Jun 29, 2011

NXT 2.0 Discovery Book - back in stock

The NXT 2.0 Discovery Book has been out of stock on Amazon for a few weeks, but I'm happy to report that it's available again.

If you get a copy, don't hesitate to tell me about your experiences with the book! Just leave a comment, a review or write to me in an email.

Jun 28, 2011

Brickworld 2011

Brickworld 2011 has recently wrapped up in Chicago.

Our very own Shep won the 'Best Mechanical' build for his awesome Flexpicker.

(video by Nannan Z.)

You can read all about the flexpicker here, as well as all the fine details about how it was put together etc.

Theo Jansen inspired robot

Guest Post from Oschoe.  Not strictly an NXT robot, but as it uses PowerFunction motors and receivers it wouldn't be difficult to automate it!

I am fascinated with designing and building mechanisms that move, favorably without the use of wheels... I love stepping, folding, rotating, walking, jumping, flying and squirming mechanisms that move. This blog shows one of my tries in building a bot moving in an unorthodox way...
When I started actually building my designs I looked around for easily available, reusable components with sufficient technical components and controller possibilities and I ran into the LEGO Mindstorms series. After a few try-outs I started building simple multi-legs steppers with synchronized leg-movement. If you are interested; check my youtube channel

The design
A while ago I ran into the moving artwork by a Dutch artist named Theo Jansen, "het strandbeest". After re-watching the various (mostly lousy quality) movies on the web I decided to take the basics of the design and build my own version of a walking-bot.

The build
I started off with a very simple drawing of the legs and the motion required. After some trial and error with the ratio's of the legs I managed to get the basic movement just right. After collecting enough of the right pieces  I tried to build a 6legged version but getting that to run stable proved difficult. I decided to add two more legs and that made it run much more smooth. After a couple of runs of the 8-legged version it was obvious the legs did not have enough grip on the surface of the test area (my table :-)) I added 'feet'; the parts touching the surface are made of rubber and that did the trick.

For anyone interested in more building details ; check the 'stills' halfway the movie for hints.

Jun 27, 2011

Blog Upgrade

Don't panic!

If you've come looking for theNXTstep.com, with all the latest and greatest news about the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, you are still in the right place.

We've updated the look of the blog and will be introducing some new features in the next week or so.  Stay tuned!!!

Dexter Industries - Thermal Infrared Sensor

Dexter Industries have just released their latest sensor for the NXT, the Thermal Infrared Sensor.

From their webpage -
The Dexter Industries Thermal Infrared Sensor reads surface temperatures of objects. It is a non-contact thermometer based on the MLX90614. Detecting the infrared radiation from an object, the sensor can read object temperatures between -90°F and 700°F (-70°C and +380°C). The sensor has a high accuracy of 0.5°C and a resolution of 0.02°C. 
The Thermal Infrared Sensor reads both the ambient temperature (the temperature of the air around the sensor) and the surface temperature of the object that the sensor is pointed towards. 
The sensor can detect a flame at a range of 2 meters.

Xander has already done some cool things with his sensor, and I've just received mine, so stay tuned for a post about how I've tested it out.

How would you use this sensor?  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Damien Kee

Jun 21, 2011

Justin, a next generation space robot

Though we are reluctant to post entries here that do not deal directly with LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT, to and fro one of us feels compelled to show off certain robotics-related things nevertheless, for their sheer awesomeness.
In this case, I think Justin, a robot by the DLR (the German Aerospace agency) that is meant for repairing satellites one day, is also interesting for the NXT builder:

Note also the video on its great robot arm.

Besides, the YouTube channel of the DLR is a real bonanza for any robot builder (see the DLR crawler, e.g.).

Jun 20, 2011

NXT Controlled Robot Butler

This robot was designed, manufactured and programmed for a design competition (as part of the curriculum) held amongst first year Mechanical Engineering students at Delft university of Technology.

The goal was to create a robot that could deliver a tray of drinks as quickly as possible, while also keeping as much as possible of the delivery on board.

Our design didn't win an award for fast delivery or keeping most water on board, but we did win the Delft Science Centre award because our design has the most potential for actual usage. Out of 50 teams competing, we built the only robot that could steer and navigate its route.

50 teams with 8 members each took part in the competition, resulting in a wide variety of designs. There weren't many strict guidelines, except for some dimension limits. One major constraint was that forward motion could only be done with a supplied cordless power drill.

Designing and manufacturing was done in approximately five months. All of the components were carefully designed in SolidWorks (A 3D CAD tool) and we manufactured each part later on.

I will upload a set of pictures of this design and other competing designs later this week.

Jun 17, 2011

Guess NeXTSTORM's next invention and win a book!

NeXTSTORM, famous NXT inventor from Greece, has published a new video-based challenge on YouTube: guess his next invention and win a copy of "The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book":

Make sure to drop your guess on NeXTSTORM's channel under the video shown above.

Jun 16, 2011


Blog reader Alain Verschuere emailed me to share his way to store a LEGO NXT set. He's using the T-BOXX from Sortimo.

What's useful about these boxes, is that you can choose how you organize the seperate bins within the box.

Alain's method is similar to the way I stored my NXT 2.0 set when I was working on robots for books (see lower two images).

I find it very convenient to separate beams and axles by length. Of course, there's not enough subboxes for each piece, but when I mix parts, I do so only if they differ by color or if they have a significantly different form.

It may seem odd to keep similar pieces in different compartments, but in the end you never end up searching for that single black axle connector block that's similar to all the others. I bought the yellow and red sorting boxes for about $12 each.

Jun 15, 2011


Veronica Judin (Simpfan in the forums) has shared with us a great system of storing her MINDSTORMS elements.

