Monday, January 25, 2010

And More Updates...

Hey all! I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year! I am now back from an overseas trip and I will quickly post a few recent updates:

NXTLog Robotic Arm Challenge

This challenge invites you to create:

* The bionic arm of tomorrow
* A robotic arm designed with many of degrees of freedom (See NXTLog link for more details on Degrees of Freedom))
* An industrial robotic arm
* A just for fun robotic arm

The robotic arm you create can be autonomous (with a progrom) or manually operated via remote control!

Competitiors have untill February 28, 2010 to submit their project, which also needs to be tagged with"roboticarm" to participate in the challenge!

I have submitted my Lunar Mineral Sorter - Static.

--> NXTLog Robotic Arm Challenge Page

The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Book Repository

This book repository manged by David J. Perdue has been updated with some of the latest NXT books

--> Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Book Repository

I hope to get back into NXTing soon!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New LEGO Education MINDSTORMS Gear for 2010

Hey all, here is a quick update about some exciting new NXT and Power Functions gear coming in 2010 via LEGO Education:

* NXT 2.0 Color sensor to be released!
* NXT DC Power pack and charger!!

Full details at:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NXT-G 2.0 Alternatives – Remote Control

Many NXT users would enjoy the ability to control their creations remotely via a PC. The new NXT-G 2.0 software tries to cater for this segment of people by introducing a new in-program Remote Control (as discussed here). However, only people who own a NXT 2.0 Retail kit have access to this function – what about NXT 1.0 users? Lets have a look at a few alternatives found within BricxCC – a free LEGO MINDSTORMS programming suite created by John Hansen;

Brick Joystick (BricxCC Utility)

This program can be found within BricxCC - and NeXT Tools for Mac OS X - and allows users to control their robots using their PC’s mouse, keyboard, or even a joystick! The arrow buttons at the top control the direction that the robot will travel. Holding a left-click, or performing a single right click on one of these buttons will move your robot in that direction. You can also use the numeric pad found on the right side of your keyboard (with Numlock on) to control your robot; with all the program’s arrow buttons relative to the number ‘5’ keyboard button (the “Stop” function in this case). Ignore the ‘T1’ and ‘T2’ buttons at the moment – they only work on the RCX.

The box below the direction controls allows you to specify the type of steering, or ‘Drive Mode’, of your robot. The “Left-Right” function uses your robot’s left and right motors to move and steer, whilst the “Drive-Steer” function uses one motor on your robot to move forward and backward, and a second motor to steer the robot left and right. Select which steering design you have used in your robot to use the remote correctly.

The final three boxes allow you to control other aspects of the motors that control the movement of your robot. The “Left Motor/Drive Motor” and “Right Motor/Steer motor” (Left-Right/Drive-Steer modes) boxes allow you to set the Port Number and direction that your motors are facing. The Speed slider in the bottom box allows you to specify the speed that all of your motors will move at.

Remote (BricxCC Utility)

Another tool found within BricxCC and the Mac equivalent is the ‘Remote’ tool. This tool is useful if you wish to activate programs on the NXT while you control it remotely from your computer, or if you want more specific control over each motor (including the third motor inaccessible in the Brick Joystick program above). From the top of the remote down;

The message buttons are for the RCX and Scout bricks, so ignore them.

The ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ boxes control the motors of your robot (the letters refer to the motor ports). The buttons on the top of the sliders drive the selected motor forward, and the button on the bottom of the sliders will drive the selected motor backward. The actual sliders control the speed of each motor.

The five program buttons allow you to start a program currently on the NXT brick remotely. First of all, you need to map the programs with the program buttons. Right click any of the program buttons to open the “NXT Remote Map” window. Then click on the drop-down menus to select from a list of programs that must already be on the NXT brick. Click the ‘OK’ button to finalize your selections. Now you can left-click the mapped program buttons to start programs on the NXT!

The ‘Stop’ button stops the program currently running on the brick.

The ‘Tone’ button allows you to play a sound file on the NXT remotely. The default sound is a simple ‘beep’, but a NXT sound file can be mapped onto the button by following the same method as the ‘Program’ buttons. The sound files need to be on the NXT brick before you can select them. Left-clicking the ‘Tone’ button will play the selected sound file. Remember to turn the volume up on your NXT brick before you use this feature!


These are just two other methods available for NXT users to operate their creations remotely. Both programs come free with John Hansen’s “BricxCC” and “NeXT Tools for Mac OS X” packages. Another alternative is to use a remote requiring Microsoft Robotics Studio – see Mathias Paul Scholz's website for more details.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Updates, Updates...

