Oct 31, 2006
I wanted to inform you of a new software I have written for palm that allows you to remotely control NXT from a bluetooth enabled palm.
I have only tested it on Treo 650, maybe you can test and blog your thoughts on it. The reason I developed it was because there was no remote control software to control NXT from palm - only for Java cellphones andPocketPC as you have blogged at:http://thenxtstep.blogspot.com/2006/07/bt-and-pda-control-and-pcs.html
at least 2 user comments indicated they wanted a palm version.. so here it is!
Thank you, Razix! If you find this useful or have any feedback, please email and thank Razix for the software.
I have written a PDF to explain with comments and photos how to configure your system to develop with icommand, LEJOS.
I have created a new section of my site to show my advances in Lejos.
I would like to share this documents, because i have seen a lot of messages in differents forums about the configuration of Icommand, lejos.
Thank you, Juan Antonio.
UPDATE: Juan Antonio has updated the file... new version is here: http://www.juanantonio.info/p_research/robotics/p_lejos/docs/icommand0.5.pdf
"A post on Thursday asked for drawings of the various NXT parts. I put some up over on my website, www.motocube.com. I only did some of the parts, but if someone requests it I can easily do the rest."
The offer is there, so please let James know if you have a special part you'd like to see used. Thanks, James.
Oct 30, 2006
Pictures from the event are here. If you are involved in any FLL practice tournaments and have pictures/videos you'd like to share, e-mail me the link and a small writeup and I'll be happy to share with the world.
I had fun... thanks to Forsyth Alliance for inviting me to participate.
"I've been playing around with Google's new Co-Op system which basically allows you to create your own search engine that only searches a certain list of websites. (ala Rollyo) So I've put together an NXT search engine that indexes a lot of NXT blogs and a few api documentation sites. It has a home page here, but the url isn't very friendly. (hope they work on changing that) They have a system that lets you easily embed it into your own website, but it messes up the layout of my site."
Check it out and let Tony know what you think...
Oct 29, 2006
Be checking in on the HiTechnic website this weekend for an announcement. I can't say much more, but it does consist of multiple new products, one of which is going to blow you hardware hackers away.
UPDATE: The announcement is now up. Details below
NXT Color Sensor
NXT 3 axis Accelerometer / Tilt Sensor
NXT Prototype board
NXT Extended Connector Cable Set including extra long and short cables
Oct 28, 2006
The sensor ports on the NXT support a serial digital protocol called I2C, which was developed by Philips in the 1980's. I have built a prototype that shows how to interface to the NXT a simple I2C chip that provides 8 digital I/O ports.
Each one of these eight ports can be used as either input or output (and in some restricted ways also as both). These inputs and outputs are binary: they are either on or off. Input ports can be used for touch sensor (switches), for example. Output ports can drive LEDs, and through relays or other devices they can turn motors on or off. In my setup, two ports are used to drive LEDs, two other ports are used as inputs, connected to push switches, and four ports remain unused.
It turned out that connecting your NXT to this this interface chip is as easy as electronics experimentation goes, and programming your NXT to communicate with this chip is also easy.
Connecting your NXT to any home-made gizmo (like the one described here) can damage it. Beware.
I did meet with some 4th graders this previous Wednesday and had a lot of fun watching them demo their robots and ask questions. Some of the questions were VERY good and I was pleased to see that the students are asking questions about not only HOW things work, but WHY they work the way they do...
Good luck to all teams preparing for FLL... this Nano Challenge has some very tough components and I can't wait to see more robot solutions. Without giving away any details, if you are participating on an FLL team, feel free to email me and let me know how your team is doing and let us know if you're having fun.
Oct 26, 2006
a reader brought up the question where to find information in the web about angles and dimensions of NXT parts.
Does anybody know about a site that lists these things?
Peeron doesn't, does it?
Oct 25, 2006
Oct 24, 2006
Oct 23, 2006
My name is Rob Torok and I am pleased to have been invited to join the The NXT STEP as a contributor.
I'm certainly neither a LEGO nor a robotics guru, but I have been having fun with LEGO all my life. As a teacher, I have been using the RCX to teach robotics for some years now and am looking forward to seeing what my students are able to do with the NXT over the coming years...
As Jim pointed out a week or so ago, my MDP Profile was recently posted, so you can read a bit more about me and a couple of my robots there if you're interested.
Most recently I've been working on a couple of RobotC programs. I'll share these when I've had a chance to make them a bit more 'presentable'.
Oct 22, 2006
Oct 21, 2006
The Lego Education Blog recently released a PDF file with lots of useful information on how to program more efficiently to save memory (take it from an FLL comptetitor, memory can become a problem). View it here.
