For christmas, my wonderful fiancée gave me a LEGO Mindstorm NXT 2 kit, and its awesome. I’ve always wanted a M kit, for about as long as they have been making Lego Mindstorm.
The first robot I attempted to make without using the supplied plans was a drawing robot. Technically, half of the platform is from another design, Hans Andersons Soduku Solver to be precise. He has building instructions on the site. Everything on the drawing side of my robot is my design. I didn’t get very far with programming the bot, the construction was far too sloppy and inaccurate to do anything impressive, and revised mechanism never got completed. I’m sure I’ll have another look at this concept at some point down the track.
After playing with the kit, I have come to the conclusion that it is a fantastic way for people interested in playing with robotics to get started, especially if you already have a supply of technic Lego, like myself. It is fairly pricey, but you get a very powerful little controller, 3 motors with built in rotation sensors, an ultrasonic sensor, touch sensors, a colour sensor, a bunch of building blocks, as well as a rather straight forward way of programming your creations to do what you want.
The biggest problem I came across was re-learning how to make things with Lego, with the new style technic parts, as long gone are the standard Lego bricks with holes in them, the new way of building involves girders with the same hole spacing as the old bricks, but they don’t have the studs to snap to other bricks. Are they better or worse then the old Technics bricks? I don’t know, just different. I wish the motors and sensors had some studs on them too, to allow for some more Lego flexibility, but its an issue relatively easy to work around
I was amaized at how open the platform seems to be, there are a lot of people out there who have created their own custom sensors for it. Hitechnic and mindsensors are the two main creators of custom sensors Hitechnic are “Lego Certified” and as such, their sensors look identical to the other standard sensors.
The sensor ports are analogue, as well as digital, communicating through the I2C bus (custom I2C sensors can’t be used with the bundled software though, you must program it with other software, such as RobotC, which quickly takes the Mindstorm out of the skill range of a kid (but, so too would making the custom sensors)
Programming your creations is taken care of with the supplied software, which is build upon National Instruments Labview. you can actually use Labview to create new custom blocks for the Lego software. It is also possible to use different software, such as the previously mentioned RobotC, which allows you to take your programming to a new level, one with functions, and much more control then you can achieve with the supplied software. This obviously takes the kit out of the realm of children’s play.
Well, thats the end of my ramblings on Lego Mindstorm. I’m off to attempt to build some more robotic creations, which I’m sure some of which will make it onto this site. So, until next time, I hope everyone out there has fun creating things.