Dec 31, 2009

NXT 2.0 Discovery Book - Update

It has been a while since I last blogged about this book, but now I can finally say I've completed all of the chapters for it. Although there's still quite a bit of work to do, I hope the book's release date is in or around March 2010. Please note that the book description at Amazon is outdated and does no longer reflect the contents of the book very well.

The book is written to be a good addition to anyone's NXT 2.0 set. It teaches readers all about programming as they build increasingly sophisticated robots. Each little bit of programming theory comes with at least one sample program and a programming 'discovery' (challenge/exercise - over 75 in total) to practice the newly learned skills. The first programming chapter starts with out with simple things like move blocks, but the book also includes chapters about data wires and variables, for example.

Building and programming go hand in hand in this book. Basically, you build the first robot (a training vehicle), learn the basics about MINDSTORMS, then move on to the next robot which teaches you about sensors, for instance. At this point the book comes with instructions for eight robots, including The Snatcher, and a robot that sorts your LEGO bricks by color and size. I've posted a little teaser image of a robot below. Can anyone guess what this robot does? Be fair and comment before looking at the book's description that's currently online ;)

Question for owners of the 2.0 kit

I'm curious to know how 2.0 owners have managed with using 1.0 building instructions and modifying the designs.

* Have any 2.0 owners updated 1.0 designs that would like to share them?
* How easy or difficult has it been to re-design 1.0 robots using 2.0 parts?
* What parts from 1.0 are you finding you miss the most?

I just want to start a discussion here to understand if there's even a sufficient percentage of 2.0 owners who are trying to use 1.0 material to warrant updating a lot of the 1.0 info.


Dec 30, 2009

Updating NXT-G Programming Guide

Well, I just got a request from Apress to update the NXT-G Programming Guide - the book came out in 2007 and, now that NXT-G 2.0 is out, it's probably a good idea. I've collected mistakes and omissions over the years and will hopefully fix those easily enough, but Apress has given me permission to increase the page count on the book... so....

For those of you who own the first edition, I have a few questions that I'm hoping you'll help me out with...

1. Is there anything you feel should be added to the book?
2. Would exercises be beneficial?
3. Did I cover wires well enough or do they need more discussion?
4. What did you like about the book and want more of...
5. ... and what did you NOT like about the book and want less of... or corrected?

For the original book, I made the test robot (SPOT) available as a downloadable zip file containing photos to build it - for this book, I'm probably going to update SPOT and provide BIs for all three kit versions - 1.0, 2.0, and Education. Not sure if that will be useful or not... thoughts welcome.

I've had requests from teachers and coaches to provide some hands-on activities in the form of Exercises, so please comment on that as well if you can...

It's nice to be able to update a book and fix things you overlooked the first time around... and I welcome your thoughts on improving this book. No promises that Apress will let me do anything too crazy, but if I'm able to use your suggestion or find it useful for correcting or adding something in, I'll try and credit you in the book if you're the first responder for an improvement, fix, or addition.



Dec 28, 2009

Philo's Fast NXT 2.0 Ball Sorter

My good friend Philo, who designed and build the robotic arm as a extra model for the NXT 2.0 box, build and FAST ball sorter.

Here is a movie:

Philo also made great Building instructions at his homepage.

Thanks Philo for this nice creation, I'm looking forward for the first implementation inside a GBC.

Dec 26, 2009

Merry Christmas!

To all our readers,

Merry Christmas! Have a safe and enjoyable holiday - see you in 2010!


