Mar 29, 2011

Line Following Tutorial

Here's a short and informative tutorial to creating a line following robot. This is a lot simpler than most PID control Line Followers, and still a lot smoother than simple Switch (left-right) Line Followers.

Thanks for sharing Stefan!

Mar 27, 2011

Kinect + Mindstorms

The Microsoft Kinect is a controller that sits on your XBOX and allows you to play games without having to hold any controller at all. The cameras inside can pick up all your body movements and translate them into actions.

Naturally hackers all over the world thought this shouldn't be confined just to the XBOX and so have been modifying it to run on countless other applications. Rasomuro decided that it would be great for controlling a NXT robot.

In his hack, he controls the robot by 'pretending' to move two levers. The Kinect picks up the body movements and translates them into commands for the NXT.

More info on his page -

via - KinectHacks

Damien Kee

Vision based LEGO sorter

Most LEGO sorters rely on things like colour and possibly raw size to differentiate. This one by Akiyuki uses a webcam combined with a set of digital scales to do some fantastic vision recognition. It's a little bit slow, but I love the two-stage conveyor belt which does an excellent job of isolating different LEGO pieces.

The nice thing about this particular setup, it that with just a change in software, you could sort all manner of objects, LEGO, candy, small toys, nuts/bolts etc.

Damien Kee

Mar 24, 2011

Great Ball Contraption

I'm a huge fan of these and love all the different ways they use to move around the LEGO basketballs and footballs (soccer balls).  The idea is that as long as there is a predefined 'entry' point and 'exit' point for the balls, people from different areas (cities even countries) can build their machines and then bring them all together in one location and make it work (with a bit of tweaking)

This gathering has 93 modules in total (apparently a world record) and was on display at LEGOWorld Copenhagen 2011.  Whilst the majority of modules us PowerFunctions or the older train sets to move the balls, I did spot a few NXT's in the mix.  It's a long video, but well worth the watch, especially if, like me, you're interested in all different types of LEGO mechanisms.

Damien Kee

Mar 23, 2011

Pneumatic Snatcher

Xander over at 'I'd rather be building robots' has made a nice modification to Laurens' 'Snatcher' robot.  He added pneumatic valves to operate both the gripper and lifter, and used the Mindsensors and Dexter sensors to control all the fiddly parts.

More details (including pics) -

Damien Kee

Mar 16, 2011

Invitation from Tufts

Received the following which may be of interest to many of our readers:

The Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) invites you to the 5th annual LEGO Engineering Symposium May 24-26, 2011 at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, USA.
The LEGO Engineering Symposium aims to bring together educators and other stakeholders that want to explore using LEGO MINDSTORMS to teach STEM concepts. This year's symposium's theme is Pushing the Envelope of STEM Learning.

Speakers will include researchers in science & engineering education, leading K-12 teachers, maverick Mindstorms users, and other folks pushing the boundaries of technologies for supporting STEM education.
We will be offering six development labs this year:
I. Seeing the Science/Engineering in Children's Thinking.
II. Integrating Engineering & Literacy.
III. SAM (Stop Action Movie Making) - Tools for Children to Create Representations of their Ideas.
IV. Labview Education Edition - The Next Generation of Programming.
V. Supporting the Development of Engineering Design Skills in K-12.
VI. Physics Glasses: Augmented Reality and Other Fun Things with Image Analysis
Development labs are an opportunity for participants to learn, discuss, and develop ideas. They are different than traditional workshops in that participants spend time discussing and developing ideas that can inform classroom practice as well as product development. This year we are asking participants to pre-select the development labs they wish to participate in so that we can better plan materials and resources. All development labs will share an overview of their activities and findings on the final day of the conference.
Registration is now Open! Space is limited to 100 participants - so register early.
for more information and registration.
We hope to see you there!
- Faculty, Staff and Students of CEEO

Mar 15, 2011

A message from our friend, Yoshihito

Hi Jim, and all on the NXT STEP,

Thanks for your messages. My family and I are all OK.

However, many people (probably over 15,000 people) were hit by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunamis on March 11. I feel enormous sadness. Aftershocks still continue from Friday's quake in northeast Japan.

Now I am anxious about the nuclear power plants. And Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency continue to be trying to avoid the worst case.
The Tokyo electric company started rolling blackouts yesterday in order to save electricity, because the nuclear power plants stop. Commuting is a problem as metros and trains run on irregular and reduced schedules.

We would lead an inconvenient life for a while. But we would be able to spend happy time if there are Lego bricks with us. At first, I will begin to rebuild my Lego creations which were fallen from the shelves and broken apart. (^_^)

Finally, I would like to say thank you to all of your warm messages via the Internet. And the Japanese feel grateful to the rescue teams coming from USA and many other countries. Thanks so much!

I pray for health of all of you.