On the sixth page, there's a section about mini blocks - special versions of move, motor, sound, and display blocks - that will be released from the FLL Website during Fall. These mini blocks will cut down on memory usage while retaining some of the functionality of regular blocks. From the statements about it, I think they'll be really useful in comptetitions for maximizing memory capacity.
Oct 19, 2006
back again from "No Internet Country", I've created building instructions for my March's NXT car, called Silberpfeil.
It has been a popular request, I might say, but as I foolishly didn't make an LDraw file of it then, I had to reassemble it first just from the two images and dwindling recollection.
Well, that displeasing experience (nothing such irksome as to have to reinvent something you know you have already mastered once upon a time in the past) confirmed my commitment never to disassemble a robot of mine again before having made a CAD file from it!
Recently, a couple friends of mine got a NXT, and they've really got going with it! The two of them, Josh and Josiah, built this awesome car. It's powered via two motorized wheels in the back, and steers the same way that real cars do. They even added the driver with his steering wheel! I especially like the way they installed the US sensor to look like headlights. They also used an ingenius way of doing rack-and-pinion-type steering without any gears:
A motor rotates the top white beam, which in turn steers the axles sticking out on the sides, to which wheels are attached.
View more pictures of it here
Anyway, this was a great first project, nice work guys!
I'm a new contributor here - some of you may recognize me as the guy who built the A27 Bionic Glove (posted earlier). I've had a little over 4 years experience building robots, and recently I got the NXT, and have been having lots of fun building with it.
Anyway, I'd like to thank Jim for inviting me, and I'll try to give you folks the latest and greatest information on NXT robotics. :-)
Oct 18, 2006
Bram Fokke has his own cure for an ailing Bluetooth connection: scrap the propietary drivers and just use the ones provided by Microsoft on Windows XP. (You have to have Service Pack 2 to do this).
After a long-used Bluetooth connection of mine suddenly went south, I tried Bram's advice and it worked. His article is appropriately entitled, "Bluetooth Brawl". Read it
Oct 17, 2006
Impact Labs - Top 12 Toy List
FamilyFun - Toy of the Year
Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award
FAO Shwarz Toy Innovation Award 2006
Oct 16, 2006
Oct 15, 2006
Oct 14, 2006
In other words, computers can now put their designs DIRECTLY INTO the real-world product. According to Shelley, the NXT (with its LabView software) illustrates the melding of computer design with the machine itself. Read Shelley's article
Well, I got an email from Cari recently and it includes a link for those of you who might be interested in a BASIC programming solution. It's not free, but the feedback and support for the product look good. You can check it out here.
I for one remember typing in my very first BASIC program on an Apple II - it bounced a ball randomly off the edges of the screen, similar to PONG but with no user control. Still, I was hooked and I have to admit that learning programming using line numbers (at first) helped me to figure out how to organize future programming projects...
I'd love to hear from some professional programmers out there... maybe some encouraging words to our younger readers who are interested in learning more programming...
Oct 13, 2006
Oct 12, 2006
Oct 11, 2006
Keep an eye on NXTLOG tomorrow for some updates... and if you haven't check it out yet, click here. Many have already started submitting, so if you've got something you're proud of, want to share, or just need to show off, create your account and get to work!
Nevertheless, I'd be very surprised if the US faces a holiday shortage of NXTs, for three reasons:
1) Lego specialty stores in the US have been promised an adequate supply of NXTs, according to the Lego Store manager in my town.
2) A large number of "big-box" stores sell NXTs (Best Buy, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart), not to mention a slew of online retailers.
3) Stiff competition from the Nintendo Wii may increase the availability of NXTs. (The Wii will be in NXT's price range).
Still, NXT spot shortages DID occur in August of this year. (Some Amazon.com customers had to wait several weeks for their NXTs in August).
Is the NXT available where you shop in the US? How about Europe and elsewhere?
Oct 10, 2006
Writing Efficient NXT-G Programs
There's a lot of interesting tidbits here in just a handfull of pages, including how NXT-G shares some pieces of code... and how you can take advantage of that. The last point is perhaps the most interesting to me: "miniblocks", performance-oriented blocks that can be "added on". I like where this is heading...
Maybe I did TOO good of a job on it, because I've been overwhelmed with email requests to purchase the wireless camera seen here.
The Wireless Camera you see here is homebrew. This means I made it myself. There is no KellyEngineeringGroup company (Kelly is my surname and this was meant as a joke). It is not an official LEGO product - it is not available for sale - you cannot buy it from HiTechnic or other vendor. I took a spare (extra) Light sensor and took it apart to obtain the shell needed for the camera. There was no wiring or soldering or any special skills needed other than the abilities to squeeze out superglue and drill a small hole for the antennae.
