Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics

Just before Christmas I received this fantastic book and over the last few months I have been making my way through it.

I think this is the number 1 book if you are coming from a LEGO MINDSTORMS background and want to know more about electronics and the Arduino platform or are coming from an Arduino background and want to integrate it with an easy to use building framework like LEGO.

The book features nice big colourful photos and building instructions. It features a wide range of projects from a robotic clock to a drawing bot, you can even make a drinks dispenser.  The book also covers the basics of electronics, history and in-depth details of LEGO MINDSTORMS and the Arduino platform and how to connect a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT to an Arduino.

I would say the only sticking point that people might find with this book is that it requires a Bricktronic Shield/Motor Controller to build most of the projects.  Full instructions on how to make your own shield are provided in the book which is useful if you don’t have one. If making one is not your thing, you can buy one from Wayne and Layne (co-writers of the book) for a fairly cheaply.  Wayne and Layne also have some other cool projects on their site including an Arduino Mega Shield that allows you to run 6 LEGO NXT motors and 4 sensors.  I will be doing a review of that soon.

As I have already said, this book is awesome if you want to extend the possibilities of your LEGO MINDSTORMS kit or use LEGO with the Arduino platform.

If you would like more information on this book, check it out on Amazon




Well people, today is a great day for LEGO MINDSTORM fans, the next generation of the LEGO MINDSTORMS set has been announced and looks flipping awesome!  I have known about this for a little while being an MCP and have been itching to spread the word however could not!

Check out these videos:

A brilliant article on the main features and spec can be found here : BotBech



Raspberry Pi and the LEGO NXT

For Christmas my lovely wife got me a Raspberry Pi Starter Kit. I wanted one of these since I saw that people had made it control an NXT via NXT-Python.  I thought that it would be cool to do the same so I found this website and followed what I could.  I am a programmer but I have limited Linux and no Python experience.

I followed this installation guide from NXT-Python:

You will need to install PyUSB, to do this just run “apt-get install python-usb” under root terminal.

I only managed to get this working once I had restored the LEGO NXT 2.0 firmware on to the NXT brick.  I also had to make a NXT-Python config file and enter the NXT’s address in to it (you can find this under settings and NXT version on the NXT).  Information on making a config file can be found here:

All of my NXT’s started with 0016.  This should be entered as 2 parts of the address so in the config file you should have something like

name = MyNXT
host = 00:16:XX:XX:XX:XX
strict = 0
method = usb=True, bluetooth=False, fantomusb=False

The video below shows the Mary example running from the NXT-Python samples.

What next? Well I now have a portable computer driving my NXT which has WIFI support and can run a webserver. It should not be too hard to turn the Pi in to an advance WIFI sensor for the NXT and cost a 1/3 of the price.

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


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 




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.

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 RCX Multiplexor





World First : The LEGO Wheelchair

So here is a prototype of my latest project, the LEGO Wheelchair which is capable of moving a 90KG person around a room using just LEGO Mindstorms, LEGO Technic and Rotacaster multi-directional wheels.  This is still a prototype and under constant development however I really wanted to let people see what I have been up to.

My wife giving version 0.8 a test drive.

Me having an initial go on version 0.5.

The lastest version uses 6 LEGO Mindstorms NXT’s for moving and 1 NXT(master) for controling the direction.  Each of the driving NXT’s has 2 NXT motors attached to it and 2 touch sensors used to control direction.  The master NXT has 4 touch sensors connected (forward, back, left and right) and 2 motors to switch on the drive touch sensors.  It is programmed in RobotC.

One of the next things on the list is to add remote control to the wheelchair using an Android device.  The chair is controlled via 1 NXT, this will be very straight forward to control via bluettooth.

Flickr stream

Special thanks goes to LEGO and Rotacaster for supporting this project!



Mindstorms NXT and Trains

At the start of June there is a small LEGO railway show at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.  The first year I went I did a display of LEGO pneumatic engines which I really enjoyed building.  This year I have decided to bite the bullet and do something train related!  Dont worry, I am not going to the dark side.

Below is a  simple train demo which uses the LEGO Mindstorms NXT to control 2 9volt trains.  I actually really enjoyed creating this, all I need to do now is actually make some trains!

This has been programmed in RobotC and uses 2 light sensors and 2 touch sensors to detect and stop the train.  NXT motor port A powers the main track loop.  NXT motor port B and C power the part of the track that comes off the points as they are isolated.  So if NXT motor port A & B are on, train 1 will move. If NXT motor port A & C are on, train 2 moves.

Please let me know if you would like further information.