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LEGO Mindstorm Projects

written by: KennethSleight•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 4/17/2011

LEGO has been one of the leaders in design and engineering toys for several decades. Their simple building kits have inspired the imaginations of countless children across the globe. LEGO Mindstorms projects take this building toy concept a step further by introducing the elements of robotics.

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    What Is Mindstorms NXT?

    Alpha Rex LEGO Mindstorms NXT is a buildable robot kit in only the way LEGO could do it. The NXT 1.0 and 2.0 kits come with a NXT block which is essentially a LEGO block programmable chip incorporated. This chip can be programmed to interact with the included servo motors and visual and audio sensors. Once a project is built it can then be programmed via a programming interface on the Mindstorms' website. This beautifully designed graphic user interface is simple to learn and offers step-by-step guides to beginning and modifying the program process. The robot programming is downloaded directly to the NXT chip via a USB or Bluetooth connection. Prefabricated programs can also be downloaded for some of the project builds including the Alpha Rex humanoid robot.

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    LEGO Community

    Lego Alligator The community of LEGO Mindstorms enthusiasts is an extremely enthusiastic and helpful group. During my talks with several of them, I was directed to a few sites that have user created projects that can be completed by using the pieces in one or more of the existing NXT Mindstorms sets. The LEGO Corporation also offers several sets of free building instructions for creating new projects from your existing kits.

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    Where to Find Project Directions

    LEGO Mindstorms Projects Directly From LEGO

    LEGO doesn’t just put out a product and then leave their customers to their own devices. With the Mindstorms project, LEGO has included downloadable programming for the robotic creations that can be concocted with any of its kits. The customer support section has both user created and official LEGO instructions as well as programming for NXT projects including the 8527 TriBot set. The alternative instructions for this set include the classic clock, Alpha Rex, Music player, the T-56 claw machine, Spike (a scorpion-like robot), Soundbot and Tribot. User created instructions available for download include step-by-step materials for building seven other unique robots from the 8547 NXT 2.0 kit, available at Amazon for around $279.

    Each of these programmable robots can be programmed using the software interface at the LEGO site. The interface is intuitive and comes with easy to follow guided instructions. Drop by the site to check out the latest user creations, videos, blogs, or other Mindstorms related materials.

    NXT Programs LEGO Mindstorms Projects

    The NXT Programs website offers free instructions for 66 projects for the NXT 1.0 and 24 projects for the NXT 2.0. These instructions are broken down into levels from beginner to advanced in both terms of construction and programming. The projects here could keep a future engineer building and rebuilding for countless weeks.

    Every single project on this site includes image based instructions with minimal text. There are explanatory notes when necessary but this is basically a set of visual guides. The programming aspects are also straight forward with lists of exactly where to find necessary files and how to transfer them to your NXT chip. Some of the best project kit instructions for the NXT 1.0 include the electric guitar, the line follower and the dog sled team. The NXT 2.0 has some equally interesting robots including the ball shooter and the forklift.

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    Value of LEGO Mindstorms Projects

    The initial price of a LEGO Mindstorm NXT kit may seem a bit daunting but considering it has a multitude of projects than can be built and the interactive programming component, it actually exceeds the value of most other robotic kits in the marketplace. The different levels of project difficulty means this kit grows with the user giving just the right amount of challenge from step to step. The sheer number of LEGO Mindstorms projects and the fact that more are being added by dedicated community members all the time make this the ultimate value in the robot marketplace.

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    References

    LEGO Mindstorms - http://mindstorms.lego.com/en-us/support/buildinginstructions/8527/Trubot%20-%20program.aspx

    NXT Programs - http://nxtprograms.com/projects.html

    Images courtesy of Amazon