Jun 30, 2010

Carnegie Mellon Sale

I haven't visited the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy website in quite a while, and I noticed they are having a sale at their robotics store. I have no idea how long it will last—or how long it's already been advertised.

Jun 25, 2010

This weekend: Fana'Briques 2010

It's time again for the annual Fana'Briques event!

Fana'Briques is one of the largest LEGO® events in Central Europe; it takes place tomorrow and on Sunday (26/27th of June) in Rosheim, Alsace (France).
This year, the topic is "LEGO® in space"; consequently, I will take part with two "NXTronauts" that can collect "moon" rock cuttings and drive around on a NXT "moon car".

So if you are still looking for a weekend's occupation or always wanted to visit France anyway: Fana'Briques 2010 is a good opportunity for that.

As an appetizer, have a look at a video on last year's event.

Jun 22, 2010


Arno, A.K.A. “legoasimo” is working on a Biped that reminds me of the Bioloid. The monster MOC is controlled by three NXTs running NXC tethered out of sight. He has filled this bot with fourteen motors and ten sensors and done a spectacular job cramming it all into a small package.

The robot shifts his weight using its upper body weight along with its arms, which gives it a natural anthropomorphic look. Arno tells me that he is done building the robot, but plans to keep working on the software to make it walk. This video is basically a “proof of concept” and I think he has proven his concept will work quite nicely. He also tells me that there will be more videos, so stayed tuned.

You can see more pictures at his flickr site.

National Robotics Competition - Update

Now that the “You’ve Got Mail” National Robotics Competition is under way, CyberKids Robotics is making the competition mat and LEGO field set up kit available for purchase. They still have some slots available if teams want to compete. Robotics teams can order the competition mat and LEGO field kit from their website www.cyberkidsrobotics.com.

Looks like fun... readers, if you're participating, let us know what you think. We'd also love some guest blog posts about the experience!

Jun 21, 2010

LEGO NXT Pinball Machine

Big NXT project made in Canada inspired by one of The NXT Step contributor's project dating back in the RCX time...

The Lego NXT Pinball machine, built by Mark Gryn of the School of Computer Science, University of Windsor and Michael, an 11th grade student who is participating in a co-op program at the University of Windsor is pretty impressive creation.  It uses 6 NXT's, 9 touch sensors, 10 light sensors and 4 motors along with over 8000 LEGO bricks!

Read the full story here, where you can download instructions, NXT-G program and learn among other things that, (and I quote) "The inspiration for this Lego NXT Pinball machine came from a machine built by Gerrit Bronsveld & Martijn Boogaarts.  Their machine was built back in 2005 using the old version of the Lego robots known as RCX." 
If you want to know more on the project that inspired this LEGO Mindstorms pinball machine be sure to review the article on PinballNews.com 

Anyway Update

Based on feedback from NXT users, I have updated the programming instructions for the Anyway robot on my website. I have also updated the program. If you couldn't get your Segway to balance the first time you tried, please try again with the new program and the new instructions. More feedback is always welcome.

Jun 18, 2010

NXT-G Programming Guide, 2nd Edition Release

I got my author copies today of the NXT-G Programming Guide, 2nd Edition... final page count is 309... over 100 pages more than the 1st Edition. The trick with this book was to keep the content relevant for both 1.0 and 2.0 owners but also to provide discussion of the new features in 2.0. Since well over 90% (maybe even 95%) of the 1.0 tools, blocks, and features are still included in 2.0, this wasn't too difficult.

When the 1st edition was released, the CAD software options for NXT pieces was still fairly limited so the building instructions for the test robot (SPOT) were provided as a separate download of photographed building steps. Not anymore... Chris Smith did a great job of providing a CAD set of building instructions that provides steps for both 1.0 and 2.0 kit owners... the only difference is the size of the rubber wheels. These instructions are in the back of the book with the appendices.

Another request I had from many readers (mainly teachers) was extra programming tasks - at the end of almost every chapter, you'll now find an Exercise that provides a written description of a program to be created that involves that chapter's block(s) and previous chapters' blocks. My solutions are provided at the end of each chapter with screenshots of the entire program along with individual screen shots of each block's configuration panel. I'm also assembling all the Exercise .rbt files for download on the Apress website...

