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The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book: A Beginner's Guide to Building and Programming Robots Paperback – May 13 2010
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About the Author
Laurens Valk is a member of the MINDSTORMS Community Partners who help test and develop new NXT products. He has been inventing robots with the MINDSTORMS NXT sets since their introduction, and one of his robot designs appears on the NXT 2.0 packaging. Valk is a co-author of LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT One-Kit Wonders (No Starch Press) and a contributor to The NXT Step Blog (thenxtstep.blogspot.com). He lives in the Netherlands where he teaches robotics.
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Top Customer Reviews
My daughter (11 years old) and I are enjoying learning about NXT
The simple and useful examples and small projects after-Each new concept makes funny and easy to learn.
I am teaching to my daughter the self learning and this book help me to do it, my role is just tutor and answer questions from my daughter.
I am a software architect and I am also learning about NXT, I recommend this book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But after you've built the models detailed in the Mindstorms kit, where do you go next? The Mindstorms online help is pretty good, but tiresome to read on the screen, and not the best medium for a youngster. The Alpha Rex etc. are impressive but it's hard for a child to try to make his own models of a similar complexity on the basis of the models in the Mindstorms kit. There is a huge gap between copying ready-made models and learning to create real robots from scratch, and Laurens Valk's book fills that gap perfectly.
As "the missing manual", this book thoroughly explains the NXT hardware and NXT-G software, in enough technical detail to satisfy a seasoned programmer like me, but without overloading someone who is completely new to the technology. That is no mean feat!
The building instructions are of a similar quality to those provided in the all-too-slim Mindstorms manual, and my son was able to follow them and the programming instructions with only minimal guidance from me (usually because we hadn't yet read the accompanying text! :-)
Now, there are several ways to approach this book. To get started quickly, you or your child genius can simply follow the detailed building and programming instructions to create any of the eight robots detailed in the book. My son had almost no trouble doing this: in fact, he first went after the more complex models like the Strider featured on the cover, followed by the very impressive Chimney Climber. If, like us, you're new to the LEGO Technic and Mindstorms systems, you'll be surprised how they can be made to do such remarkable things.
The program instructions feature a simplified overview - essentially a flow diagram - that lets you follow the basic structure of the program and learn about loops, "if-then-else" blocks, etc. Your young robotics engineer can learn about the how-and-why of the programs, and gradually improvise to deepen his/her understanding of what the NXT controller is "thinking", and then devise clever ways to change it.
Then there are the challenges, or "discoveries" to use Laurens' word: 87 of them in all. Once we have settled down to reading the book together start-to-finish (give us a chance, we've only had this book for a week!), the discoveries will provide many new paths to explore and consolidate our understanding of robotic systems.
I would have expected to pay three times what Amazon is charging for this book, based on similar books aimed at software developers. At under $20, it is excellent value for money and an essential "NXT" step on any robot designer's path of discovery. Buy it!
I cannot recommend this book highly enough as an aid to using the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robotics system, and bringing a
new generation of roboticists and engineers to a deep and intuitive understanding these sciences. This handbook should be included in every Mindstorms NXT Set to insure that the recipient will learn, absorb and extend the concepts which this powerful educational system can teach.
MSE/MBA I.T. Consultant and Former Senior Staff Member Arthur D. Little, Inc. and Digital Equipment Corporation
The building and programming instructions are really nice, clear and clean; it's not hard to tell the author has done this before. Learning to program and build with your new NXT 2.0 kit will be so much more fun with this book by your side. It will knock your socks off (don't worry, there's a robot in the book that can help you pick them up again).
This book doesn't assume you know anything about NXT but also takes you far beyond what my team needed to know to get to Atlanta. It is not just a beginner's guide.
If you are totally new to NXT or self-taught like me then this is the book for you. I got it two days ago and have already read through it once. My 9 year old son is also reading it and keeps saying "Did you know....."
A must have for anyone who is new to NXT or knows a bit and is wanting to move beyond basic programming.
When is the next book coming out Laurens?
This book has been helpful and encouraging for him. We started the book together so I could ensure he understood the format of the book and the types of terms used. Though I expected the book would need to be a mother/son project, he quickly was able to read the sections and complete the programming tasks on his own.
Each section gave him a simple task to learn the basic programming, then a challenge or two to figure out on his own using the programming skills he was mastering. In this first part of the book, he is able to complete two or three challenges before getting tired of trial and error (for example, to determine the correct degrees of axle rotation to make the robot turn 180 degrees) or bored with the robot. This takes him 20 to 45 minutes (including the time it takes to demonstrate the robots new skills for me), depending on the challenges he is completing. By the end of the third chapter he was designing "tasks" for the robot to complete and planning his own simple programs.
At 9, he is able to build the robots in this book by himself or with very minor assistance. He is also using his newly developed skills to plan small modifications to the basic robot designs in the book, but not creating robots alone. He is not yet at the second half of the book (robot designs and programs increase in complexity as the book progresses), but the style of the directions for building the robot are the same regardless of the complexity of the robot, so I do not foresee any difficulties there.
As for reading difficulty, my son received this book the summer between 4th and 5th grade. He reads at grade level only when forced to read (he hates reading), and he is able to be successful with this book without reading help.
Because it is a book about programming a robot the reading skills must be coupled with a basic grasp of math and science concepts for the child to be successful on his/her own. The explanations of basic programming terms are simple, for example a "switch block" is used when the robot has to make a decision. Yet, from the beginning, programmers must be able to understand the difference between rotation of the axles and rotation of the robot; must be able to understand concepts of distance, degree of rotation and how power level affects speed; must comprehend the sequence of events in the program is as important as the events in the program.
Most of the programming is done through the challenges, so the child designs the program themselves. These are generally adaptations of the samples, but do not expect pages of programs to key in to make a robot do cool things. The programmer is expected to learn the programming and be able to put the individual pieces together, in the correct order, on their own. My son may have been able to understand most of the technical knowledge a year earlier, however he would have struggled with the reading of the words in the book and had no patience for the work it takes to program.
My daughter has not shown interest in the book yet, however she pays attention to the programs her brother tries and says she intends to program with him when he reaches the part of the book that teaches her new things too.
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