The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book: A Beginner's Guide to Building and Programming Robots

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Discover the many features of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 set. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book is the complete, illustrated, beginner's guide to MINDSTORMS that you've been looking for.

The crystal clear instructions in the Discovery Book will show you how to harness the capabilities of the NXT 2.0 set to build and program your own robots. Author and robotics instructor Laurens Valk walks you through the set, showing you ...

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The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book: A Beginner's Guide to Building and Programming Robots

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Discover the many features of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 set. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book is the complete, illustrated, beginner's guide to MINDSTORMS that you've been looking for.

The crystal clear instructions in the Discovery Book will show you how to harness the capabilities of the NXT 2.0 set to build and program your own robots. Author and robotics instructor Laurens Valk walks you through the set, showing you how to use its various pieces, and how to use the NXT software to program robots. Interactive tutorials make it easy for you to reach an advanced level of programming as you learn to build robots that move, monitor sensors, and use advanced programming techniques like data wires and variables. You'll build eight increasingly sophisticated robots like the Strider (a six-legged walking creature), the CCC (a climbing vehicle), the Hybrid Brick Sorter (a robot that sorts by color and size), and the Snatcher (an autonomous robotic arm). Numerous building and programming challenges throughout encourage you to think creatively and to apply what you've learned as you develop the skills essential to creating your own robots.

Requirements: One LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 set (#8547)


  • A complete introduction to LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0
  • Building and programming instructions for eight innovative robots
  • 50 sample programs and 72 programming challenges (ranging from easy to hard) encourage you to explore newly learned programming techniques
  • 15 building challenges expand on the robot designs and help you develop ideas for new robots
Who is this book for?

This is a perfect introduction for those new to building and programming with the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 set. The book also includes intriguing robot designs and useful programming tips for more seasoned MINDSTORMS builders.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593272111
  • Publisher: No Starch Press San Francisco, CA
  • Publication date: 6/3/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 624,776
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet 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 ( He lives in the Netherlands where he teaches robotics.

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Table of Contents



why this book?

is this book for you?

how does this book work?

