HiTechnic SuperPro Review

Just before Christmas I received the HiTechnic SuperPro Experimenter’s Kit and the HiTechnic MiniScope.  I was lucky enough to get some time over Christmas to have a play with the SuperPro and really enjoyed it.  The SuperPro comes with an array of electronic elements including a speaker, magnetic sensor, temperature sensor, light sensor and some LED’s. I went through the 9 experiments and felt that I learned more about electronics.  I especially enjoyed controlling the array of LED lights as I was soon able to modify the code (I was using RobotC)to make a Knightrider type effect (see video below).  The SuperPro comes with a solderless breadboard and a case full of cables to make wiring anything up very easy.  The quality of all the parts is very good.

If you are in to LEGO Mindstorms and want to learn more about sensors and start making your own, then this kit is the holy grail.  This board has more features than anyone could want.  You can even program the board directly using SuperProc C.

If I had to suggest improvements, I would probably ask for more information on how components work and why you need to use them in the certain experiments (e.g why do we use x resister in this example, why do we use a capacitor between these 2 pins).  I would also love to see an experiment which uses a non LEGO motors or a servo.  I think if you were clever you could setup this board to be many sensors in 1 (temperature, light, LED Array) and free up your NXT ports.

My next plan is to see if I can get a motor or servo working, maybe then moving on to a motor multiplexer.

I would like to thank HiTechnic for giving me this chance to try out this brilliant piece of kit.

Below are images of some of the experiments.

2012-12-16 21.38.00 2012-12-17 21.58.51 2012-12-26 19.26.35 2012-12-26 19.39.59


Christmas comes early at the Burfield household!

So Christmas has definitley come early this year for me and has come in the form of 3 wise companies!

The first of these was HiTechnic.com who sent me a SuperPro Experimental kit AND a MiniScope.  Both of these products where on my Christmas list for my wife to get me!

So the first of these products allow you to build your own circuits and sensors that can be used with the LEGO NXT (and a whole lot more).  It comes with a handy Experimenter’s Kit Handbook to take you through the basics up to some more advance stuff.  I will be doing a full review of this very soon and hope to build some very neat things!

The second product which has only been released recently is the MiniScope.  This is a full featured dual channel digital oscilloscope with an auxiliary 4 channel digital input option.  This is the perfect companion for the SuperPro because it will allow you to see what your circuits/sensors are outputting on your PC

The second of these wise companies was Matrix Robotics.  They make a metal building kit that is completely compatible with LEGO.  You still use the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT as the brain however you plug the MATRIX Controller (supports 4 motors and 4 servos) into the NXT sensor port (amazing!!).  Don’t get me wrong, I love my LEGO and I believe that you can build most things out of it however, sometimes you wish there was a longer/stronger beam, a more powerful motor, servo support or that you want your model to be indestructible.

So what did they send me?  1 of each of their sets!!!! (yes I must of been a very good person this year!).  My plan is to build a few small models first and then build something epic!! Matrix Wheelchair, a Terminator? who knows!

So who was the 3rd wise company? The popular blog/magazine MAKE who featured my LEGO Wheelchair a few months back.

So what did they send me?  Well to answer that I first need to tell you that for Christmas I hope to get some Arduino stuff including a Mindsensors NXShield which will allow me to control 4 LEGO NXT motors, 4 sensors and 12 Mindsensors servo’s from a single Arduino.  Also the Arduino I hope to get will have ADK support so that I can control it via an Android phone.  Again, I am not moving away from LEGO, I love it however its always good to know what other options are out there that I can use with LEGO.

Knowing what I hope to get for Christmas, you can appreciate how happy I am to get what MAKE sent me:  Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics.  Another item that I had on my wishlist for Christmas!  Again, I plan to do a full review once I get my Arduino!


Well, I am going to have a very busy few months with this stuff!  Many thanks goes out to HiTechnic, Matrix Robotics and MAKE.

Merry Christmas

Beginning GPS with NXT Robots

The weekend just gone I was on a Christmas holiday with my family at Center Parcs. I decided to take with me the Beginning GPS with NXT Robots workbook by James Floyd and John Cole (Dexter Industries). Now I must point out straight away that a) I don’t read to much and b) I have a short attention span when I do. This workbook was perfect for me, it was simple, educational and fun. It is designed for kids at school who already have the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT set and use NXT-G to program it. I don’t use NXT-G (being a programmer I like to do stuff low level) however this book not only showed off the power of the Dexter Ind dGPS sensor, but also the power and simplicity of NXT-G.

So, what did I learn? Well a lot more about how GPS work and the 2 different coordinates systems (Decimal Degrees and Degrees, Minutes, and Seconds). It showed you how to convert from 1 coordinate system to another and back. I also learned that the dGPS sensor can do more than just give me a Latitude and Longitude of a place (more to come on this in my next project). The workbook contains fun tutorials to actually get you out and about and thinking about how to solve real life scenarios.