I've created a forum area for questions and discussion about the book. I've also fixed errors that made it through into the 1st edition, but that's no guarantee you won't find new ones... if you do find any, please post them over at the book's special forum section as well. You can find that forum area by clicking here or visiting the Book section of the forum.

Jun 13, 2010

NXTitzki: new NXT 2.0 bonus model on LEGO.com MINDSTORMS

From the official MINDSTORMS site, there's a new NXT 2.0 bonus model available: NXTitzki, a basketball-playing NXT robot that is named after Dirk Nowitzki, a famous German NBA player.

NXTitzki can either be remotely controlled by a player or run autonomously, using the Ultrasonic sensor for obstacle detection and the feet-mounted color sensor for line detection (which allows for interesting navigation strategies and pitch setups).
When using more than one instance, nice matches and tournaments can be devised, so it might prove an attractive model for classroom activities also.

It was designed, built and filmed by me; feel free to visit the associated page at my NXT web site.

Jun 12, 2010

Monster Chess

So there's been something in the works for Brickworld for some time now, and I thought I'd share it here (because, (a) I really want to, and (b) not everybody can make it to Brickworld, where it will be displayed). Steve Hassenplug has been working with a large group of folks to make a rather... big... robotic game. Tic-Tac-Toe & Connect-Four were impressive, but in the interest of something off the supersize menu, I give you...

Monster Chess

The idea is simple - a chess game where you can play against the computer. But the implementation here is what's truely monster about it. Each piece is its own autonomous robot, and there are actually a couple of 'spares' (as well as NXTs built into the King & Queen), so that ends up with 38 separate NXTs that must be controlled, commanded, and communicated with. Ron McRae did the bulk of the software work on the PC end for this, and it realy works well. The board has squares based on the large LEGO baseplates, making the entire assembly roughly 12' on a side. On top of that is a way to input the humans moves, and a laptop running chess software and helping make everything move smoothly. Even the pieces can be changed out if one starts having battery issues, and they can be easily modified with different "bodies" so the robot "bases" underneath are really interchangable (the "body" designs were done primarily by John Brost, who managed to make some truely iconic designs out of a minimum of parts). Really, I could talk about it a lot... but a descent video beats my ramblings hands-down:

If you can make it to Brickworld, stop be and enjoy it... and if you can't make it to Brickworld, browse Steve's Monster Chess webpage and take a look at the videos there and the descriptions. With more than 100,000 pieces and 32+ NXTs, it's probably not commercially viable... but it is awesome to watch.

Brian Davis

Jun 10, 2010

NXT Blog in English & Spanish

ElectricBricks.com is a NXT-related blog that provides content in both English and Spanish. You can check it out by clicking here...

Daniel, one of the contributors says "we cover, mostly, programming and technical tutorials of any kind related with LEGO, Technic and Mindstorms NXT."

Jun 8, 2010

Dexter Industries Contest!

Received an email this morning from Dexter Industries about a new contest... The dFlex Sensor is an interesting idea... and definitely unique to the NXT's 3rd party products. Check out the rules below:

Win a Free dFlex Sensor!The dFlex has landed! To celebrate the dFlex release, we’re offering three ways to get your robotic hands on one of these sensors:

Get it now: obviously, the quickest way is to go to the dFlex page, and buy it.

Our Twitter-thon: Follow us on twitter and retweet the message: The dFlex has landed!; I want a #dFlex for Lego Mindstorms NXT by @dexterind http://dexterindustries.com/contest.html; You're automatically entered to win a free dFlex. That's it: all you have to do is follow our twitter feed and retweet the message. We’ll randomly pick a tweet, and tweet the winner of our twitter contest on June 18th on our twitter feed.

Our Facebook contest: You can enter to win a free dFlex and Dexter Industries T-Shirt! Just tell us how you'll use the dFlex. Post a quick description of your idea on our messageboard here (two sentences or more about how it works, what it would do) about a design or creation you’d use the dFlex for. With the help of our judges, we’ll pick the most creative idea and send you a free dFlex. Make your creation and we’ll put a video and pictures of it on our website and Facebook page!We will announce the winner of the Facebook contest on June 18th on our Facebook Fan Page.