Dec 24, 2009

Brickworld 2010 - The Phenomenon Grows

Brickworld is a huge LEGO "convention" or fan-gathering that was started a few years ago, and has rapidly grown into one of the larger such event in North America. It takes place near Chicago, IL, and the information for this year has been released. But as a bonus, there's a second event. More of a public expo than a fan-driven show, it should also be a fun activity for those in the area around Indianapolis, IN, this year. If you want to see more LEGO than you've even seen before in your life, with entire train layouts, GBC's, robots, sculptures, custom fan-designed pieces (big vendor area), contests (ever seen a LEGO trebuchet throw a LEGO train car 10 meters... or the aftermath?), and a wild collection of fans of all ages, I'd strongly suggest attending. Here's the detailed post off of LUGNET:

Share - Learn - Explore - Discover

The team at Brickworld is excited to announce that registration for the 2010 event at the Westin will open on January 1st. We look forward to seeing everyone in Chicago in June. We are presently updating the web site to provide an improved registration experience. The updates will be rolled into the web site over the next couple weeks and ready for January 1st.

One of the changes will be a modified home page. The home page will show the Brickworld event at the Westin and a new event called Brickworld Indy. Brickworld at the Westin in Chicago is THE convention, THE AFOL event, THE place you want to be.

Brickworld Indy is a new concept. It is a public exhibition only (similar to Saturday and Sunday of the Brickworld convention in Chicago). Brickworld Indy is a partnership between Brickworld and IndyLUG. The intent of the exhibition is to showcase the creations of IndyLUG to the public. So, there is no convention side, no on line registraiton, no raffles, and it is not open for anyone to display. However, it will still be a fun place to hang out on Saturday & Sunday and see friends and we would love to have AFOLs around to enjoy the event.

We hope to see you in June at the Westin for Brickworld 2010!!

The theme is picked...the event kits are designed...the artwork is in process...things are in full swing. Don’t wait. Start building now and remember to include lighting for the 2nd annual World of Lights Collaboration.

Stay tuned for more information.

Regards, the Brickworld Team

Brickworld will be held June 17 - 20, 2010 at the Westin North Shore Hotel in Wheeling, IL (a suburb of Chicago).

Brickworld Indy will be held March 13 and 14, 2010 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN

To see more details or register to attend, please visit the Brickworld website:

Guest Blog - video

Reader Thomas emailed me about this 2.0 video - it's tucked away on the new Mindstorms website, so there may be some of you who haven't seen it...

Click here and then click the Movie link at the bottom left of the screen.

Thanks, Thomas.

Not Enough Parts

I have been following the difficulties surrounding the introduction of the LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0. There is a lot of literature available that has building instructions for Mindstorms creations. Most of the instructions assume that you have the NXT 1.0 set, so the instructions are centered around that set. The NXT 1.0 was all that was available when the book, website or blog entry was written.

There are a lot of people new to NXT that are buying the 2.0 set, not realizing or thinking about the fact that there was a 1.0 set that was made before the 2.0 set and that there could be any difference in the building elements that LEGO would include in one set or the other.

Building with the NXT set reminds me of many years ago when I was much younger and the popular building set was the Erector Set. This was the best thing to get if you wanted to build things that were not just “glue it together and put it on the shelf” plastic model kits. For Christmas one year (many, many, many years ago) Santa brought me an Erector Set. The “Big Set”, lots of parts, and some getting started instructions of how to build several things; they were great! The getting started models helped me to understand how to use the building elements included in the Erector Set. I built many a contraption with my “Big Set”. But after awhile it was not enough, there were just not enough bits and pieces to build all the things I wanted to build. My imagination was much bigger than my “Big Set”. So I convinced my parents to buy me the Erector “Expansion Set”. With my new “Expansion Set” I could build many more things, but I after awhile I still ran out of pieces, so I needed another “Expansion Set”. Does any of this sound familiar?

A generation or two later in 2006 enter the Mindstorms NXT! Wow, now we can build anything in our imagination and we can program an on-board computer to make it do almost anything we want. For many of us it was our first Mindstorms set, our introduction to NXT and all the wonderful things we can create. Many folks started websites to highlight their creations. Writers wrote books teaching others how to build things and how to program using NXT-G and other programming languages to make our creations more than just a model to stick on a shelf. All was right with the world, there was the Mindstorms set, there were web sites, there were books there were blogs all centered around the NXT 1.0 and what we could build with just the elements included in that set. Nothing else required. Those were the golden ages. We could build and discuss what we built and we knew we had the parts necessary to build many wonderful things.

