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.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Programming Guide

Hey all, I recently got my hands on the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Programming Guide by Jim Kelly (author of the NXTStep Blog), and I thought I would share my thoughts on the book. I know it is a fairly old title (published in 2007) but the information it contains is still relevent to NXT-G programming today.

Jim Kelly provides information on all of the NXT-G programming blocks available in the NXT-G 1.x software (most of which is still relevent to NXT-G 2.0) as well as information on data-wires, creating MyBlocks, and a few mathematics equations, all presented in a language easily understood and enjoyed by the young target audience (10+). The author begins with an introduction to programming, the art of Psuedo code, and introduces a few simple programming terms throughout the book. I read the book from start to finish in less than a day (without doing the experiments and playing with NXT-G - which I would recommend doing while reading the book), and the information provided by Jim is easy to take in - it is not like reading a straight-to-the-facts guide, but eases the reader into the book through the use of friendly language - which actually made the book fun to read (for me, anyway). Even if you do not read the book chapters in chronological order, the book still makes a great guide and index for quickly finding the information you need. You will completely master what you have learned by creating and experimenting with the sample programs provided in the book, which also show the reader a few places where the programming blocks and your new skills can be used.

The content is very complete in terms of describing the functions of each programming block, and detailed graphics are used as the author explains the functions of the blocks. The chapters are short and full of knowledge on each programming block.

The graphics found in the book are a mixture of black and white photos (of SPOT - the robot used by the author to demonstrate and practice new programming skills on), a few block diagrams (see example below) as well as black and white screenshots of NXT-G (of EACH setting of EVERY programming block). The building instructions for SPOT can be found on the NXTStep (scroll down on the right side), as they are not printed in the book (opinions naturally vary on this), but the programming skills are VERY easily transfered to the reader's own robot.

There are, naturally, a few errors in the book, like the Appendix on the X/Y Co-ordinate system used by the Display block when drawing (the Y co-ordinate is described as the opposite of how it actually works, Y actually increases when moving upwards), but overall the book is a great guide for beginners to the NXT-G programming language, as well as teaching some expierienced NXT users a thing or two (How does the default Switch Block setting work and when is it used ;)).

In conclusion, I would definately recommend the book to the intended audience, and it is probably a great addition to a Father-Son team effort in learning about the MINDSTORMS NXT, as well as adults new to the NXT! The information has been described as being available on the internet and in the help files provided in NXT-G (Jim Kelly even tells the reader to use the help guides for finding out more about data-wire hubs), but if you are looking for a very readible book on NXT-G, a resource that you can continually use, and an introduction to useful programming skills, then this book is probably of worth to you.

Other Notes:
Sadly, the Errata found on the Apress (Publisher) site has not been used by the other reviewers who complain about the book, but any corrections you are looking for can probably be found on the NXTStep Forum board, where you can also ask the author any questions you have!

New NXT-G 2.0 Feautures not covered:

- Colour Sensor Block
- Initate Bluetooth Block
- Remote Control
- Sound Editor
- Image Editor
- Use of Floating Point Mathematics