LEGO Mindstorms NXT
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- Intelligent brick with 32-bit microprocessor; more memory and flash
- Three interactive servo motors features built-in rotation sensors that aligns speed for precise control and new sound patterns and tones
- 577 specially selected LEGO TECHNIC elements for sturdy and durable building and improved functionality and movement
- Icon-based drag-and-drop program building environment
- 6 AA batteries required which is not included
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CHOKING HAZARD -- Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.
Bow to the next generation of LEGO Mindstorms – now, with a 32-bit processor, redesigned sensors, Bluetooth and more.
- 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
- 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
Safety warning: This product contains small parts that may present a choking hazard for young children.
Sure, Mindstorms NXT is a toy, but it is an important toy, like a piano or a chemistry set. It's one of those items that engages an imagination and possibly opens doors to new interests. Since our future is surely to be shared with robots--it's already started happening, just look at Roomba--those robots will need, at least initially, humans to program and maintain them. Those people, years from now, will likely remember their experiences with Lego Mindstorms.
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--it's 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 (see detail below).
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.
Hitting the Bricks
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, though for me it was closer to 50 (I'm a little old and slow). 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.
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.
Next, I installed the software. Be sure to check the system requirements (below). 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.
Bringing It To Life
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.
|Mindstorms NXT "challenges" from top: Tribot, RoboArm, and Spike.|
There comes a genuine thrill from seeing something you've created--even something simple and silly as my first program--come to life in a robot. It's akin to seeing yourself on TV for the first time. I played that program a dozen times.
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.
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.
My one and only complaint is that I wish the sensors had more "studs," those little round parts that allows Lego bricks to interlock. --Porter B. HallSee all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
After a very rocky, initial start, my son has grown to REALLY like this product. The problems we had with this "1.0" set are, I think, somewhat resolved by the "2.0" version LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 (8547). In the 2.0 set, they swapped out the "sound" (vibration, really) sensor and gave it a color sensor instead of a light sensor. I'm not that adept at NXT-speak, but my son, having had the 1.0 version for a whole year (and using it every week of the year), would probably love it if I sprang for a 2.0 version set this Christmas, even though there is little that's innovative from the 1.0 set.
So, stick with it, and perhaps you child will like this set, too!
A lot of good reviews have been written on this product, and on the strength of those reviews, I bought this kit for my 12yo son this past Christmas. Today, I want to share with you our out-of-box experience, so you know what you might encounter.
My son was certainly eager to begin building his first robot on Christmas Day. The first suggested robot is the Tribot, I think it's called. It's a three-wheeled robot with claws. We installed the software on the kids' laptop and tried to set-up Bluetooth to communicate between the laptop and the robot. That connection, however, didn't work. Nor did it work on my own laptop, either. After doing some web searches, it looks like our Dell-branded laptops have a Bluetooth implementation that doesn't work (or doesn't work well) with the Lego Mindstorm NXT robots. I don't know if that's a Dell issue, a Lego issue, both or neither. But it was our first disappointment nevertheless.
The next disappointment came after we used the USB cable to install a program in the Tribot. The program was fairly simple -- move forward, sense a ball using a touch sensor and grasp it with the claws, backup an unlimited amount of time until the sound sensor detects noise, then turn around 180 degrees and open the claws. Problem was, the sound sensor apparently kept detecting noise even though we weren't making any, and so the program kept ending prematurely after 1, 5, maybe 8 or 9 or 10 seconds after it began backing up. This quirky behavior greatly deflated my son -- how can you have fun instructing a robot that doesn't follow directions?
I contacted Amazon's Customer Service -- the best! -- and they overnighted a replacement unit. My son built the same robot from kit #2, but this robot had much worse problems than the first: the motors ran in the opposite direction from what the program instructed (and, no, we triple-checked the cabling -- this wasn't an assembly problem), one wheel failed to brake properly, and the reduced-power instruction to the wheels failed to execute properly. Oh, it also exhibited the same problem with the sound sensor, too. And yes, I was running the *exact* same program between the 1st robot and the 2nd robot -- downloaded from the same laptop on which the program was originally written. Yes, I know that we shouldn't have experienced variation in the way the program ran between the two robots. I'm just here to tell you that WE DID. And that was maddening. (I posted the my results on YouTube -- search "bocawade" for the NXT videos).
Now I searched the Internet for answers, and found an enthusiast site where I learned quite a bit [...] First off, the "sound" sensor isn't really detecting sound as much as vibrations. The nuance between "sound" and "vibrations" meant that our robot, running on bumpy living room tile, apparently sensed a vibration where none was intended. That solved our initial problem with the first robot.
Along the way, I discovered a programming language bug that's used to program these robots. Using a Loop block with a Count = 3, the last program instruction before the end of the loop -- a Touch sensor block -- needed to be touched for as many times as the program had looped. In other words, during the first loop, the touch sensor needed to be touched only once to send the loop to the beginning. On the second loop, the touch sensor had to be touched twice, and on the third loop, it had to be touched three times, and so on. This programming language bug was later confirmed by one of the members of the [...] site. To me and my son, though, this was utter nonsense and just continued our frustrations.
Did I mention Lego's technical support? I tried contacting them for answers, but they were really no help whatsoever. Again, the enthusiast site -- [...] -- said that Lego's "technical support" was good for nothing much more than replacing missing pieces from a kit.
It's now a week after Christmas. We're going to ship the 2nd robot kit back to Amazon and keep the first, now that we know what the issues were with the sound sensor. But it was hardly a good week between Dec 25 and Jan 1.