Yoshihito Isogawa from Tokyo, Japan

SXSW NXT Hackathon

Where do you get when you merge a bunch of hackers with LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT robots at the South by Southwest Music and Film Festival in Austin, Texas?
Have a look:

Mar 13, 2011

Flying NXT Airship

So here's is something that I consider one the most fascinating NXT creations of the last years: C5, the Flying NXT Blimp.
Two danish students, Lasse and Kenneth, created it for the LEGOWORLD Copenhagen 2011 where they managed to actually get it flying, controlling it remotely. They even attached a camera to it, shooting movies and photos from above:


You can get more details on their web site,

Besides, the movie is also hosted on the official LEGO MINDSTORMS site.

Great Book for Budding Inventors

I try to limit my number of non-NXT-related posts, but I'm so impressed with this new book that I have to share a bit about it.

The book is called "Making Things Move" by Dustyn R0berts. Dustyn is an engineer who also manages to teach non-engineers about design using non-techie language. She has been teaching a class at NYU called "Mechanisms and Things That Move" and the book is based on that class.

While many of the concepts in the book do require some math skills and the language/style of the writing isn't geared towards the 8-12 age group, the concepts by themselves are explained fairly easily and in simple language that I believe most kids will be able to follow (or at least spark enough curiosity to hunt down a parent or teacher to ask for help). Starting out with a good discussion on the 6 basic types of machines - lever, pulley, wheel and axle, inclined plane/wedges, screws, and gears - it just gets even better from there.

She covers:

* materials
* Fastening techniques
* Friction and Torque (I learned a LOT in this chapter)
* Power/Work/Energy
* Types of motors and how to control them
* Bearings, couplers, etc...
* way much more...

10 chapters in all, with projects galore to test what you've learned... it's an outstanding book. (She even throws in a breadboard and Arduino summary/primer in the back of the book.)

With lots of photos and great hand sketches, this book would make a great gift to any budding engineer, tinkerer, robot fanatic, and/or DIYer. I read it in a few days and am amazed at the amount of information packed into this book.

Mar 11, 2011

Earthquake in Japan

Please keep Yoshihito Isogawa (五十川芳仁) and the residents of Japan in your thoughts and prayers today. News on the earthquake in Japan (an 8.9) is just now coming in and the scenes on television are horrible.

Yoshihito is the author of the Green/Red/Blue books and more...

UPDATE: I received an email from Yoshihito's wife telling me they are both okay, but while writing the email, she said another quake was happening.

Mar 9, 2011

MINDSTORMS NXT battle tank (video)

You might remember a pair of photos I posted some while ago. I finally had some time to shoot and edit a video. This is a demonstration video, more information on how it works coming soon!
The video should explain itself. More video material is coming!
I will post other information soon about specific aspects/parts of the machine (track system, gun, electronics, etc.) Please let me know about what you want to know more!
Special thanks to mindsensors.

Mar 7, 2011

LEGO WORLD Copenhagen, DK -- by NeXTSTORM




I'm happy to present NeXTSTORM's latest video and his amazingly fun LEGOWORLD Copenhagen project,  NXT Soccer with Helmets !!


Cheap, small Bluetooth dongle

Find an updated list of NXT compatible Bluetooth Dongles here.

Recently I asked our readers to share their experiences with Bluetooth dongles. I received an email today with a reader response which I would like to share.

The "Super Mini Bluetooth 2.0 Adapter Dongle", as found on this webpage, costs just $1.80. Best of all, there's free shipping worldwide.

I've heard good feedback about this website, except that shipping may take a little while. After all, it's free.

The reader reported that the dongle worked fine with windows 7 and NXT-G, but as mentioned in the other post, it may work just fine with other systems as well. If anyone would like to try this out and let us know what you think, that would be great!

Mar 2, 2011

Lift off for

Today, the new web site has lift off. It's a cooperation of The LEGO® Group with the NASA and features videos, images, links and other resources centered around space activities, mainly the Space Shuttle.
Have a look and do not miss to move your mouse over the floating astronaut...

Control your NXT by voice

The people of Roberta, the German project aiming to interest girls for sciences by using robotics, have created a cool new mobile app for Android, called "NXT speech control":
"With 'NXT Speech Control' you are able to control your NXT robot over voice commands. With this app you just have to fill in your commands e.g. 'hurry up', 'go away', 'hide' to the prepared nxt-commands (forward, backward, left, right) and then choose the speed and distance."
Great stuff! Check it out and tell us about your experiences.

Mar 1, 2011

Walking Biped

Long-time Blog reader 222Doc has been working on his biped for quite a while now.

This latest version is looking fantastic and has a very natural and fluid feel to it.

Damien Kee

Take the LEGO Mindstorms 2011 Survey

Help the LEGO MINDSTORMS team understand more about how you use gadgets and online devices as part of your everyday life. This anonymous survey takes only a couple of minutes, and provides us with valuable information about how young people spend their time, both online and with friends.

Click Here to jump to post on LEGO Mindstorms NEWS site

The 15-question survey is in English only.

Thank you for your help!


(oh yes and please note: I noticed the submit button is in Danish (oups).. if once you press it you see some text in a foreign language... It means Thanks, you're done :)
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