I don’t want to give away to much however If you are looking to buy the dGPS sensor and use NXT-G then I would recommend buying this book.

World Robot Olympiad 2012

In November I was invited to go to the World Robot Olympiad in Kuala Lumpur as a LEGO Robotics Expert and to show off the LEGO Wheelchair.  It was being held at the Sunway Pyramid Convention center on the 9th to the 11th of November. This was a huge honour and a chance in a lifetime experience!

Other fantastic LEGO MINDSTORMS enthusiasts where also at the event including:

  • NeXTStorm and his amazing boxing robots
  • Bazmarc and WallE
  • Mathias Paul Scholz with his robot shadow puppet theatre and NXT biker gang
  • Mark Crosbie and his SoundMachine
  • David Gilday and Mike Dobson with their Guinness world record holding Rubiks cube solvers
  • Will Gorman with his 3D Lego maker bot and Mars Curiosity rover
  • Lasse Laussen and Ken Madsen with their flying Lego blimp C5


During the 3 day event, I would estimate over 250 children had a go on the LEGO Wheelchair.

we also spent the day with some refugee kids from Burma as part of the Dignity for Children foundation. We got to show them our LEGO models and teach them how to use the LEGO MINDSTORMS system.  At the end of the day, the LEGO Foundation was extremely nice and gave each school some free LEGO (quite a bit actually).   The children really seemed to enjoy their selves

Bazmarc’s beautiful video of the event (watch this!):

My Flickr stream:


Mark Crosbie fantastic write-up of the event:

WRO at Thinkbricks.net 




A bit of a late post being I went to LEGO WORLD Zwolle over a month a go however I still felt I needed to post about it.  It was a fantastic event and the LUG’s that hosted it were very friendly.  It was the largest LEGO event that I had ever been to and I believe about 65,000 people go to it over the 7 days!  It had huge LEGO displays, cinema, stage, build areas, maze, massive shops, ponies to ride and an inside forest area with LEGO animals!  It felt a bit more commercial than what I was used to and there were quite a few AFOL displaying sets/collections however the MINDSTORMS area was fantastic.  I honestly feel it was the best display there and the most international one.  People from All over Europe where on our stand!

Here is the Flickr feed for the show, judge for yourself.


LEGO DACTA Interface A VB6 Control

Well finally it is here, I should of finished this and released it about a year ago but things just got manic!

The DACTA Interface A came out in 1986 and was designed to work with the BBC Micro (I believe).  I also believe it was the first computer controlled interface that LEGO Made. It ran of the parallel port and powered 4.5v motors and sensors.  It can run 3 motors (bidirectional) and 6 if they only need to go in a single direction.  It has 2 sensor ports which can support a touch sensor or light sensor.

A friend of mine made a custom cable for this so that it would run off a normal parallel port as apposed to a BBC one.

So to use the Visual Basic 6 Control you need to install NTPort which is used to talk to the parallel port.  You can download a evaluation of this from http://www.zealsoftstudio.com/ntport/portfaq.html.  This does not limit anything, just displays a popup.  I will try and make a version that does not require this dll.

No effort was made to make this pretty!

Click to download code (includes NTPort Eval)



The Great Western LEGO Show

The Great Western LEGO Show was held at Swindon Steam Museum and took place on the 6th and 7th of October and boy was it a busy one. With over 8400 people turns up. The place was rammed. I took my largest ever display featuring:

  • T1
  • The LEGO Wheelchair
  • Wheeler the robot
  • NXT train layout
  • Robotic arm
  • Pneumatic steam engine
  • Robotic pneumatic body
  • Simple Theo walker
  • A really simple line follower


Here are some awesome professional videos of the event.

I also took some videos.

And finally my Flickr steam.

Great Western LEGO Show 2012



Off to LEGO WORLD on Thursday!

I am extremely excited about going to LEGO World on Thursday in Zwolle.  I believe this is the largest LEGO event in the world. I am exhibiting the LEGO Wheelchair from Friday to Monday.  Thanks to my friend Eric Steenstra who is putting me up for the long weekend and has already taken  my LEGO Wheelchair to the event!  Also massive thanks to Xander from Botbench.com who is picking me up from the airport and hopefully taking me back to it on Monday.  He price is some M&S crumpets.  I will let you all know how it goes!


Introducing Wheeler 2.0!

A little late to announce it as it has been on Youtube for quite a while but here is version 2.0 of Wheeler.


  • Controlled via a Android device talking to a Lego NXT (Programmed in RobotC).
  • Completely redesign body from version 1.
  • Moves and rotates via 2 NXT motors.
  • Head rotates and eyes/mouth light up.
  • Arms can rise / lower.
  • Claws can open / close via 2 micro motors .
  • Uses a Mindsensors.com RCX Multiplexor