Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms NXT

Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms NXT

1st Edition - June 7, 2007

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  • Editor: David Astolfo
  • eBook ISBN: 9780080554334
  • Paperback ISBN: 9781597491525

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The Ultimate Tool for MINDSTORMS® ManiacsThe new MINDSTORMS kit has been updated to include a programming brick, USB cable, RJ11-like cables, motors, and sensors. This book updates the robotics information to be compatible with the new set and to show how sound, sight, touch, and distance issues are now dealt with. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT and its predecessor, the LEGO MINDSTORMS Robotics Invention System (RIS), have been called "the most creative play system ever developed." This book unleashes the full power and potential of the tools, sensors, and components that make up LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT. It also provides a unique insight on newer studless building techniques as well as interfacing with the traditional studded beams. Some of the world's leading LEGO MINDSTORMS inventors share their knowledge and development secrets. You will discover an incredible range of ideas to inspire your next invention. This is the ultimate insider's look at LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system and is the perfect book whether you build world-class competitive robots or just like to mess around for the fun of it.Featuring an introduction by astronaut Dan Barry and written by Dave Astolfo, Invited Member of the MINDSTORMS Developer Program and MINDSTORMS Community Partners (MCP) groups, and Mario and Guilio Ferrari, authors of the bestselling Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms, this book covers:Understanding LEGO GeometryPlaying with GearsControlling MotorsReading SensorsWhat's New with the NXT?Building StrategiesProgramming the NXTPlaying Sounds and MusicBecoming MobileGetting Pumped: PneumaticsFinding and Grabbing ObjectsDoing the MathKnowing Where You AreClassic ProjectsBuilding Robots That WalkRobotic AnimalsSolving a MazeDrawing and WritingRacing Against TimeHand-to-Hand CombatSearching for Precision

Key Features

  • Complete coverage of the new Mindstorms NXT kit
  • Brought to you by the DaVinci's of LEGO
  • Updated edition of a bestseller


Lego enthusiasts of all levels

Table of Contents

  • Lead Author and Technical Editor

    Lead Authors


    Foreword Contributor



    Chapter 1: Understanding LEGO® Geometry


    Expressing Sizes and Units

    Squaring the LEGO World: Vertical Bracing

    Tilting the LEGO World: Diagonal Bracing

    TECHNIC Liftarms: Angles Built In


    Chapter 2: Playing with Gears


    Counting Teeth

    Gearing Up and Down

    Riding That Train: The Geartrain

    Worming Your Way: The Worm Gear

    Limiting Strength with the Clutch Gear

    Placing and Fitting Gears

    Using Pulleys, Belts, and Chains

    Pulleys and Belts


    Making a Difference: The Differential


    Chapter 3: Controlling Motors


    Pacing, Trotting, and Galloping

    Mounting Motors

    Wiring Motors

    Controlling Power

    Coupling Motors


    Chapter 4: Reading Sensors


    Digital Sensor Ports with the I2C (Inter-Integrated Circuit) Interface

    The Touch Sensor

    The Light Sensor

    The Ultrasonic Sensor

    The Servo Motor Encoder (Rotation Sensor)

    Sensor Tips and Tricks

    Other Sensors


    Chapter 5: What’s New with the NXT?


    Notable Enhancements

    The NXT File System

    The LCD Screen


    Digital Interfaces and Bluetooth

    Future Possibilities


    Chapter 6: Building Strategies


    Studless Building Techniques

    Maximizing Modularity

    Loading the Structure

    Putting It All Together: Chassis, Modularity, and Load

    Hybrid Robots: Using Studless and Studded LEGO Pieces


    Chapter 7: Programming the NXT


    What Is the NXT Programmable Brick?

