Sep 30, 2010

New sensors by HiTechnic: Angle and Magnetic

HiTechnic, one of the most active providers of 3rd party sensors for LEGO® MINDSTORMS, has published two new sensors: the Angle and the Magnetic sensor.

Similar to the rotation sensor built into the NXT servo motors, the angle sensor measures axle rotation position and rotation speed; while the rotation sensor is located on the motor's axle, though, the angle sensor  can be directly attached to the axle in question, hence does not suffer from inaccuracies that arise from friction or gear slopes. It thus is apt to be more reliable on models where this is a critical factor.
Another very nice feature is that it keeps measuring the angle even when unplugged or not powered; so there's no need for re-calibration between power cycles.

The magnetic sensor is a single-axis magnetometer and is able to detect and measure magnetic fields that exist around the sensor.

Sep 29, 2010


As many of you may have noticed, is gone :(
Please read below some important news received today!

Sadly, it looks like the forums on have gone down for good.  Several attempts to contact the site owner have gone unanswered.  The hosting company,, refuses to respond to inquiries or offers of payment from anyone other than the site owner.
In order to provide a more stable source for the kind of LEGO MINDSTORMS discussions that the nxtasy forums were known for, a group of concerned nxtasy forum users have come together to create a new site.  The new site is  It is hosted on the sourceforge website in association with the newly created mindboards project.  On the sourceforge side the early planning involves posting source and binaries for many different LEGO MINDSTORMS tools, such as the enhanced NBC/NXC firmware code (C), Dave Baum's and my latest NQC source code (C++), some of my cross-platform tools for the NXT (Free Pascal/Lazarus), and tools for iPhone OS and Android. 
The forums are in need of users and content.  They are the primary reason for the new site.  We will continue to try to acquire much of the existing nxtasy forum content, if at all possible, and make it available somehow from  Along with the forums we have options for a blog, a wiki page, as well as the delivery of sourcecode and pre-built tools via the sourceforge SVN repositorys and file management system.  What we need most right now is your input, feedback, and participation.  If you know someone who is missing the forums please spread the word.  We hope that it will be a suitable replacement.
Later tonight or tomorrow redirects should be functional for the following urls:
Thanks for listening and my apologies for the unsolicited email.
John Hansen

NXT-ans at HET Instrument

At the big Industrial fair "Het Instrument" in the RAI in the Netherlands is currently one of the underwater excavator models on show.

NI shows their product range and also they have a price contest to win a NXT2.0 box.

(picture by J. Pieters)

Sep 26, 2010

NXT 2.0 Discovery Book - Give away contest

The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book has been out for a few months, and many people around the globe have already got their hands on a copy. Do you have a copy yet?

To spark your MINDSTORMS enthusiasm, I am happy to announce the start of a book contest, with prizes!

The Goal

Find YouTube videos that are related to 'The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book'.

For example, find videos that show one or more of the book's robots in action, or find video book reviews. Make a list of links to as many appropriate videos that you can find, and submit them as follows. The contestant who sends in most links wins the contest.

The Prizes

The three best submissions by contestants who already have the book will receive one of the following prizes:

  • 1st prize: Custom 'Power Functions' pack including:
    • PF battery box
    • PF LED lights
    • 2 Medium PF motors
    • 2 Linear Actuators
  • 2nd prize:
    • MINDSTORMS NXT Sound Sensor
  • 3rd prize:
    • MINDSTORMS NXT Light Sensor

The five best submissions by contestants who do not yet have the book will each receive:

  • One free copy of 'The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book'.
Rules and more information:

You can find information about the rules and how to take part on the
book's companion website.

Sep 25, 2010

First LEGO League Apps - Part 3

Another FLL app has appeared, this one from Brian over at Their Body Forward Scorecard is for the iPhone and iPad, and you can read more details here.

[Note: I'm going to try and get an iPad screenshot up shortly - having difficulty synching my iPad with iTunes right now - not the apps fault... mine!]

From the website:

This scoring app is simply beautiful. Start the timer, place a check by each completed mission, and the score is calculated instantly. You can read up on mission specifics and see mission models without interrupting your run. Allows you to track your team's progress with the Score History feature that automatically saves scores and individual mission accomplishments to an easy to view, and easy to email format.

  • Simple and intuitive user interface
  • Score your runs instantly
  • Observes exact scoring requirements for the Body Forward Challenge
  • Detailed overview and photos of each mission
  • Countdown timer to time your run
  • Audible alarm with 10 second countdown at end of run
  • Automatically saves details of your run to Score History
  • Keep track of your team's progress with the Score History function
  • Email details of any run from your Score History all without leaving the app
  • Beautiful Retina Display graphics
For all 3 apps we've covered so far, we'd love to hear feedback from our readers on their experiences using these scoring apps. And, of course, please let the developers know what you think so they can continue to update/fix bugs and add improvements.

Thanks, Brian!

NXT Quad Track Tank

While reading the Eurobricks forum I came across this

More photos are available in the original posting.