Problem Solving - Adam Savage Method

If you've got an hour to spare, check out Adam Savage's speech from Maker Faire 2010 in California. He talks about problem solving - specifically HIS methodology - and while listening to it, all I could think was that this was a perfect methodology for robot design.

Some of the talking points may not necessarily fit with NXT robot design or programming (such as budget issues or location - or maybe they do!)... but I think you'll get the picture. He's provides a very organized list of questions to ask yourself as well as reminders for when you're deep in a project.

The entire thing is fun to watch, especially if you're a MythBusters fan, but if you don't have the time, skip to part 3 and watch it and part 4... definitely worth the time.

Jun 7, 2010

Natural looking biped

Most bipeds walk in a halting, stilted manner. This one has a more natural feel, with the legs being swung out and the feet touching down far more gently.

Yes I know it's being held up by string, but boy does it look good!

Damien Kee

Jun 5, 2010

Real Sized NXT scooter

Ok, some people have too much time on their hands!

Tetrix base, NXT brains

I can't see what motors are driving the scooter, but he's using LEGO NXT motors as joysticks

Damien Kee

R/C Boat

This is a fantastic looking boat that is controlled by a NXT. From what I can tell from the Brickshelf photos, steering is done with a NXT motor and the dual props are controlled by the NXT via some PowerFunctions motors.

I love the pneumatic tubing that gives the boat some shape. The boat is controlled by a mobile phone via Bluetooth.

More (italian) info here - hobbymedia.it/24101/lego-nxt-rc-boat-barca-radiocomandata-con-mindstorms-nxt

Damien Kee

via Make

Jun 4, 2010

CAD-use Video Series

Not really robot-related, but I'd like to point readers to a new and interesting series that SolidWorks is sponsoring - Let's Go Design.

So far, only the first video is out, but I think you'll get a hint of what's to come - the video is short, so you're not going to see a lot of design theory, but you are getting to see what SolidWorks is capable of and a bit of how it works. I'm curious to see where this Ultimate CAD Chair project goes...

Who knows? Maybe we can convince the Let's Go Design team to try designing the Ultimate NXT Robotics Obstacle Course, build it, and bring it to WorldFest next year?

Jun 3, 2010

NXT 2.0 Discovery Book - companion website

The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book now has a companion website with additional information about the book, downloadable programs, hints & solutions to solve the "Discoveries" as well as updates. You can go to the website using this link.

German radio show on LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT

On Tuesday, a one hour's radio show about LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT was broadcast by a German station, mainly containing an interview with the author of this very post.
The podcast for listening to it can now be downloaded from here.

It's in German, but some of our readers may understand that language.
For the others, it might be the last impetus to learn it ... ;)

Jun 2, 2010

Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio completely free of charge now

Microsoft has announced that its Robotics Developer Studio, which allows for programming and (remotely) controlling also LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT robots using C# or Visual Basic, will be completely free of charge from now on.
In the past, there have been three different versions, two of which with commercial licenses liable to pay costs.
These versions have been united to a single one now that can be downloaded and used without charge.

Jun 1, 2010

A new way to program the NXT?

Received an interesting email from Clinton at Sabre Robotics asking "[what] if you could program an NXT robot with code sort of like this":

sample scratch script for Chelonius

It's a very interesting read - check out the entire writeup here. Best of all, if you've got any interest in helping with the development of this project, the team would love to have your help and feedback. Clinton does state, however, that "I don't want to raise false hopes -- what I have right now is really only useable and extendable by someone comfortable with doing a little work in leJOS."

If you are interested, contact sabre.robotics@gmail.com - you're also asked to take a look at the follow-up article here.

AnyWay -- Build a Segway in 30 minutes

Last Saturday, I blogged about a Segway programmed in NXT-G. Many NXT Segways out there work very well, but they're hard to get to work with common tools software. Therefore, I decided to create a step-by-step tutorial to making your own Segway with simple tools. All you need is Any version of the NXT set (Hence AnyWay), plus the HiTechnic Gyro Sensor. The tutorial can be found here, and a video of the robot is shown below.

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