Hey all, I'm back and I thought I'd update everyone (including myself!) on whats been happening over the last few weeks;

1) Updated MINDSTORMS Website

The MINDSTORMS website has been upgraded with a flashy new layout and a few new features; including a dedicated Bonus Models page, and a "funzone" segment. The new colour scheme matches that of the NXT 2.0 kit, but with the update comes a few buggy or slow menus which will hopefully be fixed in the near future. NXTLog has also been upgraded (although remaining as NXTLog 2.0).

2) LDD 3.0

LDD is closely intergrated with the MINDSTORMS line of products as a way of users to share their models with others, and with the upgrade from LEGO Factory to LEGO DesignBy Me comes the latest updates for this free CAD software. The new NXT 2.0 parts have been added amoungst a few new cool features, including an upgraded hinge tool and a compatability mode to help LDraw users convert their models for use in LDD.

3) Bonus Model #4: Stonehenge

The NXT 2.0 bonus models keep coming with the latest created by Philo. His model "Stonehenge" is now available on the MINDSTORMS website (See above picture for a peek at it)

4) The NXTStep

The NXTStep contributors have been on fire over the last few weeks with multiple posts nearly everyday. Have a look at a number of articles on converting between NXT kits here, and look through the archives if you missed anything else!

5) Philo's Color Sensor Comparison

Philo created an amazing but simple to understand comparison of the LEGO Color Sensor and HiTechnic Color Sensor, describing the strengths and weaknesses of both. This article can be found here

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Book Repository

Hey all, this will be one of the last blog posts from me for about a month - yes, its exam time again!

If you are looking for information on MINDSTORMS NXT books, a great place to look for a list of most of the titles published over the last few years can be found at

This site is run by David J. Perdue author of:

* The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide,
* Competitive MINDSTORMS (a book on RCX Sumo robots)
* and the upcoming Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Inventor's Guide.

The site has most of the NXT books that have been published up to 2009, and I expect it will be updated again soon.

Summary of Latest NXT Books:

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0: The King's Treasure
James Floyd Kelly

The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Discovery/Adventure Book
Laurens Valk and

Daniele Benedettelli

The Art of NXT-G Programming
Terry Griffin

The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Inventor's Guide
David J. Perdue

Friday, October 9, 2009

More ways to store your LEGO!

Hey all, here are two more (similar) methods for storing all of your LEGO!

1) Recycling old Boxes

If you have many old boxes formerly used for carrying such items as paper (maybe look around school or offices for any spares) you can easily adapt them for storing bricks and models. Use more tape and card to create compartments for seperating parts! If you have the origional but tattered box for your model, you could even cut out the faces and stick them to the top of your box to remind you which model pieces are inside!

2) Use Organising Boxes/Transfer Cases

If you are looking for a low cost and easy solution for storing LEGO, you could purchase a few organising boxes/transfer cases to quickly and easily store your bricks. Use a vivid or stick-on labels to name your boxes if they contain the parts used in one of your LEGO models only.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A few new things at HiTechnic...

Hey all, here's a quick update on the latest HiTechnic actuivity:

Sensor Multiplexer (sMUX)

The long awaited Sensor Multiplexer has arrived! We first saw this product on the HiTechnic Development page before it was scrapped, and now the dream of many has become a reality! My main query is whether or not the new product will live up to the hype surrounding it - I see it being useful to the tertiary student/teacher community, but general users will probably remain unphased by the new release, it really depends on how many sensors you own and if you can create a model that uses them all! Still, I can't wait to see someone create an amazing robot using this!

Xander over at NXTasy has posted a list of the sensors that the sMUX supports, as well as a brighter picture of the multiplexer here.

Price: USD$57.95


Another addition from a few weeks back is the IRReceiver. This sensor allows users to use the #8879 Power Functions IR Speed Remote Control or the #8885 Power Functions IR Remote Control to interact with your NXT creations! From the HiTechnic website:

The IRReceiver decodes commands from a Power Functions Remote Control and your NXT program can use the commands to directly control NXT motors or to control other functions in your program.

Price: USD$49.95

IR Beacon

Not much to say on this; here is HiTechnic's description:

The IR Beacon for the FTC Hot Shot game generates Infrared (IR) signals to assist in target alignment. The IR Beacon signals can be accurately detected with the HiTechnic IRSeeker sensor. For more details refer to the FTC Hit Shot Game Manual.

This product is only available to FTC (First Tech Challenge) competitiors. If you are looking for an IR emiitting device, HiTechnic have an IR Ball (USD$79.95!!) usually used for robot soccer competitions. There are loads of other (cheaper) options as well if you are good at electronics (or want to learn quick!)

Price: USD$27.00

Building Instructions!

Another new addition I just noticed is the Building Instructions menu tab! HiTechnic have stated that they will release models with building instructions and sample programs every few weeks. So far, the Ball Shooter has been released, which requires a NXT 2.0 kit and a Hitechnic Acceleration Sensor to build.