Then in January 2009 LEGO announced the Mindstroms NXT 2.0 set. Wow! Wonderful! A new set, new elements we can all build new and different robots. But then in August 2009 LEGO actually starting shipping the NXT 2.0 set and the problems began. It was not a problem for the folks who already had a NXT 1.0, It was just a welcome addition to the NXT line of products. But for the folks new to NXT there was a big problem! The NXT 2.0 set did not include all the pieces that were included with the NXT 1.0 set so the websites and books and building instructions did not match. The folks who bought the NXT 2.0 could not build the wonderful things that we as NXT 1.0 owners could build. Not enough parts! The folks new to NXT (with the 2.0 set) were outraged, they had purchased books on how to build many wonderful things with the promise that they could build all these things with just the parts included in the base NXT set. They did not realize that the books were written for the NXT 1.0 set and that they had purchased a NXT 2.0 set or that there would be any difference in the building elements included in the NXT 2.0 set. Just look at some of the book reviews from outraged consumers about the fact that they purchased this new Mindstorms NXT (2.0) set and some books to build beyond the box, only to find out that the books had building instructions for creations that they could not build because they did not have all the necessary parts. They did not know why they did not have enough parts, they just knew they did not have the parts and there was a promise on the cover of the book that everything could be built with what was in one NXT kit. Not enough parts! It is unfortunate that LEGO did not include all the parts from the NXT 1.0 in the NXT 2.0; life would have been so much easier for the folks who write the books and maintain the web sites, but that is not what happened.

I hate to break it to you, but you will never have enough parts! Remember my experience with the Erector sets? Not enough parts!

I look at the NXT 2.0 (or 1.0) like the Erector Set, “Big Set”. It includes a lot of parts. But it is just a start. I believe that is what LEGO really intended; give the consumer just enough parts to build many interesting things, but not enough to build everything possible that could be built with Mindstorms. Think about it. If LEGO made a kit that included everything anyone would ever want or need in one kit, that kit would be so large that the average person could not lift it. More importantly very few could afford it. So LEGO gave us the “Big Set”! A very nice starter set.

Some folks may have enough elements included in the base NXT 1.0 or 2.0 set to build everything they want. But many of us are not going to have enough parts included in the base set to build all we want. Not enough parts!

My suggestion is to build all the wonderful things you can build with your set (1.0 or 2.0), then start collecting building elements to build different, bigger and more complex devices, robots or whatever you can imagine. We can build many wonderful things with just what is included in the base set, but remember – The NXT 1.0 or NXT 2.0 set is just a start!

If life gives you LEGO®, build robots!

Andy Dannelley

Guest Blog - Jerome M.

From Jerome:

I was looking for a Mac OSX utility that can export images in the *.ric file format but could not find one. So I decided to write one based on the free and open source image processing software ImageJ.

You can get the software from :

Comments welcome.

New NXT 2.0 Book for Teens?

I just happened to come across a new book on Amazon available for pre-order: Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 for Teens by Jerry Lee Ford. I didn't recognize the author... does anyone know something about this book? I'm couldn't tell from the description how the book applies specifically to teenagers; it seems more like a beginner's programming guide.

There also appears to be a new book coming out by No Starch: The Art of NXT-G Programming by Griffin Terry. I didn't recognize this author either, but the title and description sound similar to Jim's NXT-G programming guide.


Dec 23, 2009

Unofficial NXT 2.0 to 1.0 upgrade kit

Bill Shaw over on the forums has assembled an unofficial retrograde kit for NXT 2.0 users wanting to build 1.0 models. From his website (

"If you own the new LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT v2 Kit (Set 8547), this Unofficial NXT Retrograde kit contains just about everything you need to build robots designed for the NXT v1 kit (Set 8527). You get 180 lego elements, including an NXT sound sensor"

Even the tricky sound sensor! Priced at $80 US, I'd say this is a fair deal. The website says it is in limited stock, so you might want to grab it if you need it while you can!

