource Set (#9648).

Nov 13, 2009

10 good reasons to invest in robots

On the web site of ABB, one of the world's leading engineering companies, I have found a nice page that lists ten reasons why robots are important today in industry and why manufacturers should invest in them.
There's also a nice video:

Nov 12, 2009

Article on WeDo on Geekdad

Geekdad, the online magazine for tech geeks, has published an article on LEGO®'s WeDo set that has come out this year.
WeDo is meant as a robotics set for the most youngest tinkerers (aged 7 to 9) for whom the NXT set is too advanced yet.

Read the article here and do not hesitate to comment.

Nov 11, 2009

Website is back up

Okay, all functionality should be restored now at - some of you may have been unaware that we even had a .com name as I got emails from many saying 'I can see the blog' - Yes, the blog never went down, just the other features of our site.

As for those emails asking about - I have no idea. I just checked and it does appear to still be down, but I don't know what's happening over there. If I hear anything, I'll let you know.

Thanks for your patience...


Website issue resolved - waiting on GoDaddy

Thanks for your patience, everyone - I've done my part, so now it's all up to GoDaddy to get the site reactivated. Not sure how long this will take, though...

(I can honestly say I'm not sure I'll ever register another domain with GoDaddy after this - the Domain Management team that I've been dealing with just sends me the same form letter over and over again, even after I've asked specific questions... this is the first time I've had this kind of trouble with GoDaddy, but it's soured me enough to consider saying Adios!)

Nov 10, 2009

Website is temporarily down

We are aware that the website is down... we are working on getting it back up and running but it may be a day or more before it is functional again... thanks for your patience.


Enjoy the celebration, Germany!

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall... enjoy the celebrations, Germany! I would love to be over there right now.

Nov 8, 2009

HiTechnic Infrared Receiver

HiTechnic has posted a video demonstrating their new HiTechnic Infrared Receiver along with a Lego Power Functions Remote. They have built a pretty cool car with Ackerman steering that as demonstrated is pretty impressive.

The description reads as follows;
The HiTechnic IR RC Car features the new HiTechnic Infrared Receiver. This sensor makes it easy for you to control your creations using a LEGO Power Functions Remote.

This model is based on the LEGO Mindstorms 1.0 set. It also requires a LEGO differential and that is not part of the Mindstorms set. If you do not have a LEGO differential, you can go to and search for "Gear Differential", the part number is 6573.

Remote control - Using the HiTechnic Infrared Receiver and LEGO Power Functions Remote

Steering uses a PID controller Both NXT-G and NXC sample programs implement a PID controller to steer to a specified target position.

Ackerman steering - Which means that it has a steering geometry so that in a turn the inside front wheel turns sharper than the outside wheel.

Geared up to differential - Geared up 3:5. The drive motor has a 40 tooth gear driving the 24 tooth side of the differential.

Building instructions and sample programs can be downloaded from

NXT Loom

Yet another impressive NXT creation: A loom that makes textiles out of wool. It was created by Jan Ravnik using only 1 NXT and 3 motors, and programmed in RobotC. This is Jan's second loom that works faster and smoother than the first.

Jan describes how the creation works as follows:
The first motor moves shuttle left and right, through the shed between the green warps. The second motor moves the green warps up and down, to change their position and the third motor presses weft together. It uses no sensors. The program is written in RobotC and is very simple. It only tells the motors how many rotations they should turn, and that's all.

To appreciate how the loom works, see the video of it in action:

Nov 6, 2009

And another special project of mine

While working on "The King's Treasure," I was also writing two other non-LEGO books. (Don't ever do this - completely crazy and will take a few years off your lifespan.) One of these other books is something that I'm extremely proud of and would like to share with The NXT Step readers... it's titled "Build Your Own CNC Machine" and it's coming out at the end of November 2009.

Here's the cover and a couple of pictures for you. Some details:

* It has a 2' x 4' tabletop workspace with about 1.5" of non-usable surface around the perimeter. So, you can realistically work on wood, aluminum, or plastic that fits within the 2'x4' boundary.

* Depending on the router you choose to use, you can work on material up to about 7" tall, but the depth the router can cut down (on the z-axis) is dependent upon the surrounding area not impeding the up/down movement, so the depth of cut into super-thick material will really be limited to your bit depth/length as well as any material blocking the further downward movement.