What I can provide you is a link to buy the camera and receiver here. Thank you ALL for your emails, and I'm sorry that I can't make one for you. But it's not hard. $30US (plus shipping fees) will get you your own camera... consider supergluing a small 3L beam to the bottom of the camera if you don't want to sacrifice a sensor.
I won't be able to respond to any more emails about the camera... sorry.
Oct 9, 2006
HiTechnic will start taking orders for the NXT compass online today. It will begin shipping on Tuesday, October 10. Cost is US$46.00 + shipping costs ($7.50 US and $18.95 International)
From the HiTechnic website, some guidelines/rules to remember:
The HiTechnic compass sensor will only operate correctly in a horizontal plane so you must keep the compass level for it to read correctly. This is very important so remember this when you build it into your robot.
NXT Firmware version 1.03 must be loaded in the NXT for the compass to operate correctly. You can check the firmware version by displaying the NXT Window in the Mindstorms software.
It is highly desirable to mount the compass at least 6 inches (15 cm) away from the motors and 4 inches (10cm) away from the NXT brick itself.
Try to make sure it is firmly mounted, if it bounces around, the readings may bounce around too.
Oct 8, 2006
Received some additional information from Derrick on the Sketching bot... (edited for length):
What I am attempting to do with this robot is to have it create dense pen drawings and use the light sensor to have the robot respond to the densities by choosing to switch to a different task in the program once the pen density reaches a desired point.
I had used previously to the NXT robot a RCX 2.0 kit to achieve a similar result with much success. When I designed the RCX I had used the ball point pen as the caster on the robot. The problem with this was that the pen always needed to be on the surface on the paper, so when the robot was doing an arbitrary task like backing up from the edge of the paper it was always marking.
I am using NXT as an opportunity to utilize the third motor as a means to pick up and put down the pen. This means that when the robot is executing an arbitrary task (i.e. moving back
to the center of the paper) it will not be marking on the page.
I have the light sensor on the front of the NXT to detect the black tape that I have
put around the edge of the paper so the NXT knows when it has gotten to the edge of the paper. The pen is secured to the extra motor in the center of the robot.
So far the most successful program I have created has 2 independent tasks running. The main task is the process of the robot drawing. What I have started to do to keep things from
getting to repetitive is by setting up a switch block in the task that has a couple of different "sketching" programs and the robot has a random block choosing between the two programs. The other program is waiting for the trigger of the black tape so the robot can back up
and turn around.
One of the initial problems I had was how to tell the NXT to pick up the pen when it found the black line, but not to pick it up if the pen already happened to be up. I ended up setting up a
logic variable for this. So when the NXT found the black tape at the edge of the paper it would check to see if the pen was already up or not. If it was then it would just back up and turn around. If it wasn't then it would pick up the pen before executing the back up and turn around command.
I am struggling with some of the quirks in the NXT-G programming like how to tell the NXT to immediately stop the present program when it finds the black line.
The drawings I have achieved so far with the RCX and the NXT project have obviously very non-representation and fairly geometric, but that is what I have really been going for.
Being an artist who primarily works with drawing media I find it to be a significant challenge to take the pen out of my hand and to make my interaction with the art making primarily about designing and programming the robot. I hope to eventually get program to a complexity where the NXT will have to make a lot of it's own decisions (albeit a bit randomly) on how it
will uniquely approach each drawing, but that is still a ways off!
Feel free to check it out here and give Pedro some feedback via comments. Thanks, Pedro, for submitting.
(You can also see the Pedro has developed some other NXT-related items...)
Oct 7, 2006
This seems to be an older site of the famous MIT and some of you may know it already, but I've run about it just recently.
It shows an impressive collection of robots with different numbers of legs and a heap of most entertaining movies.
I love the kangaroo-like one!
Oct 6, 2006
Oct 5, 2006
Toys R Us also has the NXT on its list of top twenty toys for the holidays. (Let's hope that every customer who wants one can actually buy one). Read about it
Brickshelf gallery of NXT tank
YouTube video of NXT tank
Greetings from Forest Edge Elementary School in Reston VA.
I finally had a change to take a club picture. Woops! I forget to include the NXT Kits. Oh well.
We are also missing about 12 students in this pic.
The club is comprised of five registered FLL teams which meet separately on the weekends at their coaches homes. I coach the young ones ( 8 and 9 year olds ) and also run the club at the school.
You should see the line up at this table!
Oct 4, 2006
Version .2 is now available. He's also including some sample projects. Let Bram know you enjoy his work and give him some feedback.
