A Crash Course in LEGO NXT Robotics - Getting Started

albanianboneyardAI and Robotics

Nov 2, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)


A Crash Course in LEGO NXT

Getting Started

Meri V. Cummings, Ph.D.

sponsored Classroom of the Future

Center for Educational Technologies

Wheeling Jesuit University

316 Washington Ave.

Wheeling, WV 26003

Phone: 304



Why Study Robotics?

Robotics is an excellent way to introduce the
students to integrated STEM areas (science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics)

Students participating in robotics learn about
STEM careers and experience the same
activities as professionals solving real


girls and boys alike

should get
a chance to see how much fun it is learning
engineering skills this way!

Organized Chaos Girl Scouts robotics team at the
West Virginia FIRST LEGO League tournament

you’re welcome to observe our Power Puzzle
competition on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007!

The Least You Need

One computer (ideally, a school computer
lab with LEGO MINDSTORMS Education
Software installed)

One robotics kit, LEGO MINDSTORMS
Education Base Set ($250), per 2
10 youth

I recommend you start with a small group
(e.g., 4 students)

1 kit per 2 students is

you might also want several
Education Resource sets (spare parts)

LEGO MINDSTORMS Education Software
to program the robot ($49 single to $265
site license)

The Least You Need

The LEGO NXT robot can also be
programmed with ROBOLAB software

One Mindstorms NXT Base Set and one
computer (ideally, a school computer lab with
ROBOLAB installed and one base set per two

ROBOLAB software to program the robot ($69
single to $265 site license)

you need
ROBOLAB version 2.9 ($49 upgrade)

The Least You Need

Instructional materials

I recommend
the ROBOLAB Video Trainer CD, which
has excellent programming video
sequences ($50 single or $100 site)

Robotics kits can be shared in your
school, county, or state in 6

to 8

they can be used all day for
different school and afterschool

Funding Sources

Utility companies are required to
provide educational grants

some have
utility robotics program partner grants
(e.g., American Electric Power has an
FLL partner award to customers in
its service area)

ask yours!

NASA Space Grant Consortiums fund
outreach programs

After you’ve learned the
basics, then what?

There are lots of robotics competitions kids
can participate in, such as FIRST LEGO
League (FLL) and Botball

some are local,
some statewide, some are regional

The tournaments tend to include multipart,
world problems and research and occur
over specific time periods

for instance, the
FLL challenge is released in mid
Sept. each
year and competitions occur from Nov.
through Feb.

The Problem
solving Process

What is the robot’s task?

What behaviors are needed to accomplish it?

Create the program

debug then download.

Run the program.

Is the NXT behaving badly (doesn’t do task)?

Check the robot first. If there’s a problem,
can you fix it?

Next, check the program. Problem? Can
you fix it?

Last, go back to the beginning and reread
the task. Does your program really tell the
robot what it’s supposed to do?

Challenge 1: Line Program

Create and test a program to make the
robot go forward in a straight line for
exactly 1 second

Save your program as your first name
and Line (e.g., File

Save as

Maria Line


Challenge 2: Square Program

Create and test a program to make the
robot go in a square

Save your program as your first name
and Square

Challenge 3: Light Dark

Create and test a program to make the

Go forward until it finds a dark line

Stop for 1 second

Go forward until it finds light

Stop for 1 second

Reverse for 4 seconds

Save your program as your first name
and Light Dark

Challenge 4: Tracker Program

Create a program to make the robot:

Go forward until it finds a dark line

Move forward along the edge of the line

Save your program as your first name
and Tracker

: You need a loop, and it’s easier if
the robot starts at less than a 90


Challenge 5

Bump Program

Create a program to make the robot:

Go forward until it finds a wall

Turn moving backward for 2 seconds

Repeat these behaviors for 5 “wall

Save your program as your first name
and Bump

: You’ll need to use wait until Touch in
for the first step.

Bonus Beep Challenge

Create a program to make the robot:

Go forward until it finds a line

Stop for 1 second and beep

Repeat for 5 lines

For fun, end with a different sound

Save your program as your first name
and Beep

ROBOLAB Video Trainer

ROBOLAB Video Trainer CD has lots of video
sequences showing you how to program ROBOLAB
and how the robot responds to the program

LEGO Mindstorms Education Base Set and
ROBOLAB and ROBOLAB Video Trainer software
are available from LEGO education

under LEGO Mindstorms)

LEGO MINDSTORMS Education software has a
in reference tool

Robot Educator, that walks
you through simple challenges

Additional software can be found at the Robotics
Academy (


Robotics Web Sites

NASA Robotics Alliance Project

NASA Robotics Curriculum Clearinghouse

Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Robotics Academy


Minnesota High
Tech Kids



BEST Robotics

Sample ROBOLAB Programs

Sample NXT Programs

Challenge 2

Square with a sound

Challenge 1

Forward for 1 second

Challenge 3

Detecting Light/Dark

NXT Programming Details

Select a motor icon (you’ll see a blue border
around it) to open its control panel

displayed at
the bottom of the screen

Additional control panels for sensors and wait for

icons have similar displays

Due to the limited amount of memory
available for the NXT, all currently
installed sound files should be deleted

Sound files take up a lot of space and
should be used selectively

Use the same sound file repeatedly in
stored programs to cut down on
memory usage

NXT Programming Details

Want to Learn More?

If you have a group of West Virginia
educators that want to get started,
contact me to schedule a workshop and
design a program plan that will work for
your situation

courtesy of
NASA West Virginia
Space Grant Consortium!

on: Your Turn!

program the NXT robot to move in a

Think about the robot’s required
behaviors to move in a square

What motors have to do what for each

Which behaviors repeat? You can loop


Go to RCX settings in Administrator to unlock
programs 1 and 2.

click the silver Programmer button

click the Inventor 4 button.

Maximize the lower Block Diagram window.

Drag the Function bar to move the Functions
palette to the lower right of the window.

If the Block Diagram window is accidentally
closed, open it by hitting Window
> Show
Block Diagram.

Hit Tab key to switch from hand to cursor tool.


Hit spacebar to toggle between cursor and
wiring tool.

Hit Esc to escape sticky wires.

Click on a wire or icon and hit Del to remove it.

Drag an icon within a cm of another, then with
the mouse still down, tap the spacebar to shoot
a wire between the icons.

Ctrl + B removes broken or partially deleted

click an icon to replace it with another
using a new popup Functions Palette.


Always break a wire instead of placing a new
icon on top of the wire; otherwise, the icon
looks wired when it isn’t.

Click on Help
Show context help, then on the
icon itself in the block diagram to learn more
about a ROBOLAB icon, including seeing
what modifiers each icon requires and where
to attach them and to see the icon in a
sample program.

If the white download arrow under Edit is
broken, click on the broken arrow for
information about where the program is