Sunday, October 29, 2006

Houston, the NXT has landed..

So I couldn't wait. I was soooo close to having gathered enough $$ for the new Mindstorms that it was too much to resist.

I ebay'ed. I'd looked a while back and seen once-used or even new kits for around $180-$200 and sure enough, I kept tabs on things for a week and found one for $199 (Buy it now) + $20 shipping. Hey, I can use that extra $30 to buy the webcam or something...

(I freely admit that I'm crossing my fingers that it didn't just fall of the back of a truck...but given how many I saw for that price range from different folks there'd have to be an epidemic of lego filtching going on..)

So it arrived, sealed and band-spanking new. The base of the tri-bot went together in less than the promised 30 minutes. Shortly thereafter I added a light sensor and managed to make a "follow the light" robot with only the brick's primative 5 program steps. The kids got a kick making it drive straight with our "Home Defense Certified" mag light.

(turn left. Wait for light. Drive straight while the light's on. loop)

A few days later, I added all the other pieces to make the fully-functional tribot. (not my videos, but thank you to the poster!) Cool beans, with the exception that I'm not particularly impressed with the accuracy/reliability of the ultrasonic distance sensor. Yes, I know that it has to do with sound waves bouncing higglety-pigglety everywhere. And I'm impressed that they included the tech at all. Then again, this is LEGO... (whom in my very biased opinion can do no wrong. Well, except for that ridiculous bionacle stuff..) and my expectations were that it'd pick out a fly at 20 meters.

[sigh] Such dissapointment.

It is a testament to Lego's excellent directions that my almost 5-year-old son and I put together spike in about 1 hour...with him doing about 50% of the assembly by himself. It was fascinating watching him turn the L-girders around in his hands, figuring out which side the pins were supposed to go in. While I did have to give lots of hints at first ("look at the picture...look again...that's almost there, hold it up and try again") by the time we were done, I just piled the parts in front of him and let him figure it out. And he did! Yeah, I'm sure I'm projecting on my kid a little but as a Lego Dad, I was bursting with pride!

Interestingly enough, fitting her personality my 6 year old daughter was content to simply collect and match pieces and combine them in interesting ways. ("Instructions? No thanks dad...")

Even the 3 year old got into the act. Though we quickly found that the tiny technic pins were just a mite too small for his fingers to manage.

We showed off Spike (the scorpion) to mom and some family. Everyone was mightily impressed by the tail stinger - it really does move quick!

I've enjoyed doing the projects with the kids (err, kid). Good way to familiarize with the new studdless building, get an idea of how things fit together and "lego best practices". Of course, there's no substitute for simply playing around, so the set will continue to commute with me.

Oh yeah, when it first came I was rather dissapointed (as were many, apparently) at the fact the box wasn't a particulary good storage tool. Apparently, the educational version of the set includes a nice organizational component. (It's also $30 more than the standard set's $250 price tag from what I've I won't compain too loud.)

All that said, I wasn't going to tote the set into work in it's box, so I had to have myself a little think. The upshot was that I snagged an old softside briefcase I had paired it with an inexpensive plastic organizer, and "poof"! Instant stealth mindstorms transport mechanism.

No, it doesn't fit the brick, but it does fit everything else quite nicely. And hey, for $2.99 from BigLots, I ain't gonna quibble.

So that's about it for now.

Oh wait - one more thing. While doing some poking about for this article, I happened across Check out the challenges in their forums. The first one is up and ends Dec 1st of this year. Summary: Using (only) lego, how far can you toss the blue ball? Current furthest is over 200" (17ft) by one entrant. Hmm....maybe this would be a good warm up for the cube anti-intruder defense? Ping pong balls could be a good auto-loaded assault ammo..

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