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LEGO: Mindstorms NXT

The name LEGO has been synonymous with interlocking plastic bricks for over 80 years. While those colorful pieces has been the foundation of endless hours of creative fun, LEGO wanted to leverage their brand to expand into robotics. In 1998, LEGO launched the first generation of the Mindstorms Robotic Invention System (RIS). Eight years later, they followed up with the easier-to-program NXT 1.0 system. With the LEGO Mindstorms NXT, kids as young as 10 can design, program, and construct real working robots! In keeping with the LEGO traditions, the kind of robots one can build with the Mindstorms is only limited by the imagination.

The Mindstorms NXT kit comes with 577 pieces of building material (struts, connectors, etc.) It also comes with various sensors (sound, light, ultrasonic, touch) and servo motors. At the heart of the system is the 32-bit microprocessor-based controller. The NXT controller can handle four inputs, three outputs, and has both USB and Bluetooth communication capabilities. The system is a robotic hacker’s dream 🙂

The LEGO Mindstorms NXT system is now on version 2.0. There is no difference in the controller hardware between the 1.0 and 2.0 kits. The 2.0 kit has upgraded firmware, but upgrades can be downloaded from the Lego website for any NXT controller. The 2.0 has few more building pieces and a new color sensor. All of the new pieces may be purchased separately. So if you come across an older 1.0 NXT kit at a good price, grab it. All you need to do is upgrade the controller’s firmware and you are good to go!

We have not had much time to explore the Mindstorms NXT yet, but we expect to spend some time checking out all the things we can do with it. We are especially interested in unique 3rd-party sensors, hacks, and other such items. Let us know if you have something you would like us to look at. We’ll be happy to consider it.

NOTE: If you are not convinced as to the power of NXT, maybe this video of the world’s fastest Rubic’s cube solver (man or machine) will convince you otherwise.

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