Nov 30, 2011

The Queboid shooter

Remember Mark Crosbie's great Queboid?
He has published building instructions now for a shooter version of it (below, there's a video of the Queboid shooter in action at WRO).
That's certainly one of the robots I am going to rebuild during Christmas holidays.

Express-Bot: A Simple Modular Robot for the 9797 Set

I frequently hear from teachers and other users who have only the LEGO Education NXT Base Set (9797), looking for building instructions and an alternative to the standard Robot Educator Model (REM) design that is included in the LEGO Education software. Many are looking for a base robot design that is quick and easy to build but flexible enough to use in a variety of lessons and other activities. As an educator myself, I often have a need for such as design as well. So I recently developed and posted a design to try to fill this need.

The Express-Bot is a simple robot vehicle with several modular attachments that can be individually built, selected, and combined, and everything can be built using a single 9797 set (I also resisted using the "Hassenpins" that were added to the new 9797 set, so that everything can still be built using only the original 9797 set, which lacked these). Designs for several simple attachments are included, using all of the standard sensors and the 3rd motor in several ways. Here is a page of ideas showing some of the many ways to combine and use the attachments. Of course it would be easy for users to customize or design their own attachments as well.

Three Ways to Build
Teachers know that it is important to try to keep all students challenged (and thus interested), while still providing help as necessary. For some students, building a model from step-by-step instructions is "too easy", but there are usually other students that will need them. Most students are somewhere in between. In addition, teachers have practical concerns such as often needing print-friendly building instructions, but with a desire to save paper and ink as well.

To try to address these needs, for Express-Bot, I have formatted the building instructions in a new way. For each module, there is a one page view of the completed module. Experienced builders can challenge themselves to build the modules using only these views (by "reverse engineering" them). Then for each module there is an additional one page of "building hints" (partially disassembled views). Most users will be able to build the modules using just the hints plus the completed views (which together is only one double-sided sheet per module). Finally, for the driving base, step-by-step instructions on 6 pages are also provided for print or online use. All instructions are provided in PDF form for compact and easy printing if necessary (can be used online as well), and a PowerPoint format is also provided to allow teachers to easily create their own custom handouts by selecting only the pages they need and editing as desired. Permission is given to print and redistribute freely.

Some Design Goals
In addition to the new approach on building instructions, Express-Bot has a number of other design goals, many of which are practical concerns that teachers and others may appreciate, such as:
  • Fast to build (under 15 minutes for the driving base)
  • Compact and sturdy, slips easily into a backpack or purse
  • Choice of fixed skid wheel or castor wheel
  • Screen faces user at send-off
  • Battery, charge port, and USB all easy to get to
I don't have programming instructions specifically for Express-Bot posted (it is designed to be used in a large variety of ways, and I encourage users to make their own programs). However, for those wanting to see some example programs, many of the programs designed for the Multi-Bot project and available on CD will work with some or no modification for Express-Bot, or at least provide a starting point for learning.

Chinese NXT blog

On WRO, I have met some incredibly smart Chinese children, alongside with their very friendly coaches.
They hinted me to a Chinese NXT blog called CMNXT.COM.
As luck will have it, they posted some images and reproduced Mark Crosbie's video of the "Robotics Experts" booth lately (feel free to use Google translation utility here).

While THE NXT STEP is a english-speaking blog, we need to recall now and then that there are a lot of NXT communities out there who converse and think in other languages than that.

Nov 29, 2011

Beautiful PID explanation video

One of our great readers Ivan just sent this through to me.

He has created a video explaining how a PID (proportional / integral / derivative ) controller works and shows an example of it running on a simple NXT robot towards the end.

Now the video is in Portugese (who says we don't cater for the international audience! :D) and although I've only done a semester of learning Spanish at university, I was able to keep track of what was going on.

Even if I didn't understand any of the writing (he goes through a *lot* of post-it notes!), it was still great fun to watch, the style, pace and music of it just perfect.  I loved the little things that happen throughout, such as running out of room to write and having to add another post-it, and trying (unsuccessfully) to attach the NXT with masking tape :)

Ivan's offering to put in English subtitles, so if you're interested, please make a comment!

**EDIT: Ivan has added English subtitles! :) **

Nov 28, 2011

TheNXTstep on twitter!

Well we've finally made the jump to twitter! This twitter account will feed from all the stories that are posted here on the blog and is another excellent way to keep up to date with all the latest NXT related news.