If anyone purchases from here, let us know how it goes!


Guest Blog - Hupie from the Netherlands

Received this email from Hupie (16 yr old girl from the Netherlands):

Do you need a cup of coffee? But are you to tired to put sugar in it?
Then you have to try my "Coffee Assistant"!

It is a great combination of LEGO Technic (including the NXT) and an unique design (with LEGO mini-figures).

Watch my video:

You can find more info on:

Dec 22, 2009

New NXTLog Challenge - Robotic Arm!

With the end of the previous Snap Bot challenge, the new challenge is up - Robotic Arm! The rules remain the same - no limit on the amount of hardware used, and your entry must be tagged "roboticarm". From NXTLog -

"Robotic arms are no longer the work of science fiction writers. They are shaping the future of industry and medicine. Bionic arms give amputees a new lease on life enabling them grab, reach, and hug. Industrial arms make assembly line tasks safer and more efficient. They even allow astronauts to work better in space. On the fun side, robotic arms can be used as candy grabbers, pancake flippers, or even back scratchers! Your first NXTLOG challenge of the new decade is to design a MINDSTORMS NXT robotic arm."

The interesting aspect to this challenge is the question... how many degrees of freedom will your arm have?

Full information can be found at NXTLog:

Good luck!


Dec 21, 2009

When LEGO lost its head and how it got its happy ending

Not directly NXT related, but here's an article on how LEGO changed its strategy to make it through 2003 and 2004 without going bankrupt. You may have read some of this before, but it is still an interesting read.

Doing your own work...

An interesting article in the latest WIRED magazine covers the topic of people buying degrees (Bachelor, Master, and PhD) and this professor who discovered this million dollar scam and got the FBI involved.

Over the past year or so, I've continued to receive spam from a number of websites selling term papers, research papers, and other false documents - sites like this one. One goes down, another comes up. (I'm not giving anything away with this link - a simple Google search will turn up hundreds of these.)

There seems to be a growing trend, both in the USA and abroad, of people taking the shortcuts and not doing the work for themselves. The WIRED article talks about some of the people who have been tracked down with false credentials - these include many government workers and even a US Marshall!

Over the past few years, we've had a handful of people post requests for programs on the forum. Sometimes these requests have come from students who state quite clearly that the program is for an assignment. Apparently this problem has no age barriers.

I worry that one day I'll be driving across a bridge designed by a civil engineer who got his degree by simply paying $1500.00 for the piece of paper.

The contributors here at The NXT Step are good about pushing students who request hard answers to do the work themselves... but let's be honest and agree that the likelihood of a student who posts this kind of request actually saying "Okay, I'll go study more" is very slim. What are your thoughts?

New pbLua version

From Ralph Hempel... a very busy man...

I've got a new pbLua ready to go on my website, here .

It's Beta 18h - hopefully the last release before 1.0. The major new feature is reworked sensor operation with support for all sensor types, including the new color sensor.

There's a new tutorial for Bluetooth pairing with Linux machines as well.

I'd also like to point out that I'm looking for Bluetooth enabled Android devices to test with, so that I can develop instructions for them. Android devices support Lua internally as a scripting language and it would be cool to be able to script the NXT using the Android too.

I'm also developing some basic electronics tutorials for the NXT using pbLua and the HiTechnic Experimanter's kit.

Lot's of news for your site in the New Year!

Dec 20, 2009

The SNAP BOT Challenge Winners are in


The snapbot! challenge was popular with NXTLOGgers working to create the greatest MINDSTORMS NXT robot possible with a minimum amount of LEGO bricks. There are now hundreds of models on NXTLOG that you can build in a snap! Although only a few robots can fill the award categories, there are many amazing snapbots to visit, comment, rate, and get inspired by. So get started by searching the tag "snapbot."