the discoveries

what to expect in each chapter

getting help: the companion website



1 collecting the equipment for your robot 3

what's in the box 3

the NXT brick 4

the NXT-G programming software 4

the test pad 5

inserting batteries 5

conclusion 6

2 building your first robot 7

building the explorer 7

building tip: beams and axles 8

building tip: friction and nonfriction pins 8

connecting the cables 19

using the NXT buttons to navigate on the NXT brick 19

turning on the brick 20

selecting and choosing items 20

turning off the brick 20

running a program 21

conclusion 21

3 creating and modifying programs 23

a quick first program 23

creating a basic program 25

1 programming palette 25

2 work area 26

3 start area 26

4 NXT controller 26

working with the NXT-G software 27

5 configuration panel 27

6 little help window 28

7 program navigation bar 28

8 toolbar 28

9 robo center 29

controlling the robot remotely 30

conclusion 30

4 working with programming blocks: move, sound, and display 31

what do programming blocks do? 31

using blocks to create programs 31

using different programming blocks 31

the move block 32

seeing the move block in action 32

understanding the configuration panel 33

Discovery #1 Accelerate! 34

understanding the configuration icons 35

making accurate turns 35

Discovery #2 Looking Back! 35

Discovery #3 Move That √°Bot! 35

Discovery #4 RoboSpeller! 36

the sound block 36

understanding the sound block configurations 36

seeing the sound block in action 37

Discovery #5 Which Direction Did You Say?! 38

Discovery #6 Be the DJ! 38

the display block 38

understanding the display block configurations 38

seeing the display block in action 40

further exploration 41

Discovery #7 Subtitles! 41

Discovery #8 Navigator! 41

Discovery #9 Circle Time! 42

Discovery #10 W8 for the Explorer! 42

Discovery #11 RoboDancer! 42

Building Discovery #1 Exploring Art! 42

5 waiting, repeating, and other programming techniques 43

the wait block 43

understanding the wait block settings 43

seeing the wait block in action 43

Discovery #12 Count Down! 44

more on the move block: moving unlimited 44

the unlimited option 44

the duration unlimited setting in action 45

problems with moving unlimited 45

the loop block 46

using the loop block 46

understanding the loop block settings 47

seeing the loop block in action 47

Discovery #13 Guard the Room! 48

Discovery #14 Triangle! 48

using loop blocks within loop blocks 48

making your own blocks: the my block 48

creating my blocks 49

using my blocks in programs 49

Discovery #15 My Triangle! 50

Discovery #16 My Tune! 50

editing my blocks 50

parallel sequences of blocks 50

using parallel sequences in a program 50

Discovery #17 Let's Multitask! 51

Discovery #18 Complex Figures! 52

Building Discovery #2 Mr. Explorer! 52

further exploration 52


6 understanding sensors 55

what are sensors? 55

understanding the sensors in the NXT 2.0 kit 55

Discovery #19 Mind Your Head! 56

understanding the ultrasonic sensor 56

creating the ultrasonic sensor attachment 56

polling sensors 56

programming with sensors 58

sensors and the wait block 58

Discovery #20 Hello and Goodbye! 59

sensors and the loop block 60

Discovery #21 Avoid Walls and a Bad Mood! 61

Discovery #22 Follow Me! 61

Discovery #23 Happy Tunes! 61

sensors and the switch block 62

Discovery #24 See the Distance! 63

Discovery #25 Stop or Turn? 64

Discovery #26 Intruder Alarm! 66

Discovery #27 Ultrasound! 66

Building Discovery #3 Railroad Crossing! 66

further exploration 66

7 using the touch, color, and rotation sensors 67

the touch sensor 68

creating the bumper attachment with touch sensors 68

programming with the touch sensor 73

avoiding walls with touch sensors 74

Discovery #28 Only Two is Enough! 75

Discovery #29 Smart Decisions! 75

the color sensor 76

creating the color sensor attachment 76

using the view mode to poll the color sensor 78

programming with the color sensor 78

Building Discovery #4 Clean That Test Pad! 80

Discovery #30 Tell Me What You See! 80

Discovery #31 Expert Line Followingä 82

Discovery #32 Which Button Did You Press?! 82

Discovery #33 SoundBot! 82

using the NXT buttons as sensors 82

the rotation sensors 83

using the view mode to poll the rotation sensor 83

making programs with rotation sensors 83

Discovery #34 Circling Degrees! 83

Discovery #35 Rotational Music! 84

further exploration 85

Discovery #36 Color the Ball! 85

Discovery #37 Ultrasonic Line Following! 85

Building Discovery #5 Automatic House! 85

8 shot-roller: a robotic defense system 87

building the shot-roller 88

connecting the cables 105

programming the shot-roller 105

the complete palette 105

the color lamp block 105

Discovery #38 A Colored Voice! 106

the motor block 106

Discovery #39 A Motor Block Task! 107

autonomous mode 108

light sensor mode 111

Discovery #40 Dangerous Intruder Alarm! 111

remote-control mode 113

Discovery #41 Combining Sensor Power! 113

further exploration 119

Discovery #42 Research with the NXT! 119

Building Discovery #6 Look Before You Shoot! 119

Building Discovery #7 Catapult! 119

9 strider: the six-legged walking creature 121

building strider 122

