Friday, June 1, 2012

NXT Programs - Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Robotics Development

Lego NXT

Lego Robotics (Mindstorms NXT 2.0) have been around since 08/01/2009 and were quite the improvement over the original Lego Mindstorms NXT program released in '06. Users are able to come up with some incredible creations that perform real and useful tasks. These tasks can include driving around, launching things, playing sports, solving puzzle, and a whole lot more. Because of the more powerful Intelligent Brick from Lego that has 3 motor inputs and 4 sensor inputs, a lot more capabilities were unlocked and the possibilities are infinite! Check out Lego's official website here.

Lego Mindstorms For Students and Hardcore Robotics Fanatics

Some of the robots that have been built using the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 platform have taken the entire world by storm. It's not just children playing with the building brick style toys anymore. Many adults have become actively involved and addicted to this awesome robotics program from Lego. High schools and universities the world over have adopted this creative platform to enhance technical education and stimulate young imaginations.

There are people that have taken this to the extreme. Serious robotics developers have taken the Lego Mindstorms platform to a whole new level and integrated it with professional style electronics instead of using NXT programs. Rather than using the novice-style intelligent Brick from Lego for NXT programming, they have integrated better, faster, and more complex microcontroller chips into the mix. The ATMEL AVR chip is a more complex microcontroller that can be used in a myriad of applications. They are used in everyday electronics and products that are sold around the globe. Some microwaves, keyboards, vacuum cleaners, televisions, and other consumer products utilize this powerful chip. In the video below, you will see that it has even been used to create a full autonomous Lego robot. The robot represents the the Dreadnought from Dawn of War.

This is just one example of the many impressive Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 builds users have already created. Although most use the Intelligent Brick, it is possible to use more advanced control methods to make your robots complete more complex tasks. The vast array of Lego sensors, actuators, and easy-assembly building blocks that come in the Mindstorms NXT 2.0 kit can be integrated with more than just the Intelligent Brick.

Creating NXT Programs

For those who are not so advanced as to create things like that seen in the video above, utilizing the Lego Mindstorms Intelligent Brick is absolutely a viable option to engineer some amazing and imaginative bots. Kits start at a little over $300, but they include everything needed for a beginner. Right out of the box, users can begin to build beautiful mechanical designs and then hook them up to their computer to program them. Programming the NXT Intelligent Brick can be done a variety of different ways. There are tons of different programming languages one can use, but for novices, it is recommended they use the basic, graphical programming language. All of the software for the graphical programming IDE (Integrated Development Environment) are provided in the kit, and it is literally a drag-and-drop method to create NXT programs. It is called the NXT-G programming language and is a great way to learn how to program (even for absolute beginners)!

For more information on NXT programs and the different APIs (Application Programming Interface) available to make NXT robots autonomous, there are many sites on the web that have tutorials on each of the programming languages that are compatible with the Lego Intelligent Brick. Again, NXT programming can be done various ways with the Intelligent Brick, but it can also be done with other electronics and microntrollers, such as the AVR, 8051, Arduino (AVR-based chip), and others, to make them even more powerful. What NXT programs will you create?

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