Follow us here -

or click this fancy button

Nov 27, 2011

A NXT model of the Curiosity rover

Yesterday, the NASA has launched the new Mars rover Curiosity. The car-size robot spacecraft is the most sophisticated Mars space probe ever and expected to land on the Red Planet in August next year.
For the launch event, MCP Will Gorman created a NXT model of Curiosity that was on display yesterday in Kennedy Space Center:

Nov 26, 2011

New video by Isogawa san

Yoshihito Isogawa from TOSHIBA smart community, the author of a variety of cool LEGO® books, has (together with the LEGO® Certified Professional Junpei Mitsui) published a very well-made video on making a LEGO® condonium with a NXT-driven mill:

A little late but Happy Thanksgiving

Check out this cool NXT turkey made by MySnailEatsPizza1!!!


Nov 25, 2011

"Roboterwesen": new NXT book in German available now

Har! My publisher sent me the first copies of my new German NXT book right from the oven!

So "Roboterwesen" is available now, with 350 pages and completely in color.
It's mainly meant for NXT beginners and for teachers looking for some book for their NXT classroom lectures.
I decided to write such a one in German, as there are almost no NXT beginners books for youngsters in Germany in their native language.

Nov 24, 2011

The "Robotics Experts" at WRO

MCP Mark Crosbie, well-known for his LEGO® Streetview Car, has published a nice video on the "Robotics Experts" booth at World Robot Olympiad in Abu Dhabi:

MindCuber: Build a Rubik's Cube Solver with a single NXT 2.0 set!

David Gilday, one of the two creators of the world speed record breaking CubeStormer II, has published a video on his "MindCuber", a new Rubik's Cube solving NXT robot. One of the remarkable things about it: it can be built with a single NXT 2.0 set!

I've seen it in action at the WRO in Abu Dhabi and there are rumours that David is going to publish building instructions for it soon.

Nov 23, 2011

World Robot Olympiad: Final Day

bazmarc's WALL-E - a hit with the kids
Sunday was the final day of the World Robot Olympiad in Abu Dhabi and most of us (including me) have returned to their home countries by now.
It was a fantastic experience and I'd like to address my thanks to all who made it happen.

Stay tuned for upcoming photos and movies from the Robotics experts' booth!

Some images on the competitions can be found on the official WRO facebook page right now.

Nov 22, 2011

Dexter Industries: Win a Snowflake dIMU

This week Dexter Industries will be giving away a "Snowflake dIMU" to one lucky winner. It's a special edition of the dIMU sensor.

“How can I win the Snowflake?
You can win the Snowflake by visiting us on Facebook, and liking Dexter Industries Facebook Page, in the next week. Already like us? You’re entered!"

More details are on their website.

Nov 20, 2011

World Robot Olympiad - Day 2

THE NXT STEP live from the World Robot Olympiad in Abu Dhabi:

Yesterday was Saturday and the second day of the WRO.
Teams were strongly competing in the different tournaments and we also had a busy and most successful day at our booth with many many visitors.

On the picture you see my favourite model amongst all the fantastic ones around here: the Fĺying NXT Blimp made by Robotics Experts Lasse and Kenneth from Denmark.

Nov 19, 2011

World Robot Olympiad - Day 1

(C) World Robot Olympiad (official)
THE NXT STEP live from World Robot Olympiad at Abu Dhabi:

Yesterday Friday the teams arrived here and had their day for gearing up. You might imagine the buzzling atmosphere in the exhibition hall; it was great to see all these gifted young people coming from virtually everywhere on the world.
They also were pretty interested in the models at our booth, and, Dear me!, what an amount of clever questions! 

Some images can be seen here.  There's also a live feed of the tournaments all weekend long.

Nov 18, 2011

Segway Source code now available (dIMU and HiTechnic)

In the past few months I've been working on a renewed RobotC program for a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Segway.

The current program handles all balancing tasks in the background so you can make the Segway do what you want without worrying about balancing. It supports both the HiTechnic Gyro sensor and the new Dexter Industries dIMU. The complete source and instructions are available on my website.

The older ready to run NXT-G version of the program (only supports HiTechnic Gyro) is also still available.

Many of you have been asking for the source code, so here's a chance to study the balancing algorithm. You may use and edit the code as you like, but don't forget to link to the original code and give credit if you reshare your program.

Update: Just another example of what you could use the code for!

Nov 17, 2011

WRO: preparation day

THE NXT STEP live from World Robot Olympiad:

Being here with on the second day with some of the finest LEGO® robot builders around - and it's feeling great!
Tomorrow, the event will open for visitors, so today we are going to have a lot of preparations to complete.
Some minutes ago, we were shown our booth in the new* Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. We are firming here as the "The Robotics Experts", officially invited, organized and supported by THE LEGO Group.