I sure do like this one build by #1legolover2 a real nice yedi2 robot.


Dec 19, 2009

Black NXT at sale

Amazon is selling the black NXT for $89.99, which is (correct me if I'm wrong) cheaper than a common white NXT when bought through regular channels. The link is here.
To my surprise, the brick is now also available in Europe through LEGO Shop @ Home, for 112.50 Euro.
The little dog you see there is one of the robots I built with this brick.

Dec 18, 2009

New blog (non-NXT)

Just a quick note to anyone who might be interested - I've been toying with starting a new website or blog for a while related to my interest in home repair, DIY activities, etc...

Join me in 2010 as I try and learn 50 new DIY skills. I'll be documenting my education/hands-on actions over at and hopefully not making too much of a mess, causing too much damage, and not having to call on the pros (plumber, electrician, etc) to fix my mistakes.

Should be fun...

Dec 16, 2009

NXT Guitar Challenge Game Video

I finally posted a video of the NXT Guitar Challenge Game project from (for "Game Mode" at least):

Fortunately it worked out for this project that building instructions and programs are available for both NXT 1.0 and NXT 2.0. :-)

Dec 14, 2009

An unfortunate truth about NXT books

Well, our One Kit Wonders book just took another hit with a 2-star review. The reviewer writes

"... I purchased this book thinking it meant what it stated in the title by "One Kit," meaning the main NXT kit and no other additional parts. This book requires many parts that don't come in the original main kit, and none of the extra parts I do have. The parts are not labeled and you must hunt and peck through your system to find the parts you don't have in your main kit and hunt them down and order them (not exactly a truthful title)... I've yet to build anything with this book and I've had it for over a year now. Plus several parts I have ordered turned out to be wrong, do to poor picture quality and lack of measurements."

Let's ignore the fact that the reviewer states he's had the book over a year... I'm guessing by the review that he's possibly purchased a 2.0 kit (or the Education kit). I think a lot of the problems with buyers not being happy with their books is that they're not doing the research to determine to which NXT kit the book applies. This is a 1.0 book... but Amazon makes no attempt to encourage buyers of the NXT 2.0 kit to buy this book (and others)... even when WE know the two are not compatible.

Sales on NXT books are low... not sure if it's because the product has matured or whether there are a lot more choices in books or a combination of these (or other factors). But the fact remains that reviews hurt sales... and bad sales cause publishers to pursue other topics. I've spoken with publishers who are concerned about sales of the NXT and the confusion that the multiple versions are bringing to the table. All it takes is one new NXT 1.0 owner to come and read this review and they're likely to NOT purchase the book even though, IMO, it's a great book for 1.0 owners. We can't request that the review be removed because that's not how Amazon works... (to be honest, someone could write "This latest Steven King novel stinks" - give it a 1 star review - and Amazon would still unlikely remove it from the OKW reviews).

Not sure what the solution is, but once gain I want to encourage you, the NXT book owner, to speak your mind and write reviews, good or bad, of the NXT books you use. Reviews can make or break a book... and they do have an impact on publishers who are considering doing more NXT books. It's unfortunate that studies have shown that unhappy people are more likely to write an unfavorable review than happy people are to write a favorable one.

I don't know if No Starch will ever consider another OKW book (or Idea Book) - I'm not sure what the deciding factors are... but I do believe that these negative reviews will impact sales which are likely to impact (negatively) the odds of more NXT books being done.

I wish this OKW reviewer had written a more fair review - I wonder how many parents of 1.0 owners are looking for Christmas books right now and will pass this one by because the latest review basically states (inaccurately) that this book is misleading, incorrect, and a bad buy?


One more thing: I do think that all NXT publishers should request Amazon (and other online seller) to update their book descriptions with something that clearly states whether the book is for 1.0 or 2.0 or mixure. What do you think?