Over on Eurobricks they have a forum "LEGO Technic, Mindstorms & Model Team" Which is a good source for Technic construction and NXT ideas.

The complete description (from the post) is..

NXT controlled robot tank which automatically searches for targets and attacks, while evades large obstacles.

Main components include: one NXT brick, three servo motors, one ultrasonic sensor, one light sensor and one touch sensor.

All loading wheels have individual suspension. Two propulsion motors are located in front part and driving power is being transmitted to rear tracks via two Technic Universal Joint 3L. The front and rear parts are linked in a flexible and stable way.

Programming platform is NXT-G.

This is a very impressive and small NXT controlled ROBOT tank, just shows what can be done with a little time and imagination.



If Life Gives You LEGO®, Build ROBOTS!

Sep 21, 2010

I've received a handful of emails about being redirected to a domain holding site and asked if I know anything about it. I've emailed a few people involved with the blog to see what's going on and will pass along anything I find out. I know a lot of NXT fans are nervous about the forum at Nxtasy not being available - let's just be patient and see what's going on... it could be a simple technical error that's forcing the domain to resolve elsewhere.

Of course, if anyone knows what's happened and can share with me, please email me the details and I'll be glad to post them here later as an update.

NXT Spider

Fantastic looking spider. Looks like 4 PF motors each controlling 2 legs. Nice natural looking movement turning and going forward.

Damien Kee

Sep 20, 2010

First LEGO League Apps - Part 2

On the iPad/iPhone front, Sachin Patel has created a new app for the FLL Body Forward (click the link for details or serach for FLL Body Forward Scorer in iTunes) competition. Here are his details, along with some screenshots I took of the app on my iPad:

FLL Body Forward Scorer lets you score, time, and email your First Lego League Body Forward runs quickly and intuitively on your iPhone or iPod touch. It's $0.99 from the Apple App Store.

From Sachin: As far as the Robotic Sensitivity picture bug and the Game Q&A linking to last year's website, as well as a bug that occurs with resetting sometimes, I've already fixed those and submitted an update to Apple that should be available in about a week.You don't have to delete the app when you're finished! :)

The app is optimized for both iPhone and iPad, as well as the iPhone 4 retina display, without the need to purchase separate copies.

I ran the app... works great. When the timer gets down to 10 seconds, a beeping happens and then when time is up a distinctive buzzer alerts the scorer. Sachin has built in links to the Q&A and Project details provided by FIRST. And, as with all good app developers, Sachin is responding quickly to requests for bug fixes and requests for improving the app.

Thanks to Sachin for creating a nice looking app!

First LEGO League Apps - Part 1

Received the following from Cory Sawyer:

I’m a 3rd year coach of a Charter School hosted team in Massachusetts. I’ve created a web-browser application and an Android phone application for scoring this year’s FLL robot challenge table and would love to see people using it!

Here are some details:

FLL Scoring app for web browsers and droid phones

The web version is available at This version is capable of being used online if you’re fortunate enough to have a web connection in your practice area, or if like me, there is no internet connection where you practice, you can download a local copy and use it while not connected to the web.

The android version is available in the android market, at this address

You can also just search for “Cory Sawyer” or “FLL”.

The Body Forward Score Keeper Includes:

  • No Cost (Free)
  • Built-in 2:30 timer with 10 second audible countdown and alarm
  • Per Task Score
  • Per Task Help
  • Table Total Score
  • Send score via email, text, or ...
  • Available in :
    • English
    • Danish
    • German
    • Spanish
    • French
    • Italian
    • Hebrew (coming soon)
    • More on request
If any of our readers have any feedback for Cory, please share it here or email him directly. The online app looks cool, but I'm not running a droid device at the moment... thanks to Cory for developing this and letting us know about it!

Sep 19, 2010

Finding a ball

For my actual project, a soccer-playing NXT robot, I've started with a prototype that is capable of finding a ball that broadcasts infrared signals; on that behalf it uses the IR Seeker Sensor by HiTechnic :

The programmed with leJOS NXJ, the Java platform for LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT; working with it again revealed to me how powerful and elegant, yet easy to use leJOS has become by now.

Sep 16, 2010

Body Forward Resources from TechBrick

Scoring sheets for the 2010-2011 FLL Body Forward competition are now available over at TechBrick - check them out and be sure to give Marco feedback!

(He's also looking to provide the sheets in some additional languages - German, Spanish, Thai, Dutch, and English are available, but he's looking for more language conversions.)

Sep 14, 2010

LabVIEW 2010

In August, National Instruments, the provider of NXT-G, the LEGO®-official programming language for the NXT, has announced an new version of LabVIEW, the powerful robot programming platform that also is the base of NXT-G.

According to NI, LabVIEW 2010 software (which also allows for programming the NXT) features
"an improved back-end compiler that generates optimized machine code, increasing your application's run-time execution up to 20 percent. Additionally, LabVIEW 2010 tackles top support issues with streamlined software installation, Web-based hardware configuration, and in-product searching while incorporating features based on direct user feedback to make your programming easier."