The new site is http://nxtsharp.fokke.net/
From the post: "We’d love to add more models to the page, however. If you’ve got a model you think others would be interested in, we’d love to hear about it. Photos or drawings showing step-by-step building instructions make it even better, but feel free to share even if you don’t have those things. Send any models or links to NXT@LEGOeducation.com, or leave a link in the comments."
If you've got some new building instructions that no one has yet seen, consider submitting them to the LEGO Ed blog for them to share...
I may be wrong, but I think the "overshoot and correction" shown for the NXT-G version can be fixed with some creative programming... anyone up for that challenge?
Click here for the winner
Interestesting that it starts off with "Jenkins"
That's the same name as my entry ( I admit that mine was not nearly as funny)
Still.. I wonder if The NXT Step blog can take partial credit for this win.
Oct 3, 2006
Thanks to James Isom who worked (hard!) to format these, and to LEGO Education for releasing them!
When the NXTLOG feature begins, you will have the opportunity to share your creations with the rest of the world. You'll have the ability to add pictures, building steps, notes, and video and visitors will be able to comment on your designs.
I plan on uploading details of many of my designs, such as the one you see here.
You'll hopefully see all the different sensors in action, along with some custom sensors and third-party sensors (such as the HiTechnic Compass sensor). I'm looking forward to a LOT of ideas from participants on NXTLOG.
You've probably got questions about what you're seeing here... I hate to do this, but you're going to have to wait just a little longer to get more details. I promise to put EVERY DETAIL of this design on NXTLOG and that means you'll have access to it, too. (I got the idea for providing this teaser from the Jeep design over at nxtasy.org.)
And, if you've figured out what it is, your next question is probably "Does it work?"
Well, here's your answer. (Apologies for the blurry image - I moved.)
Any thoughts or answers?
For Sept 2006, we had 23,746 visits to The NXT STEP, with 9,926 of these being unique visitors. Thank your for your participation and support - keep submitting those questions and we'll try and find you some answers as well as make them available for discussion and comments.
Oct 2, 2006
Great question... anyone have a definitive answer?
We received this question: "If I want my tribot to turn 90 degrees, how come I have to code the motors to spin in opposite directions each for 180 (or a bit more) degrees? I mean, why 180 degrees if I am turning the robot 90 degrees?"
Click on the image at left. If you take the NXT stock wheels (2.25 inches in diameter) and calculate their circumference, you get approx. 7 inches. Now, assume those wheels are mounted on a bot as shown, with a distance of 5 inches between them and you want the bot to spin a quarter-turn in place (left wheel spins one direction, right wheel spins the opposite direction).
When the Bot makes a quarter turn, each wheel has traveled 3.925 inches (along the path indicated by the red circle). If 7 inches = 360 degrees, then a simple calculation shows that 3.925 inches is approx 201 degrees - not 90.
The bot as a whole has made a 90 degree turn, but the wheels have turned substantially more.
Did this help? Can someone verify my math and that I've done this correctly?
The tricky part is those connections – remember how the master and slave NXTs showed that they labeled the connection with different numbers? Those are the “addresses” of the NXTs. But each address can have multiple mailboxes as well, making for yet another way of sorting out all the BT mail that ends up flying around. It’s similar to how mail gets to an apartment building: all of it gets sent to the same building (which NXT, identified by a connection number), but you can also tag each message as headed for a particular apartment (the mailbox number).
If you take a close look at the Send Message block, you’ll see you can tell it where you’d like the message to go: what connection to send it out on, and what mailbox in the receiving NXT to pop it into. But where is that information on the Receive Message block? Here there is no connection to select, so how do I tell the Receive Message block where to get messages from? The answer is you don’t: all messages sent to a single NXT are accessed through the Receive Message block, just like all your mail is sent to your address (even if some of it started in Austin, TX, while another was sent from Billund in Denmark). In short, NXT-G BT messages have no return address built into them (although there are ways around this… those mailboxes again).
Confused yet? Here’s a simple set of programs for the two connected NXTs. One (“DiceMaster”), running on the “master” NXT just generates a random number to send to the other one, and then waits for a return message from the second NXT telling it if the sum of all the numbers has exceeded some preset limit. The other program (“DiceSlave”) listens for a number to be sent to it, and then adds it to the total and checks to see if the limit has been exceeded, sending a message back to the master to let it know the result. Simple, but it does show how messages are sent both from the master to the slave, as well as from the slave back to the master. Note that a slave NXT can only send a message back to the master, so for a slave there is really only one outgoing connection: connection #0. And of course all the messages coming into the slave come only from the master as well, which is listed in the slave’s Connection menu as on connection #0. So I tend to think of this in the terms I used in the program comments: slaves both send and receive all messages over connection #0, while from the master’s point of view, it can send messages out to any one of three addresses (#1, #2, or #3), but again receives all incoming messages along a single “line”, which I still think of as a “connection #0”.