connecting the sensor cables 134

understanding strider's walking technique 134

programming strider 135

creating the walk-forward my block 135

creating the walk-left and walk-right my blocks 136

using the my blocks in an interactive program 137

Discovery #43 Triangle Time, Again! 137

Discovery #44 Walking in Six Directions! 141

creating the scared strider program 142

further exploration 145

Discovery #45 Walking at the Speed of Light! 145

Building Discovery #8 Tired of Walking?! 146

Discovery #46 Remote Control! 146

Building Discovery #9 A Pair of Eyes in the Back! 146


10 using data hubs and data wires 149

building SmartBot 150

a program to get started with data wires 156

understanding the sample program 157

how do data hubs and data wires work? 158

creating a second example program with data wires and data hubs 158

using data plugs: input and output 159

block configurations when using data wires 160

deleting data wires 160

Discovery #47 Growing Circles! 161

Discovery #48 Dynamic Speed! 161

Discovery #49 Motor Input! 162

sensor blocks 162

configuring a sensor block 162

configuring a touch sensor block 162

configuring a color sensor block 162

configuring a rotation sensor block 163

data wire types 163

the number data wire 163

the logic data wire 163

Discovery #50 Touch Sensor Wires! 164

the text data wire 164

Discovery #51 Read the Sensor Readings! 166

the broken data wire 166

multiple data wire connections 166

connecting multiple wires to different plugs 166

connecting multiple wires to one data plug 167

using settings with both input and output plugs 167

Discovery #52 Multifunctional Wires! 167

using help for data plugs 168

tips for managing data wires 169

hiding unused data plugs 169

using data wires across your program 169

Discovery #53 Looking for Help! 169

Discovery #54 Turn Up the Volume! 170

Discovery #55 Control the Throttle! 170

Discovery #56 SmartBot is Watching You! 170

Building Discovery #10 A Polite SmartBot! 170

further exploration 170

11 using data blocks and using data wires with loops and switches 171

data blocks 171

the math block 171

Discovery #57 Math Practice! 173

Discovery #58 Random Sound! 174

the random block 174

the compare block 175

the logic block 175

switch blocks and data wires 177

Discovery #59 And, Or, XOr, or Not? 177

Discovery #60 Total or Else! 178

configuring switch blocks with data wires 178

using number and text data wires and switch blocks 180

connecting data wires to inside switch blocks 180

loop blocks and data wires 180

Discovery #61 Press Any Key to Continue! 181

Discovery #62 Arithmetic Rotations! 182

Building Discovery #11 Bionic Hand! 182

further exploration 182

12 using variables, constants, and playing games on the NXT 183

using variables 183

defining a variable 183

using the variable block 184

creating a program with a variable 185

Discovery #63 Old vs. New! 186

Discovery #64 Smarter Count Program! 188

using constants 188

using the constant block 188

creating a program with constants 188

playing a game on the NXT 190

defining the variables 190

step 1 displaying a target randomly 191

step 2 waiting until a button is pressed 191

step 3 storing which button is pressed 191

step 4 comparing the position and button variables 192

step 5 adjusting the score 192

step 6 displaying the current score 193

step 7 making the program repeat for 30 seconds 193

expanding the program 193

Discovery #65 Smart-Game Program Advanced! 194

Discovery #66 Brain Trainer! 194

Building Discovery #12 Whack-a-Mole! 194

further exploration 194


13 snatcher: the autonomous robotic arm 197

understanding the grabber 197

the grabbing mechanism 198

the lifting mechanism 198

building the snatcher 200

creating objects 231

programming the snatcher 231

creating the my blocks 231

creating the final program 234

troubleshooting the snatcher 235

further exploration 235

Discovery #67 I Don't Like Blue! 235

Discovery #68 Light in a Corner! 235

Building Discovery #13 Tabletop Cleaner! 235

14 hybrid brick sorter: sort bricks by color and size 237

understanding the sorting technique 238

the driving module 238

the scanning module 238

identifying a brick's size 238

building the hybrid brick sorter 239

connecting the cables 259

finding bricks to use with your sorter 259

finding buckets 259

programming the hybrid brick sorter 259

creating the my blocks 260

creating the final program 261

Discovery #69 High-Speed Sorting! 264

Discovery #70 Quatro Brick Sorter! 264

Discovery #71 Intelligent Sorting! 264

Building Discovery #14 Hybrid Brick Shooter! 264

further exploration 264

15 CCC: the compact chimney climber 265

understanding the climbing technique 266

staying balanced on the x-axis 266

balancing on the y-axis 267

building the compact chimney climber 268

preparing a chimney 280

programming the compact chimney climber 280

step 1 extending the arms 280

step 2 climbing and staying balanced 280

step 3 going down, staying balanced, and stopping 282

troubleshooting the CCC 282

further exploration 283

Discovery #72 Altimeter! 283

Building Discovery #15 Aerial Tram! 283

appendix troubleshooting and solving connection problems 285

