LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotics Building Set

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The LEGO Mindstorms NXT robotics building set is the previous generation of the LEGO Mindstorms line. You can find the latest (2.0) model here: LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0

Mindstorms NXT Out of the Box

The main part of the kit is the NXT itself. It's about the size of an iPod (though a bit thicker) with a a loudspeaker, a monochrome LCD, and navigation keys on the front. This is the controller for the robot - its brain, if you will. It has three ports on top for connecting to the servo motors and four ports on the bottom for connecting to four different sensors: Touch, Light, Sound, and Ultrasonic

Here's what the set contains:

  1. The NXT: the computer-controlled brain of the Mindstorms robot
  2. Touch Sensor: enables the robot to feel and react to its environment
  3. Sound Sensor: enables the robot to react to sound
  4. Light Sensor: can detect light and color
  5. Ultrasonic Sensor: allows the robot to measure distance and react to movement
  6. Servo Motors: ensures the robot moves with precision

The set includes Ethernet-like wires for connecting all of these to the NXT, as well as software and a basic USB cable for downloading programs from your computer. Then there are all the Lego parts, hundreds of them, and most are very small. It would be a good idea to get a plastic organizer for the different parts--it would not only make construction and storage easier but also part loss less likely.

Getting Started with Mindstorms NXT

The instructions for MNXT are simple, illustrated, and they gently take the new user on an introductory path through the system. The quick start guide promises a 30-minute robot building and programing intro. It starts with a simple diagnostic routine which shows you how to test the function of all sensors, then proceeds to step-by-step picture instructions for building a basic first robot. It's about as complex as building a piece of Ikea furniture.

The software is well-designed and very intuitive. It comes with built-in video instructions on how to create your first simple program and download it to your NXT.

Programming the NXT

Programming is the real gem in this system. It has a drag-and-drop interface using pre-programmed objects that you pull from a palette and snap to other objects. Each object is configurable. For example, the Sound object brings up a sub-window that allows you to choose between a tone and a list of sound files, set the volume, set duration, and so on. Little Lego bricks between the objects reinforce the idea that building a NXT program is like building a Lego model. Programming this way is much easier than, say, creating a web page from scratch. Lego even offers a software development kit for getting deeper into the programming.

The software contains "challenges," which are similar step-by-step instructions for creating and programming more complex models, such as a robotic arm that can "perform simple tasks and react to different colors." Each challenge is divided into smaller tasks with step-by-step building, programming, and testing guides for each task.

Accessing your latest program once it's downloaded to the NXT is pretty easy. Lego has set it up so that you can execute it by pressing the big orange center button four times in a row after start-up. I was surprised to find out that you don't need a computer to program the NXT. You can program directly into the NXT Program submenu.

Bluetooth Ready

The NXT also has built-in Bluetooth wireless technology. If your computer has Bluetooth, you can test and download programs to the NXT without connecting the USB cable--a really handy feature if you're programming a complicated dance routine and you don't want your robot getting tripped up in cables. If your phone or PDA has Bluetooth, you might be able to use your device to control the robot. Best of all, Bluetooth allows you to create a network of up to three NXT devices. Think of the possibilities: three NXTs plus three sets of blocks and sensors equals bigger, more complex robots.

From the Manufacturer

The next generation of robots! Create the smartest, strongest and most advanced LEGO robot ever, in as few as 30 minutes! The new NXT Intelligent Brick, your robot's "brain," features a powerful 32-bit microprocessor and more memory, plus support for USB 2.0, Bluetooth and more! A highly versatile palette of LEGO Technic elements combines with state-of-the-art ultrasonic, sound, light and touch sensors in the next generation of intuitive robotics. With included Quick-Start guide, easy-to-use software and step-by-step building instructions, beginners and experts alike can create humanoid, vehicle and animal robots that obey every command! Improved light sensors can detect different colors and intensities, while the new sound sensor enables robots to respond to sound patterns and tones. Robots can really "feel" with improved touch sensors, while ultrasonic "eyes" measure distance and movement. Programming software is now available for both PC and Macintosh, plus with Bluetooth support, you can even command your robot from your mobile phone!

Features:

  • LEGO's newest robot-building kit, with greatly improved functionality
  • 32-bit command center with large LCD, USB 2.0 and Bluetooth interfaces that allow robots to walk, talk and interact with their environment
  • Technic blocks ("studless legos") create a more human, less boxy look
  • Intuitive GUI and drag-and-drop icons are PC- and Mac-friendly
  • Redesigned touch and light sensors, new sound sensor and ultrasonic sensor
  • Now with three motors . redesigned for smoother, more reliable operation
  • 6-wire digital cables for more precise connections
  • 5 main themes (8 different models) . Vehicle: Roverbot, Animal, Scorpio; Machine: Robotic Arm; Human: Humanoid; Gadgets: Clock, Music, Game and Movers
  • Models are all built within the LEGO Technic System

Includes:

  • 577 pieces
  • Quickstart Guide helps you build a robot ready for action within 30 minutes
  • Model-specific building instructions, tips and tricks, testing methods and programming options
  • Easy-to-use software
  • Test panel

The power of the LEGO building system, an intelligent command center and easy-to-use, drag and drop programming software unleash the power of your robot-building imagination.

Safety warning: This product contains small parts that may present a choking hazard for young children.