* The entire thing can be built for less than $800.00. Yes, $800.00US. While most 2'x4' comparable CNC machines are running $7000 and higher, this is a completely reliable and fully functional 3-axis CNC machine. The book provides plans for cutting, drilling, etc... all the parts from MDF (very rigid and strong) and my co-author (Patrick) and I provide parts #s and locations to get all the electronics. Chapters show you how to wire up everything as well as where to get the free software used to control the stepper motors.

During the writing of this book, three separate machines were built - I built one, my dad built one, and my tech editor built one. All three are identical, working right now, and are very impressive to watch.

I can already hear someone asking "Can it cut out parts for my robots?" - Yes, it can. But it can do so much more.

One of the reasons Patrick and I did this book was to make CNC technology available to a larger group of users - traditionally, these machines have been (and are) expensive to own and complicated to operate and repair. Well, when you build your own CNC machine, you know every part, how it all comes together, and you'll know how to fix it...

It's not an NXT robot or product, but if you're into robots, you're sure to enjoy something like this. We have a website, discussion forum, videos, full color photos for downloading, etc... all to support readers of the book who want to build their own machine. We're hoping to hear from students, shop teachers, parents, and after-school groups who take on building their own CNC machine(s) and we'd love to see photos and videos of your machine and your designs.

Again, the book is out in late November... if you have any other questions, let me know.


New Cover for "The King's Treasure"

Here's the new cover for "The King's Treasure" - sequel to "The Mayan Adventure" and due out at the end of November 2009.

More information to come soon on missions, including some photos and a special commemorative item I've cooked up to celebrate the book's release.

FLL Mission Rules Summary

My friend, Marco, over at emailed me the following information - thanks, Marco, for doing this. And if you're not familiar with TechBrick, spend some time looking around - he's got one of the most useful websites for FLL teams around, with plenty of free downloads, videos, worksheets, and more:


Missions Rules Condensed to Two Pages for Tournament Programs

As the FLL tournament season begins, many of you will create a program for your audience. Jeff Tjiputra, FLL/FTC sponsor for The College of Southern Maryland, asked us to condense the FLL Game into two pages for use in their program. So here they are for your use as well.

The zip file below contains two MS Word documents (.doc). One is sized 8.5x11 (US Letter) the other 5.5x8.5 (US Bulletin). They include 1 sample image from each challenge, the description, and include the challenge images, FLL, and FIRST logos and the field image. Modify them as you wish.

Follow this link to download the zip file with two versions.

Nov 5, 2009

New Book: "Endangered Species NXT"

(Click above cover image to see it enlarged).


All building instructions and programs are full-color and high-resolution. The robots are:

NXT Sloth--slowly and smoothly slinks across a "branch" of your own choosing.

NXT Gorilla--"Knuckle walks" across the floor, just a like a real gorilla.

NXT Komodo Dragon--Slithers and "sidewinds" across the floor in snake-like fashion.

NXT Polar Bear
--Walks on all fours, opens and closes its jaws, and roars

NXT "Poison Dart" Frog--Leaps up and forward into the air as it jumps across the room

Educational activities in math, literacy and critical thinking are included for teachers, students, FLLers and other groups and individuals.

All robots are built with the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education NXT Set (#9797), plus the NXT Education Resource Set (#9648). In the near future, I'll post a list of parts needed for the book.

The Amazon link to the book is here.

Nov 3, 2009

Message from Dean Kamen for FLL- FIRST teams

Important Message from Dean Kamen: FLL - FIRST/TWC Partnership in the US

From: fllteams []
Sent: Monday, November 02, 2009 3:23 PM
Subject: FLL - FIRST/TWC Partnership in the US!

This message is directed at FLL Teams in the US.

From the Desk of Dean Kamen --

Hello FIRST Teams, Mentors, Coaches, Volunteers, Sponsors, and the entire FIRST Community.

I have an unscheduled, urgent assignment that will help us spread the word about FIRST and our mission in a new and exciting way.

This month, Time Warner Cable (TWC) will launch a new partnership with FIRST in the United States. We need to make sure the launch is successful, specifically the launch of TWC's new web site,, which celebrates youth participation in science and technology. I'm asking you – through your incredible participation on the site - to let the executives and employees of TWC know that partnering with FIRST is the best decision they ever made. That's right, The Best. Ever.

Here's more on what I'm asking you to do and why...

What is the FIRST / Time Warner Cable Partnership?
It's a partnership that will put FIRST teams and events on TV and on the Web. TWC is investing $100 million (cash and in-kind) over 5 years in STEM. (No, not all of it in FIRST).

