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Review: Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide

Posted 16 Jan 2008 at 20:41 UTC by steve Share This

Jonathan Boarman of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group has written a review of the new No Starch Press book, The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide. This book was written by David J. Perdue, who also wrote the book, Competitive MINDSTORMS, which we reviewed in 2005. If you're thinking about buying the LEGO NTX set or if you already have one and want to learn more about what you can do with, this is the book you've been looking for. Read on for Jonathan's full review of the Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide.

Review by: Jonathan Boarman

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Title: Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor's Guide

Author: David J. Perdue

ISBN Number: 1593271549

Publisher: No Starch Press

Number of Pages: 320

List of Chapters:
Part I - introduction to LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT
Chapter 1 LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT: people, pieces, and potential
Chapter 2 getting started with the NXT set

Part II - building
Chapter 3 understanding the electronic pieces
Chapter 4 understanding the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT pieces
Chapter 5 building sturdy structures
Chapter 6 building with gears

Part III - programming
Chapter 7 introduction to NXT-G
Chapter 8 advanced NXT-G programming
Chapter 9 unofficial programming languages for the NXT

Part IV - projects
Chapter 10 the MINDSTORMS method
Chapter 11 zippy-bot
Chapter 12 bumper-bot
Chapter 13 claw-bot
Chapter 14 tag-bot
Chapter 15 guard-bot
Chapter 16 golf-bot

Appendix A LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT piece library
Appendix B NXT-G quick reference
Appendix C internet resources

A search on Amazon reveals a number of high scoring books that promise to help NXT beginners get started. There are two questions that robot builders have to face as they start out: how and why does one assemble their creation? For those that aren't so sure why building a robot is a worthy pastime, Jim Kelly offers a Mayan adventure to help solve that dilemma. However, for others whose minds are racing with ideas and simply need the tools to equip themselves to fabricate their first LEGO warrior, David Perdue's NXT Inventor's Guide is a perfect starting point.

One of the first things I noticed when reviewing this book was its aesthetic appeal and form factor. Unlike several other popular NXT books, high quality CAD drawings are used to help illustrate its uniquely intuitive layouts. While insightful images and design are nice, the fact that pages stay open by themselves when laying on a flat surface make critical content available when free hands are not. This fairly new binding method might not be so noteworthy except that the wealth of project guides and references would otherwise be far less accessible during the building process.

Perdue leverages the quality illustrations used in his book to provide a quality introduction to the NTX itself. His guide provides a solid foundation for understanding the purpose and naming conventions for each LEGO piece found in the NXT set. For those without a LEGO background, this is a critical step to understanding the LEGO building process. Perdue extends this same methodic approach to understanding the building blocks of an NXT-G program as well. Simply reading through each chapter provided me a sufficient level of exposure to build my first NXT-G programs with ease.

While the chapters in the book are partitioned into four areas, the first three parts comprise only the first half of the book. Parts one through three focus on an introduction, building and programming. It is part four that provides the reader a chance to exercise the book knowledge gained in previous chapters with extensive, quality project guides. A total of six different robots with detailed building and programming instructions are presented.

Other books may build a reader's skills and understanding indirectly by solely leading them through challenges in cookbook fashion. If one is overly focused on building a robot their first day, one might find Perdue's textbook style focus on the basics a tad unexciting. However, unless one already possesses LEGO building and robot programming skills, Perdue gives his reader the opportunity to make a priceless investment in building knowledge first.

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