Now, for any of you with two or more NXTs, experiment! And let us know what new quirks or features you uncover.
Oct 1, 2006
This squares with the breaking of the 500 posts border and seems to me the next logical step on our way to world domination. ;-)
Hence, a German sister site has come into being, called Die NXTe Ebene (which means more or less the same as The NXT STEP).
For a start, it will provide translations of the posts to-be in The NXT STEP (or of abstracts of the longer posts (as long as Brian is out of all reason not willing to learn German)).
With the site, we hope to achieve in particular young German NXT aficionados that might not feel completely at ease with the english language yet.
Matthias Paul (editor of Die NXTe Ebene)
Received the following question: Please feel free to add your comments to my own.
What are the recommended (or even required) add-ons for the NXT set? I just bought the set, but also felt the need to buy a couple of Technic sets so that I can big builder bots/etc.Jim's Answer: As of right now, there are no "REQUIRED" add-ons... there aren't even any NXT expansion sets yet. The NXT is still considered quite new. There are a variety of 3rd party sensors now available from Mindsensors.com and HiTechnic has partnered with LEGO to sell their sensors (see an earlier post on the Compass sensor I tested). I'll let readers make suggestions for other sets that you might like...
Take two NXT bricks, and turn both of them on. Now use the BT menus to make sure both have BT turned on, and make sure both are “visible”. If you’ve never paired these NXT bricks with any other BT device, you will find the “Contacts” menu item seem to do nothing – there are no previous contacts recorded, so this menu is essentially blank (if you previously paired your NXT brick with a BT-capable computer, you’ll find at least one entry under “Contacts”, that of the computer itself).
On one of the NXT bricks, under the BT menu select the “Search” option. The NXT will search the local area for any recognizable BT devices, which may take a few seconds (note: if you do this at, say, NI Week, a major technical trade conference, where literally hundreds of folks are walking around with BT-equipped cell phones, laptops, and other devices… well, let’s just say I gave up waiting after awhile). After a while, the NXT pops up a list of the BT devices it has found. Select the other NXT brick from the list, and then connect on “” (connection #1; you could use any connection, but for now I’ll stick with the default). The first time you do this, a “passkey” dialog will pop up on both NXTs; both of them have to accept the offered passkey (usually “1234” unless you really want to change it). Once you’ve done all this, you’ll see that the little “half-diamond” symbol in the status bar of the NXT bricks has changed to a “full diamond”, showing a BT connection. That’s it, the two NXTs are now linked via BT. If you want to follow the directions on pg37 of the user’s guide, you can now send files (but strangely not image files; I’ve no idea why that got left out) between the two NXTs.
By the way, the next time you want to connect these two NXTs, you don’t need to go through the whole searching and passkey circus. The NXT brick has obligingly recorded the name and status of the new BT device, so all you have to do to establish a connection next time is go right to the “Contacts” submenu, and select what NXT you’d like to connect to (and what connection to use). Handy.
Why did I bother walking through this, when it’s already in the user’s guide? Besides the fact that some people (none of the readers here, I’m sure) don’t actually read the entire user’s guide, I wanted to point out some quirks that become very important later. With the two NXTs connected via BT, take a look at the “Connections” menus on both of them. The one that you started the connection from (called the “master”) lists the other as on “”, while the second NXT (call it the “slave”) lists the connection to the first as over connection #0 (“”). Remember that – even though these two NXTs are connected to each other, they “see” the paired device on a different “connections”. Furthermore that initial NXT that you initiated the connection from has special standing; from it you can initiate other BT connection to other devices (like still more NXTs).
Maybe some of you have seen them in some stores in Middle Europe already, but for me those were the first ones I've ever seen commercially available in Germany.
Geht hin und holt ihn Euch! ;-)
I got an email from William C. who asks "Is there such a thing as a hand-held bluetooth remote control (like theinfra-red one for the RCX) that I can use with the NXT? My cell phone isn't bluetooth enabled, and I don't want to have to buy another NXT just to get the benefits of remote control."
Bluetooth confuses me, too, William. Mainly because I've never been able to get it working on my PDA (incompatible Bluetooth version). I've got a new laptop coming in a few weeks that has built-in bluetooth so I'm hoping to learn some more there.
I've got 2 NXT Bricks and have had some limited playtime with using them together, but again, I'm not an expert. If you've got some comments for William (or me) regarding bluetooth options, please share your comments with us.