What is “Connect A Million Minds”?
It's the name and the goal of TWC's program - to connect a million kids to STEM. It's also the name of the TWC web site – - where you can take the pledge to introduce young people to STEM programs – like FIRST – and inspire others to do the same.

Why is this web site launch important?
TWC is going to promote this website like crazy. By giving FIRST a priority presence on the site (we are the one and only group invited to participate BEFORE the site launches!), your photos and pledges can be the first thing visitors see!

What I'm asking you to do:

1. Visit As a beta user, you will have exclusive access to the site with the following (case sensitive) username and password -- username: RobotZ, password: Rule

2. Take the Pledge – commit to introduce one, ten, a hundred youth! to FIRST and STEM opportunities

3. Then click on “The Wall” and post an inspiring FIRST photo and a few words about how you connected young people to STEM programs

4. Send us your feedback. E-mail your comments and suggestions for the Connect a Million Minds site to

Show TWC that FIRST is the best partner they've ever had!

When I'm asking you to do it:
FIRST will have special access to the beta site from 11/2 – 11/8, so you need to take the pledge and upload your content by November 8th. The official site launches to the public a few days later.

I look forward to seeing your content and hearing the reactions of TWC executives to the energy and commitment of the FIRST community. Thank you for all you do for FIRST!

Dean Kamen

FIRST(R) LEGO(R) League ( | | +1 603-666-3906, 800-871-8326 | FIRST(R) ( - 200 Bedford Street – Manchester NH USA 03101

Lip Synching Robot

Hey all,

I would like to introduce myself. I am Chris Shepherd aka “Shep.” The guys here asked me to contribute to this blog and I gladly agreed to do so.

I am a Mechanical Engineer. I have been building with Technic for about 20 years and Mindstorms since they were introduced. I also run my own blog over at I like to draw inspiration from industrial applications and I also love kinetic art. I built the Lego Flexpicker and a few other projects that you can find on my blog.

I just finished a cute little project of a Lego Lip Synching Robot. It uses one sound sensor and one servo motor with some gearing. The sound sensor picks up sound from a pre-recorded sound file and opens the mouth based on the intensity of the sound. It is programmed using RobotC and I completed it in just a couple of hours.

Nov 2, 2009

Windows 7 and the NXT?

I've recently gotten a scattering of reports of problems under Windows 7... but as a Mac user, I've got no way of testing it, and I'm not sure if these are problems due to working with a new OS, or just the smattering of problems that often crop up. So I'm curious and thought I'd ask the readership what they have heard or seen. Has anyone done a clean install of NXT-G (either 1.0 or 2.0), and what have been your experiences? Do they play together nicely, or have you found any incompatibilities between them?

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book Preview

Here's a short preview video of my upcoming book "The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book". (Formerly called the Adventure Book)

In short, the book:
- Comes with building and programming instructions for eight robots which can all be built with one NXT 2.0 set (#8547);
- Gives the reader a complete introduction to the NXT 2.0 programming software (NXT-G);

(click for direct link)

Nov 1, 2009

Improved LEGO Power Functions RC Receiver & Protocol

The LEGO Power Functions RC reciever and RC protocol has been updated. The official announcement came from the LEGO PF product manager, Gaute Munch:

The LEGO Group has released a new version of the LEGO Power Functions RC Receiver (identified by a short blink on the green LED when power is connected).

The new version of the RC Receiver supports all functionality of the LPF RC protocol and we have added a command to access the extra address space.

We are hereby offering you an updated version of the LPF RC protocol documentation.

Please feel free to use any information from the protocol document for personal, non-commercial use only, provided you keep intact copyright, trademarks and other proprietary rights of the LEGO Group.

Gaute Munch
The LEGO Group

The LPF RC Protocol document can be viewed here.

Gaute Munch also confirmed that:

- Orders through LEGO Shop at Home for #8884 will provide the new version of the RC receiver.

- The new RC receiver supports all the LEGO PF RC protocol functionality including ‘single pin mode’.

The 'single pin mode' is especially good news. According to Conchas, from the Technic Bricks blog, says:

The single pin mode (both timeout and no timeout), would allow individual control of pins C1 and C2.

This way we could with an eventual and appropriate PF remote (not yet released) or through the NXT and one IR Link sensor to control these pins. It would allow for instance to independently connect one LED or another on/off element, to each pin.

Thus allowing to control 2 devices per port, 4 per receiver and 16 considering all the 4 channels.

Very exciting for all of us LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT users!

via Technic Bricks.

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