Dec 13, 2009

Homeschool Extension Pack

I don't know how long it has been in their catalog, but I just noticed the "Homeschool NXT Extension Pack" (W991436, $88) listed on the LEGO Education website. What I can't find anywhere is a list of the contents for this kit. (I checked Peeron.)

Does anyone know of a content list for this set?

Dec 12, 2009

New 3rd Party NXT Hardware!

From Dexter Industries has some new stuff that might interest our readers -

"Dexter Industries is passionate about robotics, making better control systems, and having fun. We aim to develop robotic devices and peripherals that are easy to use, fun to play with, and can have real-life applications scientists and engineers, and those aspiring to be. My first peripheral is pretty simple. I wanted to be able to control appliances around the house with NXT, just for fun. So I built what I’m calling the “dSwitch”, which allows you to turn on and off an appliance that’s plugged into it."

You can read more about it by clicking here.

We're hoping to have a review or two in the near future...


Dec 11, 2009

New Book on Electronics

I'm a huge fan of MAKE magazine. If you're not familiar with it, rush to the bookstore now because the latest issue (#20) is devoted to kids and has some outstanding projects for both kids and adults to do together. (It's got Adam Savage from MythBusters on the cover.)

MAKE magazine isn't just about robots, but it does cover them here and there. In addition to its robotics coverage, it does a great job of covering basic and advanced electronics. The magazine's publisher, O'Reilly, has just released a new book that some of you might be interested in - it's called "Make: Electronics" and is written by Charles Platt.

I've already purchased a copy and can't wait to get my hands on it and start following along with its tutorials. It's billed as a hands-on book, where you'll be learning by doing... and likely making mistakes and burning out components. Based on that description, I'm totally in...

I'll be posting a more thorough review once I get my copy and work through its hands-on exercises, but for you parents out there who have a child who has shown a strong interest in electronics and circuitry, this may be a great investment for encouraging that curiosity.

Guest blog - Michele P - New Vernier STEM books

From Michel P:


Vernier Software & Technology has just published their second educational book for the NXT aimed at middle and high school students. STEM 2 with Vernier and LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT includes activities using Vernier’s Force Sensor, Magnetic Field Sensor, Voltage Probe, and Gas Pressure Sensor. It covers topics in physical science and engineering, including mechanics, pressure, electricity, and magnetism. Students are challenged to build and program robots for testing batteries, finding land mines, breaking string, tracking the sun, and controlling a Cartesian diver.

Vernier’s original STEM book covers topics in environmental science and engineering, including soil moisture, water quality, acidity, and UV radiation, using their pH Sensor, UVB Sensor, Temperature Probe, Conductivity Probe, and Soil Moisture Sensor. It has 14 labs and 4 projects, including an aquarium monitor, a plant watering system, and a sunscreen tester. Both books include all construction and programming instructions. You can download sample activities from the website.

Dec 10, 2009

Great Price for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 in Canada

It is hard to find a good price for the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 in Canada, but Costco's Canadian online store is selling it for $300. Regular retail price is $350. Here is the link.

NXT 2.0 Guitar Challenge Game

The NXT 2.0 version of the NXT Guitar Challenge Game is now posted (See earlier post for more description of this project). Compared to the NXT 1.0 version, the building instructions are modified for the different parts mix, as are the NXT-G "Free Play" programs (for color sensor, etc.), but the programs for the "Game Mode" play and song recording (compiled from NXC) are unmodified and run just fine on the newer 2.0 firmware.

Note that the bonus materials offered on the CD (Windows song recorder/editor, NXC source code for Game Mode play and NXT recording) apply unchanged for NXT 2.0, since Game Mode is the same between the two versions (although the CD is primarily designed for NXT 1.0 users).

I still need to find time to make a newer/better video and will when I can.

Dec 9, 2009


Creative robot builder Daniele Benedettelli has published a new NXT book: LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Thinking Robots.