Pictures shows how the labels are on the storage case, and some are opened to show how they works and what's inside them. I hope some of the other people will use this, because it are very easy to get the pieces you want when you build. I have use this system for my other Lego pieces to, but have ony taken photos of the NXT parts. Some few NXT parts like cabels, and the big balls you get in NXT 1, are in a bigger box, but havent pictured it, because it are only one label. (To get the parts I have used a combination of: LDD, MLcad and LeoCad, and printed out from word)

Thanks so much Veronica.  How do other people store their LEGO?  Share with us in the comments.

If you're interested, you can also see a variety of other different methods for storing LEGO that were submitted by teachers from around the world.

Damien Kee

LEGO StarWars Lambda Class-T 4a #10212 NXTfied!

Another nice video from Bazmarc about his NXTified Starwars model.

I love the colour sensors in the back that change colour depending on whether the wings are lowering, stationary or lifting.

Damien Kee

Jun 14, 2011

Thermal Imaging with a thermal IR Sensor

Xander has once again come up with a fantastic post on his Blog about his use of the Dexter Industries Thermal IR sensor.


Having spent most of yesterday hacking and optimizing the firmware for the new Dexter Industries Thermal IR Sensor, I thought I would go ahead and make something fun with it today.
I built a pan and tilt rig for the sensor with a great deal of gearing down to allow me to take a lot of measurements as the rig moved around. Initially I had it set for about 40×40 measurements but those didn’t look that great and I wanted a bit more. I reprogrammed it and made it spit out data at a resolution of about 90×80.

He gets some great looking images of both a cold bottle and a hot flame.

From what I hear, he's working on increasing the resolution and range that the sensor can output.

Damien Kee

Beginning GPS for NXT Robots

Our very own Jim Kelly has teamed up with Dexter Industries to produce a new book aimed at the using the dGPS sensor.

Satellite GPS systems have become more and more integrated in the way we live.  As our world becomes increasingly dependent on the Global Positioning System, it was obvious to us that the next generation of scientists and engineers will need to know how to use it and what its limitations are.     This workbook was written to bring to life the GPS system that we often take for granted, and help students understand it, explore it, and find new ways to use it.   

Check out the sensor here:

And you can get the book and more info here:

Damien Kee

Jun 13, 2011

German Edition of NXT One-Kit Creatures Book

This fall there will be a German edition of my latest book, NXT One-Kit Creatures. Most of the profits--95%-- from the sale of this book will benefit the German Roberta program. What is Roberta?

The book is still available in English from Amazon (paper and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Sony (for their reader), and at the Apple iBookstore. (If you read the kindle version on a color device, it displays in color....Sorry, Kindle owners.)

Jun 11, 2011

Web site related to the LEGO® Street View Car

Update to our post to Mark Crosbie's LEGO® Street View Car:
Mark posted a comment hinting to his web page that provides detailed information on the car.
Have a look! There are many interesting details to be found, including a lot of pictures, program source code and another video:

Jun 10, 2011

NXT 2.0 Printer

One of the robots that's described in the Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Inventor's Guide is the Printer. LEGO plotters aren't new, of course. However, in designing it, my goal was to build it with just NXT 2.0 pieces. This took a couple of redesigns, because I kept running out of beams.

The machine works with both A4 and US letter paper size, and can be adjusted for a wide variety of pens or pencils. Building and testing instructions, as well as sample programs are found in the Inventor's Guide.

I've demonstrated this machine on several events, including at the FLL finals in Delft. For those who haven't seen it, here's a video that shows the machine plotting the NXT 2.0 Logo.

Jun 8, 2011

Mark Crosbie's LEGO® Street View Car

Remember the post on Google Zeitgeist and Mark Crosbie's new NXT-based LEGO® Street View Car that briefly appeared there?

Today I detected a video by Mark on YouTube (actually, it's there since mid of May) dedicated to the car:

The car is still a prototype, it says - I'm looking forward to actual images it is going to shoot.

Enchanting for NXT - New release

Clinton Blackmore, developper of Enchanting, let me know that a new version of Enchanting has been released.

"Enchanting is an easy-to-use graphical programming tool for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robots. It is based on Scratch from the MIT Media Lab, and powered by leJOS NXJ (Java for the NXT). Enchanting is free and open-source."

One of the improvements is the installation process, which has been made much easier. Try it out, and send your feedback to Clinton so he can continue to improve Enchanting.

More information and a download link are found on the project's website.

Be sure to check out the new video about Enchanting:

Jun 7, 2011

Segway experiments

What do you do when you're in the MINDSTORMS booth at the FLL finals with plenty of robots around? Well, it might lead to some strange combinations. At some point I got the idea to combine a NXT Segway with omniwheels so that it could move sideways. In theory, this shouldn't have any influence on the robot's balance. See the practical experiment Xander and I did below.

Maybe I should patent the idea... If you motorize the sideway motion, Segways become even more capable of moving in narrow spaces.

Also, I wanted to try how well a Segway would perform on a randomly moving platform. This worked quite well, until you reach unexpected holes in the road. Pointless experiments, maybe, but certainly fun to do!

Jun 4, 2011

Live Stream for FIRST LEGO League 2011 European Finals in Delft

This weekend, the FIRST LEGO League 2011 European Finals are in full bloom in Delft, Netherlands.
For those who can not be there in person, there's a Live Stream available where you can follow the competition.

Best wishes to all the teams!

Jun 1, 2011

FLL OEC 2011: Delft (NL)

Today the first of the 500 guest are arriving in the Netherlands to participate on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 June at the FLL Open European Championships in Delft (the Netherlands).
With a LEGO MINDSTORMS Team we will be showing of some great models and always there for tips and tricks.

Join the FLL OEC Facebook group to share your news and videos, and to chat with other teams!

See this link for the official pages.
Here you can find the complete program.

See you there!
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