Dec 30, 2011

A subjective NXT retrospective to 2011

2011 is drawing to an end, and it's a tradition to have a look back at this time of the year. With THE NXT STEP, the focus of such a retrospective naturally is on LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT; so I thought about my very personal annual highlights in that regard.

It was an amazing NXT year, to be sure!
After being 5 years on the market now, instead of cooling down LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT seems to gain even more momentum every year.

Hence, there are a lot of candidates for "The NXT Model of the Year 2011", and most likely everyone will have his or her very special favorite.
As for me, I did not have to ponder long over the one I personally like best:  the outstanding Blimp of the two Danish NXT dudes Lasse and Kenneth (see left). A great project, even more when one had the privilege to face it "in realiter" (as it was granted to me at WRO).

From there, it is not far to my very personal "NXT Photo of the Year 2011"; it shows Lasse helping an Arab boy controlling the Blimp at said WRO in Abu Dhabi - a photo that in my opinion notably conveys the spirit of LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT.

(©  by bazmarc

So, what's your personal "NXT Model of the Year 2011"? Or your "NXT Photo of the Year"?
Tell us!

Dec 29, 2011

NXT-based camera platform

Some members of the Chinese NXT blog have published a nice video on a NXT based camera platform:

Addendum: More details can be found on the camera platform's associated web page at

Super cool robots by the Festo AG

Created by the German company Festo AG (yes, they are real!):

Not NXT, but could not help posting them as some sort of inspiration for your NXT work.


Dec 28, 2011

Another NXT-based remote control

For the Hubble Telescope that I displayed at the WRO in November, I created and used a particular NXT-based remote control. Its two levers allow for control of a remote NXT model in three dimensions, with three touch sensors for triggering additional functions (controlling the solar panels and the lid case of the telescope). A color sensor might be used to display the connection state of the remote control.
Have a look at the associated web site; you will find also the LEGO Digital Designer file there in case you are interested to build and use it.

Dec 25, 2011

Christmas baubles painted with the NXT

At the World Robot Olympiad I met a team from St. Petersburg in Russia. They had created a very nice NXT robot called "Robot Decorator" that is able to paint Christmas baubles (and balloons):

Dec 24, 2011

Interfacing the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT and Android Phone: Camera Line Follower

Now that we're on break, I had some time to do another demo in the series; this video shows a robot using the Android phone's camera to locate the line and follow it. The connection is based on Bluetooth, and all that is sent is the line's distance from "the center" of the received image. Around near 0:57, you can see the yellow dash that marks the position of the line. This is subtracted from the center of the screen (width/2) and sent to the NXT, which adjusts the motor speeds proportionally using the steering function. The bright light that creates a glare in the screen is actually the flash on the camera, which I turned on in order to eliminate outside lighting conditions. The phone is almost as good, if not better, as a light sensor!

Enjoy, and happy building!

Dec 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

From everyone here at theNXTstep, we'd love to wish you, your family and all your friends a very Merry Christmas (a happy holidays for those of you who do not celebrate Xmas :D  ), and a Happy New Year.

Thank you for being such loyal readers, and keep those tips and stories coming in!

We're looking forward to an exciting 2012, bringing you the latest and greatest NXT creations from around the world.

Dec 22, 2011

WRO revisited

There's a new nice web page by MCP Mike Brandl on the sojourn of  the "Robotics Experts" at the World Robot Olympiad in Abu Dhabi four weeks ago.

Have a look and enjoy a lot of cool photos that convey both the most inspiring and pleasant ambience of the event as well as the great spirit in our team.

Dec 21, 2011

NXTified Gingerbread

Who said NXT robots and delicious Christmas treats don't mix??

Big thanks to Fredrik for sending us this!

Dec 20, 2011

Flying robot bird

Not exactly NXT, but certainly inspiring and worthwhile to post:
a flying robot bird created by the German company Festo.

Dec 13, 2011

CATROID : Scratch for Android

For who loves graphical programming languages, like NXT-G, I signal
an interesting growing project: CATROID.
CATROID, brother of Google App Inventor,
takes its steps from MIT-developed SCRATCH programming language,
and implements some blocks to control the NXT brick via Bluetooth!
It is still a bit limited, but it's the first on-phone graphical programming
language for the NXT. Even the textual programmers should be quite excited.

Dec 12, 2011

NXT 2.0 Snatcher Video

I recently filmed the Snatcher (building instructions in the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book) at one of the events I was attending, and thought it would be fun to share this video with you. In this video you'll see the Snatcher running the program as presented in the book: autonomously looking for an object, grabbing it and lifting it.

Dec 5, 2011

Hispabrick Volume 12

Jetro and his team have just release Hispabrick 12.  It is a fantastic online magazine (available in both Spanish and English) that is crammed full of LEGO news.  While it covers everything LEGO (and I mean everything!) there is a fantastic writeup of Steve Hassenplug's Super RoboRally.  We've cover RoboRally in the past, but this is a much more comprehensive writeup.

There is also an extremely in-depth analysis of all the LEGO motors ever produced (13 in total!)

You can download the PDF here- (look for the English PDF on the right)

(yes that house is completely made of LEGO!)

Dec 4, 2011

What's on your holiday shopping list?

Yesterday, as I searched the Web for Christmas and birthday gift ideas, I came across these cute robotic salt and pepper shakers at and it struck me that y'all probably know of some cool gift ideas.

What is on your gift list (or wish list) this year? An additional NXT? An Education Resource Set?

What are some less expensive but desirable ways to supplement an NXT set? (LEGO Education is loaded with individual parts and packs of parts). Is there such a thing as a gift certificate for Bricklink? Do you have a favorite NXT book to recommend? Favorite one-kit models? Can you recommend a non-NXT book which compliments and broadens the understanding of NXT robotics? Can you warn us about a product that doesn't live up to its claims?

Do you know of a fun, inexpensive, and unique robotic gift (like these salt and pepper shakers) that is available online? Do you have do-it-yourself ideas for NXT jewelry or other household accessories? Please inspire us!

NOTE: In the spirit of transparency, please tell us if you have a financial interest in any product you recommend. Also, the "You might also like" stuff added to the bottom of this post are not my suggestions!

Dec 1, 2011

How to use MINDSTORMS to max-out your gaming character

Now here's a application of LEGO® MINDSTORMS to a new part of our daily life: YouTube user comicsacrifice built a simply NXT-driven machine that operates a game controller to restore his Skyrim video game character's health to maximum.

Don't you ever say again that LEGO® MINDSTORMS isn't useful in real life...

Next step would be a NXT robot that plays the whole game for you while you go out for a refreshing stroll in the woods. ;) 

40% off LEGO (NXT) Books

All No Starch Press print books and ebooks will be 40% off until midnight, December 3rd. They have a lot of LEGO books, including the recently published "Cult of LEGO" and the "LEGO TECHNIC Idea Books".

All their NXT books are priced just under $18. Information and the discount code are found here.
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