"The book will show you how to build and program two robots that think. You'll be awestruck when the TTT Tickler ties you at tic-tac-toe and amazed when the One-Armed Wonder solves a Rubik's Cube in just a few minutes.

In addition to providing detailed instructions for building each model with either the original or the NXT 2.0 set, author Daniele Benedettelli takes you inside the robots to show you how they're designed, what makes them think, and how to use them."

You can view an excerpt of the book here.

Dec 5, 2009

65 NXT Projects on CD

Just in time for the holidays, I have updated the project CD on, now called 65 Fun Projects for your LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, to include building instructions and programs for all 65 of the NXT 1.X projects on the site, including the newer ones such as the Forklift, Dial Remote Control, Peg Sorter, Claw Striker, Trailer Pull, Combination Lock Box, and more...

The CD also contains the full verson of the new NXT Guitar Challenge Game project. The full version of this game is available only on the CD, and includes a PC (Windows) graphical song recorder/editor, so you can "record" and edit Guitar Challenge Game songs for your favorite music on your PC and download them to the NXT to play along with. Owners of the CD also get access to additional songs on the web submitted by other users of the game, and full source code for the game and recording programs, for those advanced NXT programmers who are interested in getting exposed to some NXC and C/C++ programming.

The CD is designed for the NXT 1.0 kits, although NXT 2.0 owners will be able to build many of the projects with minor substitutions if you also get the Education Resource Set. So if you already have an NXT in the family or are getting one for the holidays, the CD makes a great gift or stocking stuffer to give you and your child instant access to full building instructions and ready-to-run programs for 65 fun projects for your NXT, without needing to connect, wait, or worry about the internet.

Happy Holidays and Happy Building!

Dec 4, 2009

Komodo Dragon NXT

This Komodo Dragon is from the Endangered Species NXT book by Fay Rhodes. The still photo in the video is by Dave Parker.

The models in the book are built with the Education NXT (#9797) and the Education Resource Set (#9648). For those with other NXT kits, a chart of parts needed to build the book's models is below. (Click the graphic for an enlargement).

Dec 3, 2009

Guest Blog - Flemming S.

Received the following from Flemming:

The last couple of years I have made a christmas music video with the NXT. I haven't planned anything christmassy this year. But instead I have made a piece of dance music involving all the current and former MindStorms bricks.

King Ixtua Expedition Commemorative Patch

King Ixtua Expedition Commemorative Patch 2006-2009

I had a special request a few years back for some Mayan Adventure patches... at the time, it wasn't a possibility...

Now, to commemorate my new book, "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0: The King's Treasure," I've had a special batch of patches made for this special occasion. The patch is a 4" diameter, full color item, with the US Flag, the Guatemalan Flag, and a Mayan temple in the background. The 2006 represents the year "The Mayan Adventure" was released and 2009 represents the year "The King's Treasure" was released.

Price is in USA dollars - $7.95 + $4.95 USPS Priority Shipping to any USA address. Sorry, not available to ship outside of USA.

To order, click on the Contributor Projects tab above and then the Buy Now button underneath the writeup for the patch.

I only have 150 of these - if they sell fast, I may consider placing a second order... otherwise, when they're gone, they're gone. I'm holding a few back to possibly offer on eBay for those who miss out (especially overseas fans of the books who I can work with on postage).

The King's Treasure - Summary

The book is out! I'm happy to announce that "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0: The King's Treasure," the sequel to "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT: The Mayan Adventure," is a 302 page book with CAD building instructions created by Chris Smith.

The book contains 21 chapters and provides five new challenges to solve by building 5 new robots. The book is broken into 5 sections, with each section containing four chapters:

First chapter of a section contains part of the fictional storyline - Evan is back in Guatemala with his archaeologist uncle and they're ready to enter King Ixtua's treasure respository - but traps and obstacles are everywhere.