*Actually, most of the buildings around here are pretty new or even still under construction.

Nov 15, 2011

Simon & his George

You may have seen this crazy big robot on Youtube...

After seeing this i was wondering who was behind that awesome creation... Turns out Simon, from the UK, was also quite fascinated by the work I've been doing and has been scrutinizing my 600+ pictures of WALL-E prototyping on my Picasaweb album... Cool, eventually we got to chat on Skype here is a short bio of the man behind George
I'm a Lego Technic builder who has always been fascinated by large robots from films like Terminator, Short Circuit, Robotcop.  Since getting my Mindstorms RIS 2.0 kit in 2003, I have taken my job as a programmer and merged it with my Lego hobby.   My plan is to build a fully functionally Lego robot that is around the 8ft tall mark!  Something people just can't walk past!

I am an active member of Brickish and Eurobricks and often find inspiration from films and random stuff on Youtube.  I have built 2 large robots which were shown at the Great Western Lego Show in 2010 / 2011.  This is the largest UK non Lego organised show.
Stay tuned for more amazing projects from Simon, below, another prototype video of some big thing he is working on... 

I hope we get a chance to met him and his robots at some big LEGO event in the near future... till then you're best bet is to subscribe to his channel. His online name is burf2000 ;)

I: /. 7.

Nov 13, 2011

World Robot Olympiad

Starting next Friday the 18th of November, a great event will take place in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates: the World Robot Olympiad 2011.
For three days, hundreds of teams from all around the world will take part in the competitions there. Next to that, a lot of additional activities, events and talks will add spice for the visitors, last but not least a large exhibition of NXT robots by members of the community.
Some of them are also contributors to THE NEXT STEP (and I'm happy and proud to say that I will be one of them, displaying my NXT Hubble Telescope there  :) ).

So, stay tuned! Expect to see a lot of movies and pictures next week and in case we find time and web access, we intend to post even some on-the-spot reports from there.

Nov 12, 2011


We are all familiar with what Google has done with the invention of it's Street View Car.. and we see the result each time we click on Street View* on Google Map!  Well Mark Crosbie has recently completed his latest version of the LEGO STREET VIEW CAR and it works pretty much the same way as the real thing...  Here is a video showing the history behind this project:

Worth mentioning is that Mark and his LSVC will be present at the World Robotics Olympiad finals held in Abu Dhabi this year -- If you are a WRO finalist and will be present in AD this coming week, be sure to go visit The Robotics Experts booth in the main hall and check this cool Mindstorms creation in action.

More detail on Mark LSVC can be found here:

More details on the WRO can be found here:

* Maybe one day we will be able to see LEGOLAND under Google Map's Street View mode!! :D

WiFi Week - Dexter Industries

Dexter Industries have just wrapped up a week of WiFi inspired posts aimed at getting you DI WiFi sensor connected to the Interwebs.

I wouldn't say it your typical kid could do it, (it talks about modem AT commands and other scary stuff), but DI have done an amazing job of leading a newbie through the process, one step at a time.

Definitely worth the read if you're interested at all about how these things work.  I certainly learnt a lot :)

I love the final instalment where they take a temperature reading, and sent it to a twitter account.
Tweeting NXT's, love it :)

From their website:

Wifi Sensor for LEGO MINDSTORMS ReleaseThe Dexter Industries Wifi sensor for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT is released! Continue reading 
WIFI Week: Communicating with ComputersThe second installment of Wifi Week at Dexter Industries. Today we’ll be walking you through our example of how to connect to other computers and internet devices with TCP protocol. In this post we use our wifi sensor to make a Lego MINDSTORMS NXT that receives texts.Continue reading 
WIFI Week: PING!Part 3 of our Wifi Week examples: ping! Find the IP address of your favorite website, and then ping it. Got a fast connection? Prove it with Ping! Continue reading 
WIFI Week: Setting Up a WebserverSetting up a webserver for your MINDSTORMS robot can be done now with the Dexter Industries Wifi sensor.  A few months back, Botbench setup an incredible example of a webserver.  This example is based largely off the work done there. … Continue reading 
Wifi Week: Crank Up The Speed!Communicate between the NXT and the rest of the world faster than you ever have before: unleash the speed of high speed communications with the Wifi Sensor. Continue reading 
WIFI Week: Twitter TemperatureThe final part of our Wifi Week! In this final example, we demonstrate how to send a message to Twitter from your robot. Check out how we use the Wifi Sensor to Tweet the Temperature!Continue reading 

MINDSTORMS Robots at BEEP Copenhagen

Here is a little impression of the cool robots we have at BEEP.