    Introduction to Programming the NXT Brick

    Using RobotC

    Using Other Programming Languages

    Code Samples

    Running Independent Tasks


    Chapter 8: Playing Sounds and Music


    Communicating through Tones

    Playing Music

    Converting Sound and Music Files



    Chapter 9: Becoming Mobile


    Building the Simple Differential Drive

    Building a Skid-Steer Drive

    Building a Steering Drive

    Building a Synchro Drive

    Other Configurations


    Chapter 10: Getting Pumped: Pneumatics


    Recalling Some Basic Science

    Pumps and Cylinders

    Controlling the Airflow

    Building Air Compressors

    Building a Pneumatic Engine


    Chapter 11: Finding and Grabbing Objects


    Operating Hands and Grabbers

    Finding Objects

    Distinguishing Objects and Obstacles


    Chapter 12: Doing the Math


    Multiplying and Dividing

    Averaging Data

    Using Interpolation

    Understanding Hysteresis

    Higher Math


    Chapter 13: Knowing Where You Are


    Choosing Internal or External Guidance

    Looking for Landmarks: Absolute Positioning

    Map Matching Using Ultrasonic Sensor

    Combining Compass Sensor to Increase Precision

    Measuring Movement: Relative Positioning

    Measuring Movement: Acceleration Sensor


    Chapter 14: Classic Projects


    Exploring Your Room

    Following a Line


    Chapter 15: Building Robots That Walk


    The Theory behind Walking

    Building Legs

    Building a Four-Legged Robot

    Building a Six-Legged Steering Robot

    Designing Bipeds


    Chapter 16: Robotic Animals


    Creating a Monkey

    Programming Your Monkey

    Creating a Mouse

    Creating Other Animals


    Chapter 17: Solving a Maze


    Finding the Way Out

    Building a Maze Runner

    Building a Maze Solver


    Chapter 18: Drawing and Writing


    Creating a Logo Turtle

    Tape Writer

    Further Suggestions


    Chapter 19: Racing Against Time


    Hosting and Participating in Contests

    Optimizing Speed

    Combining Speed with Precision


    Chapter 20: Hand-to-Hand Combat


    Building a Robotic Sumo

    Attack Strategies

    Getting Defensive

    Testing Your Sumo


    Chapter 21: Searching for Precision


    Precise Positioning

    Shooting with Precision

    Fine Motor Skills of Your Robot

    Fire Fighting in a Maze

    Playing Soccer





    General Interest Sites

    Chapter 1 Understanding LEGO Geometry

    Chapter 2 Playing with Gears

    Chapter 3 Controlling Motors

    Chapter 4 Reading Sensors

    Chapter 5 What’s New with the NXT

    Chapter 6 Building Strategies

    Chapter 7 Programming the NXT

    Chapter 8 Playing Sounds and Music

    Chapter 9 Becoming Mobile

    Chapter 10 Getting Pumped: Pneumatics

    Chapter 11 Finding and Grabbing Objects

    Chapter 12 Doing the Math

    Chapter 13 Knowing Where You Are

    Chapter 14 Classic Projects

    Chapter 15 Building Robots That Walk

    Chapter 16 Robotic Animals

    Chapter 17 Solving a Maze

    Chapter 18 Drawing and Writing

    Chapter 19 Racing Against Time

    Chapter 20 Hand-to-Hand Combat

    Chapter 21 Searching for Precision

    Matching Distances

    Note Frequencies

    Math Cheat Sheet



    Weighted average:


    Gears, Wheels, and Navigation


Product details

  • No. of pages: 480
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Syngress 2007
  • Published: June 7, 2007
  • Imprint: Syngress
  • eBook ISBN: 9780080554334
  • Paperback ISBN: 9781597491525

About the Editor

David Astolfo

Dave Astolfo (GIS A.S.) is a Project Manager / Business Analyst with the technical arm of a North American environmental consulting company. He currently provides project management, technical consulting, database design and software architecture with a focus on Geographic Information Systems ranging from desktop mapping software, web mapping portals and mobile software applications. His specialties range from database modeling, software design / architecture. Dave is a key contributor to the business development and implementation of products and services. As such, he develops enterprise-wide technology solutions and methodologies focused on client organizations. Dave holds a bachelor’s degree from Trent University and is a certified Geographic Information Systems Applications Specialist holding a certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College. In early 2006, Dave was invited by Lego to participate in the Lego Mindstorms Developer Program (MPD) to help Lego beta test the pre-release of the Lego Mindstorms NXT robotics system. After the release of the NXT, Dave was invited back to participate in the Lego Mindstorms Community Partner Program (MCP) to work with Lego in developing the product further while and providing an ear to the community. Dave has been involved with Lego all of his life, and has been working with the Mindstorms product since the initial release of the Lego Mindstorms Robotics Invention System (RIS) in 1998. Dave is well known for building a Mindstorms domino-placing robot which was published in a previous Syngress book (10 Cool Lego Ultimate Builders Lego Mindstorms Robots). Since then, he has created newer versions with a more recent NXT version being used by Lego marketing staff in Europe. Visit Dave’s site,, for more information on his work.

Affiliations and Expertise

Invited Member of the MINDSTORMS Developer Program and Mindstorms Community Partners (MCP) groups, Burlington, Ontario, Canada

About the Authors

Dan Barry

Daniel T. Barry (M.D., Ph.D.) is a former NASA astronaut who was a crew member aboard the Space Shuttles Discovery and Endeavor. He logged more than 734 hours in space, including four spacewalks totaling 25 hours and 53 minutes. He holds a BS degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University; a master’s of engineering degree and a master of arts degree in electrical engineering/computer science from Princeton University; a doctorate in electrical engineering/computer science from Princeton University; and a doctorate in medicine from the University of Miami in 1982.

Organizations to which he belongs include the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AAEM), the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPMR), the Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP), and the Association of Space Explorers. He holds five patents, has written 50 articles in scientific journals, and has served on two scientific journal editorial boards.

Dr. Barry retired from NASA in April 2005 to start his own company, Denbar Robotics, where he currently builds robots. Dr. Barry currently lives in South Hadley, MA.

Affiliations and Expertise

Former Space Shuttle Astronaut

Mario Ferrari

Mario Ferrari received his first Lego box around 1964, when he was 4. Lego was his favorite toy for many years, until he thought he was too old to play with it. In 1998, the Lego Mindstorms RIS set gave him reason to again have Lego become his main addiction. Mario believes Lego is the closest thing to the perfect toy. He is Managing Director at EDIS, a leader in finishing and packaging solutions and promotional packaging. The advent of the MINDSTORMS product line represented for him the perfect opportunity to combine his interest in IT and robotics with his passion for LEGO bricks, which started during his early childhood. Mario has been a very active member of the online MINDSTORMS community from the beginning and has pushed LEGO robotics to its limits. Mario holds a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Turin and has always nourished a strong interest for physics, mathematics, and computer science. He is fluent in many programming languages and his background includes positions as an IT manager and as a project supervisor. Mario estimates he owns over 60,000 Lego pieces. Mario works in Modena, Italy, where he lives with his wife Anna and his children Sebastiano and Camilla.

Affiliations and Expertise

Author of bestselling "Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms", Italy

Guilio Ferrari

Giulio Ferrari is a student in Economics at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where he also studied Engineering. He is fond of computers and has developed utilities, entertainment software, and Web applications for several companies. Giulio discovered robotics in 1998, with the arrival of MINDSTORMS, and held an important place in the creation of the Italian LEGO community. He shares a love for LEGO bricks with his oldest brother Mario, and a strong curiosity for the physical and mathematical sciences. Giulio also has a collection of 1200 dice, including odd-faced dice and game dice. He studies, works, and lives in Modena, Italy.

Affiliations and Expertise

Author of bestselling "Building Robots with LEGO Mindstorms", Italy

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