Second chapter of a section contains building and programming theory discussions - you'll be using the Design Journal worksheet (5 blanks provided in the book but you can download them for free to print more) to help formulate your robot design and program.

Third chapter of a section contains the building instructions for a robot that can be used to overcome the challenge found in that section. Unlike the Mayan Adventure that used photographs for building instructions, I was able to get my good friend and fellow MCPer, Chris Smith, to take my photographs and convert them to CAD. They're large and easy-to-follow.

Fourth chapter of a section contains the programming instructions for creating the NXT-G program used to solve a challenge. I walk you through the placement of every block and show you how to configure them (and explain the hows and whys).

That's only 20 chapters, you say? Well, of course Chapter 21 contains the story's finale... will Evan, Uncle Philip, and the rest of the expedition team be able to uncover King Ixtua's treasure? But a better question is - will you?


ps. a HUGE thank you to all my readers - parents, teachers, coaches, and students - for your emails, letters, and comments regarding The Mayan Adventure - this book would NEVER have happened without your support. I hope you all enjoy it!

pps. I mentioned in a previous post about a special commemorative item I'd be announcing when the book was released... stay tuned... it's coming soon!

New NXT and PF parts?

TechnicBricks have found some very interesting pictures of (possibly) upcoming NXT and Power Function parts. Read their full post for more pictures. Given the look of this windmill, it seems to be an expansion pack from LEGO education, but perhaps the parts are useful for your own robots as well.

Overlap Kit contest winners

I only had 3 submissions for the Overlap Kit contest, so rather than pick 1 winner, I'm going to send a signed copy of "The King's Treasure" to each of the participants: mperrin, koldo, and Shawn A.

Please email me at jktechwriter *at* gmail dot com so I can get your book to you.

Congrats to the winners! Apparently the parts limitation found in the Overlap Kit didn't pose a problem to these 3!


Dec 2, 2009

NXT Guitar Challenge Game

It is finally here on, after squeezing in bits of spare time throughtout the school and FLL season and other projects: The NXT Guitar Challenge Game! This project is a "Guitar Hero"-like game for your NXT that requires only a single NXT kit. Using a guitar controller built with a single NXT kit, you are challenged to play a series of "notes" that scroll towards you on the NXT screen while listening to the song. You select the correct note by sliding a plate on the neck of the guitar that is seen by the ultrasonic sensor, and then strum the note using a lever that triggers one or two touch sensors. The game counts your hit and missed notes and displays your score at the end of the song. And unlike other Guitar games, the music plays externally on your iPod or stereo, so you can listen to the real recording on your own sound system while playing along, and you can also author/record your own favorite songs and play along with the real recordings that you already own. You control the choice of music and the difficulty of the game recording!

Also included is a "Free Play" mode, where the guitar converts to an all-in-one self-contained instrument that you can play like a stand-alone guitar using 8 notes from the rock/blues scale. In this mode, the guitar is an upgraded version of the original Electric Guitar project, now including a fun "whammy bar" to bend tones (uses the light sensor as a high sensitivity distance sensor), and a convenient touch-sensor strum lever.

Back to the Game Mode, the free version of the game on the web includes the ability to play the game and record your own songs on the NXT, and 7 sample songs. An enhanced version of the game on the new CD 65 Fun Projects for your LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT allows full authoring and editing of songs on your Windows-based PC using a custom graphical editor. In the PC editor, you simply press keys on the keyboard while listenting to the music to "record" a song, then you can go back and edit/tweak it with the keyboard and mouse.

Also included with the CD version is full source code for the NXT game and NXT song recorder (in NXC) and source code for the PC song editor (in C/C++), so experienced C programmers can try making their own modifications to the game or the editor. Advanced NXT programmers can also use the source code as a way to start getting exposed to some NCX or C programming.

Building instructions are currently posted for NXT 1.0. I also have an NXT 2.0 version built and will post instructions for that as soon as I have time. I will also post a new video when I get a chance, for now here is a link to the preview video posted earlier.
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