Fun & Games Robotics

Seattle schools were closed today (snow!), so my son decided to make a project from No Starch Press’s new book, LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT One-Kit Wonders. We really like this book – it consists of ten projects designed by the contributors to the NXT Step blog. The book is not for absolute beginners, but it’s not too advanced if you have some experience with building and programming NXT MINDSTORMS. The projects include an M&M sorter, a NXT version of a Bobcat, and a drag racer.

Noah chose the robot hand project – it’s a hand that fits over your own hand; he liked the silly redundancy of the idea – it takes two hands to operate it! Like all the projects, this one has a parts list, an explanation of the project, pictures of the steps, and the programming code. The only criticism he had was that the pictures were in black-and-white, and a little dark, so it was sometimes difficult to see exactly what parts were needed. You can see the robot hand in action in the video – it rotates in both directions, and it’s surprisingly dexterous.

We really liked the fact that each project uses only the parts that come with the basic NXT MINDSTORMS kit; we’ve started projects from other books that turned out to require lots of other parts only available in really expensive and hard to find educational kits. Since there are nine authors, the projects represent a variety of approaches – it’s like learning from a team of teachers. The projects are complete in themselves, but each project has suggestions for modifying the designs, and the authors encourage kids to think creatively and explore further. The book is full of fun projects, and gives kids tools to help create their own designs. We look forward to building more projects!

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