Read more on the news page of NI and have a look at the new webcast on LabVIEW 2010.

Sep 12, 2010

Sep 11, 2010

NXT "Robots Alive" Book Available for iPad

The full-color book is now in Apple's iBookstore, and can be downloaded via iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. More information about the paperback and EPUB versions of the book is available here.

Information about Apple's iBookstore is here. For Dave Parker's excellent post on using the iPad for building instructions, go here.

Sep 10, 2010

"My Blocks" Tutorial Available

The standard NXT-G programming system for the NXT includes a feature called "My Blocks" that lets you create your own custom programming blocks. This is especially useful when developing complex programs, so that you can build up more complex actions from simpler actions that you can re-use. Although creating a simple My Block is not hard, it gets trickier to make more complex and more useful ones, and there are a number of practical concerns.

For anyone wanting to learn more about My Blocks, I have posted this web tutorial, which starts at the basics and works up to more complex uses, including input and output parameters, simulating local variables, and various practical concerns such as testing and maintenance.

Sep 9, 2010

Computing gear ratios

When building complex robots, one of the common needs is to compute the ratio of gearings in order to exactly tune the interaction of the movable parts of your machine. With all the different gears around and the sheer number of possible combinatioins, this is not always a trivial task.

Yesterday, though, I ran over a most wonderful web page by Sariel, a LEGO® aficionado from Poland well-known for his sophisticated TECHNIC inventions. Amongst other things, the page allows to select any combination of TECHNIC gears and displays the resulting gear ratio.

Great stuff and most helpful indeed!

Try it out (and do not forget to browse also the other intriguing pages of Sariel's web page).

Sep 7, 2010

Making Music with the NXT

Making Music with the NXT is the simplest, most interesting NXT book I own. The instruments in it can be built with any NXT kit—including the Education version. That, alone, made the book stand out! (See video here.)

The thing is, it's not just an NXT book; it's an integration of mathematics and science with music, and it's done in a way that almost anyone could understand. I'd expect this book to be particularly popular with teachers and home school parents; but anyone interested in music and the NXT would find it a good buy.

The basic striker is so simple that my three-year-old granddaughter can enjoy playing with it. (Notice, I said playing with it. Even my brilliant granddaughter should not be left alone to "build" with an NXT kit.)

The trumpet is so cool, that a "kid" of any age will enjoy using it.

For my money, it's $16 well spent.

Sep 2, 2010

Winners of MoonBots contest announced

Remember the MoonBots contest LEGO ® was hosting together with Google?

The contest is finished now and the winners have been announced, with the Landroids having made the first place.

Congratulations to all teams!

Do not miss to to read the funny "Special recognition awards" on the page and to watch the videos on the teams' web sites. :)

Updates to NXT Repository

David Perdue has made some updates to the NXT book list - you can check out the entire site by clicking here.

If you know of any books not on the list, do let David know so he can keep the list current.

Sep 1, 2010

Recently Announced: Robots Using ROS: Lego NXT

Willow Garage seems to be a really cool place to work at -- if you remember the video of the PR2 robot fetching a cold one from the fridge you'll know what i mean -- and with the recently announced NXT-ROS software stack, based on NXT-Python, their days now include playing with LEGO Mindstorms!  Check out the recent announcement here:

Willow Garage recently announced that it designed code to link the popular Lego Mindstorms NXT to the formidable Robot Operating System (ROS)

Once a robot is connected to ROS, you can start running applications such as the base controller, wheel odometry, keyboard/joystick teleoperation, and even assisted teleoperation using the ROS navigation stack. The NXT-ROS software stack includes a number of example robot models for users to play with and to get a feel for using NXT with ROS.
One part that caught my attention is the use of  LEGO LDD files in ROS’s 3D visualization display.

If any of you have tried out this package please come back here and comment about your experience :)

Please see the nxt page on the ROS wiki for documentation, demos, and more. The developers would like to thank the nxt-python project for support and development.


LEGO Technic Tora no Maki

While reading another one of my favorite LEGO web sites (TechnicBRICKs blog) I came across a discussion and link to an interesting PDF and books. The books are not strictly NXT related, but they do contain some very interesting construction techniques. All are elements described are very simple but can be included in more complex devices.

The books are available for pre order on Amazon and Isogawa Yoshihito still has a wonderful 200 page PDF available for only $10.

I downloaded the PDF, looked through it and immediately went to PayPal and paid the $10 he was asking. It is a free download and there are no restrictions on the content, but I suggest if you download it, like it and intend to keep it, please pay for it! This will encourage him and others to continue to publish books in this format. I like PDF format books as they are usually in full color and very portable (I can read on my laptop or iPad).

I hope to see more books on both NXT and non-NXT topics available in PDF format.

The link to his site and PDF is:


Andy Dannelley

If life gives you LEGO®, build ROBOTS
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