Most people don't have this kind of out-of-box experience, I think. But I'm writing this lengthy review just to forewarn you of some issues you might encounter along the way. Don't look to Lego for technical help. Don't be surprised at a robot that doesn't perform correctly (and your program isn't to blame for that). Don't think a "Sound" sensor is detecting sound like you'd think it would.
I'm still expecting my son will have a lot of fun -- and frustration -- in making robots. Software development can be very frustrating, I know (I'm a software developer by trade). But Lego could provide customers with a better out-of-box experience from the get-go (like, include a few already-written programs along with the software to write programs with, and include videos showing how those programs should affect a specific robot model).
So, the two-star rating is strictly for the out-of-box experience alone.
The Lego Group is a manufacturer of toys and construction kits which has been around for exactly 50 years as of this writing. In the 1990's, Lego created a line of basic robotics design and programming sets (deemed "Mindstorms"). These sets generally consist of a processing unit and various Lego pieces for building, motors for moving, and sensors so that the processing unit is able to know what's going on around it. When the Mindstorms series was created, no other company offered a do-it-yourself robotic creation kit, and as of today there is no other product out there that offers a kit like this that includes everything needed to create simple to mildly complex robots.
The latest of these sets is the Mindstorms NXT, which is the second set in the series that allows for complete programming on a personal computer. With a slogan of "Build and Program Robots that Do what You Want," the Lego Group advertises that the set includes 577 building pieces and a new "intelligent brick" with a 32-bit microprocessor and more FLASH memory for storing programs and other files. It also advertises a new ultrasonic sensor and sound sensor, as well as built in rotation sensors for each of its three included motors. At $249.99, this kit may sound pricy, but educational and scientific products with similar capabilities to the components of this set often sell for more.
General Design and Function: Neutral Statements
The first aspect of this product that I noticed, and also one of the more important changes to be aware of compared to past Mindstorms sets, is that everything about this set is larger. The processing unit is about 20% larger and the sensors are on average about twice as large. The motors are about 3 times as large as the previous motors. This makes for larger and more powerful robots (with more sensitive sensors), which can be both good and bad.
In addition, traditional Lego stud-based building has been all but completely done away with. This means that Lego "Technic" pieces (a system of rods, pegs, axles and gears) will be what robots are made of. As a result, I felt that this system has a tendency to produce vehicular robots rather than robots that rely on stationary structures or mounts. Again, this design decision can be both positive and negative, depending on what types of bots you're thinking of creating.
One last important but not necessarily good or bad design decision is an all new programming language. Though it is still an icon based drag-and-drop language (like the last installment of Mindstorms used), it was reworked from the ground up with more advanced features specifically for the NXT. Dragging icons around to make robots behave differently may be easier to understand for young users, but as an icon-based language it still seems trivial to me (although less so than did the last set's language), and it will seem especially trivial to anyone with other programming experience.
Performance Evaluation: The Good
* Older Lego and Lego Technic pieces are easy to incorporate into the design of robots, and a large assortment of additional sensors is available for purchase from either Lego or other manufacturers, adding large amounts of opportunity for all kinds of robots. In addition, adapters can be purchased so that sensors from the previous Mindstorms set can be used with the NXT.
* All included pieces (electronic and mechanical) were well designed and without defects (showing that a lot of thought went into their design and manufacture).
* Although bulkier, sensors are sturdier and more accurate, and motors are stronger and can sense rotation to the degree. In addition, motors can rotate an axle that goes all the way through or parts that attach to other peg holes on the motor.
* The NXT has Bluetooth for connecting wirelessly to home computers.
* Parallel programming (telling two or more strings of code to run at the same time) is made possible for the first time, and is easy to accomplish with the built in language.
* Third party programming languages like C and Java are available for the NXT, and a new data logging feature offers something advanced users will enjoy.
* An available (but not included) rechargeable battery eliminates the need for 6 AA's every time the NXT runs out of power, and the ability to turn off "sleep mode" has been added so that programs can run for a long time if you want them to.
Performance Evaluation: The Bad
* The programming language included is useful for learning but not useful for very detailed projects. A large part of this problem could have been avoided if Lego had added some more advanced "programming blocks."
* Advertised flash memory is incredibly limited for a device of this size. Even a few megabytes (which is tiny by today's standards) would be enough, but the device offers less than 100 kilobytes for program, sound, and data log storage. To compensate for the lack of space, the software automatically compresses programs, making even very large programs fit, although storing multiple programs is still a problem.
* The set is packaged like traditional Lego sets, meaning storage and sorting of various pieces is a problem (with this type of set, you'll constantly be disassembling and reassembling different robots, and it's necessary to have a place to put the pieces between these times.)
* The models that the set comes with instructions to build are clunky, slow, and somewhat poorly designed (unusual for Lego). The flashy appearance of these models adds to the feeling that Lego is really trying to attract kids to this product and neglecting advanced users, even though the system as a whole has such advanced capabilities.
I recommend the Lego Mindstorms NXT set with reservations. The functionality of the product is much more than what you might expect from a toy manufacturer, but as a "toy" this product can be a bit child-like. Advanced users will have to find ways around its issues (such as using other programming languages), but for the most part everything you need to make a robot is right in the box.
used this product. Since they used it, I thought maybe
I was making a mistake buying it. However, my grandson was thrilled with it. Since he now owned his own, he was able to create and program robots and then rebuild the robots in other forms. He called twice to tell me how much he liked it. He has become so proficient in using it that he was able to to assist a teacher at his middle school, who had obtained the product for his class's use. This is probably the best gift I have ever bought for him. It certainly is more expensive than the gifts I usually buy, but I think it was well worth the money. E. Tirpak