using the NXT controller to download programs to the NXT 285

using the NXT window 286

problems connecting to an NXT with USB 286

problems downloading programs to the NXT 287

using Bluetooth to download programs to the NXT 288

finding a Bluetooth dongle 288

connecting to the NXT with Bluetooth 289

problems connecting to an NXT with Bluetooth 289

conclusion 289

index 291

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2011

    The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book - quite a discovery!

    The building and programming instructions that come with the original LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 set are nice, but contain only 4 models and basic programming instructions for those. After finishing those models I wanted more and this book is just the thing.

    It contains very clear printed instructions for the models it explains (I personally prefer that to having to sit in front of my PC while building) it provides explanations of how the programming blocks work in a much easier to understand format than the NXT-G help files (it feels like someone takes you by the hand to personally show you around instead of having to dig your way through the documentation) and goes way beyond what you learn in the instructions that come with the NXT set by explaining how to use wires to pass data between blocks.

    Rather than just telling you how to put the programming blocks together the book teaches you how the program works using easy to understand diagrams.

    Last but not least, the book contains a considerable number of interesting robots that are fun to build and additional challenges to expand on them. To make this even easier, there is a companion website where you can ask questions and propose solutions.

    I really like the first and last pages on the book (inside cover and inside back cover) which provide you with a reference chart to easily identify parts of different lengths and a complete inventory of the NXT 2.0 set.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Are you ready for a journey of discovery?

    This book is the culmination of more than a year's work and it shows. It's broken up into 4 parts and will guide you through a journey of discovery. On your route to becoming a robotics master you will build no less than 8 different robots and learn about every aspect of NXT-G programming with the help of 50 sample programs. If that's not enough, you can test just how good you've become with any one of the 85 building and programming challenges.

    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).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2014

    It's okay,I guess

    I love the robots that eat and poop

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Love it

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  • Posted August 27, 2011

    A great companion to the Lego NXT 2.0 Mindstoms Kit !!!

    Laurens Vallks' Discovery Book is perhaps the most educative NXT book with the young Lego-builder in mind. His book proves that anyone learns better while having fun, which is especially the case of most teenagers. I wished we had this book when we started building NXT robots with my son a few years ago. The book has two sections, the first being an introduction on the Lego NXT 2.0 set (52 pages with fun building and programming "challenges") and the second section goes into the more complex techniques used to build and program the robots that the book includes. Throughout the book there is a smooth and continuous learning curve, in which the degree of difficulty slowly ramps up and shows that a lot of thinking went into the order and and how to introduce each topic. The writer obviously shows his robot building skills but his main achievement in this book is how he puts together a teaching method for NXT Mindstorms, to engage the reader, tickle his or her curiosity and help him or her to advance NXT skills. Just imagine this scenario which might be all too common: a teenager gets a LEGO Mindstorms NXT Set and quickly enough builds all the standard and bonus models that come included with the set. So, he or she feels the excitement of what has been accomplished. So what comes next? Yes, there some great web sites with NXT models to download and build. But in my experience there has been a lack of a learning method for the endless possibilities that NXT allows. This book fills exactly into this gap. In fact, I have volunteered to teach robotics to 12 to 15 year-olds at my son's school, and I plan to use this book as a guideline for the syllabus (I will seek the author's permission when and if the school gives me the go-ahead!). This is the outstanding value of the book. I assume that Lego benefits when a new owner of a NXT Mindstorms kit gets so engaged in using the set, that he or she keeps building or programming new robots or maybe modifying existing ones, sharing the designs with others and even collaborate in group challenges. If so, my advice to Lego would be: bundle this book with the set. The value of both together is a lot more than the sum of the parts!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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