Come and see it tomorrow and Sunday.
Edit YOU can even win a MINDSTORMS box, 8547 !!

Nov 11, 2011

Spelling Game

I love this video from Tufts University.  It show a couple of students from the EN10 subject showing off the spelling game they build for kids.

From what I can tell, each block has a particular colour, and in each slot is a light/colour sensor.  The NXT reads in the combination, figures out if it is a valid word (lookup table??).  If it is a real word, the little leprechaun moves along the rainbow.

What makes the video for me is the enthusiasm of the (university level) students for a spelling game.  Oh, and the green hats :)

Video is embedded from Facebook, so not sure if it'll work.
Direct link here -

Nov 10, 2011

BEEP 11-13 Nov. Bella Center Copenhagen Denmark

From Friday 11 till Sunday 13 November is in the Bella Center Copenhagen an electronic fair, BEEP.
At this show also LEGO MINDSTORMS robots can be found. Come and visit us.


Nov 9, 2011

More building instructions!

Thanks to our keen-eyed readers, we have another instalment of building instructions to put up!

In this update, people have submitted an omni-directional robot, 4 legged walking robot, a basketball player and 2 different joystick designs.

Click on the "Building Instructions" tab above to go to all the instructions


I love this creation by a youngster by the name of Alexander.  He's build (possibility with some help of his Dad ;) ) a cool Halloween themed robot.  It is also great to see it documented in video, something all budding builders should consider.

While the video is a little long, highlights include:
- Real carved pumpkin
- Eyes that fall out!
- Flashing nose
- Automatic treat dispensing

Cyclops greets the WRO participants

Months ago, I published a teaser trailer of my latest creation, a semi-humanoid mecha robot called Cyclops. It can walk, gesticulate, talk and understand natural language.
More details will be disclosed after the World Robot Olympiad of Abu Dhabi (18-20 November 2011). After a long wait, a first short video of Cyclops is available to the great public.


NXT robot tracks a person

YouTube user lesswire1 has posted a nice video of a robot who finds self-fulfillment in looking at its creator wherever he goes.
Remarkable here is the chain of technologies used: an attached IPhone tracks the person and appropriately controls the movements of the NXT robot by sending light signals to the robot's light sensor.

Nov 8, 2011

Dexter Industries TIR Sensor

I've just finished playing around with the new Dexter Industries Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIR).
While Xander did a very nice experiment with RobotC, I was keen to see how well it went with the NXT-G datalogging blocks.

I got some good results, and although it would be nicer if it sampled a little faster than 5Hz and reacted to changes in temperature a little quicker, it was easy to implement and I can see lots of great experiments I could run in class with it.

Nov 7, 2011

Mindsensors Touch Panel

Xander's posted a great video of the Mindsensor Touch Panel in action.

He's done some great work developing a framework that allows you to create your own buttons (rather than looking for a specific x,y location).

More info -

While you're here, feel free to listen to the worlds most annoying Touchpanel based NXT noise creator (the worlds only???? :D )

Nov 6, 2011

Remotely controlling NXT robots using leJOS NXJ

For a project where multiple NXT bricks need to be remotely controlled by a single remote control, I decided to build that control with LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT also, so that one (master) brick would control three other (slave) bricks wirelessly using Bluetooth.
From earlier projects I knew how laborious the programming of something like that is apt to become, in particular with NXT-G; so this time, I decided to use leJOS NXJ, the Java platform for the NXT.
Still, I expected to have to invest quite some amount of time with writing a lot of complex program code, both for the master brick and the three slave NXT bricks.

But far from it!
I'm still quite out of my mind how incredibly ease such a task has become when using the RemoteNXT class that comes with the most previous release 0.9 of leJOS NXJ!
One (!) single line of code, and your master NXT is connected to a remote NXT:

RemoteNXT remoteNXT1 = new NXTRemote("NameOfARemoteNXT",Bluetooth.getConnector().

You do need even have to manually pair the two bricks!
From that point on in your program, you have access to all motors and sensors of the remotely controlled bricks (same as if they were directly plugged into your own remote control brick*); for instance, to run motor A on the remote brick, just call


One can use up to three remote bricks that way at the same time in one single master program.

Now, that's what I call a programming tool for the NXT!
Well done, leJOS guys!  

*Actually, sort of: in the current release, you cannot use all the methods remotely that you have at your disposal in the local context, just the simple ones like forward(), backward and setSpeed()
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