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Mindstorms NXT in the Classroom, Session One

written by: Sean Fears • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 9/11/2012

In the first session with your students, introduce the LEGO Mindstorms NXT robotics kit. We'll cover the basic components and have your students start constructing the simplest robot in the instruction manual, the TriBot.

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    Meet the NXT

    In the first session, the discussion focuses on the basics of the LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit: the NXT “brick", or brain; the motors, analogous to our muscles; and the sensors. Before opening the kits, find out what the participants think of as a robot and what tasks robots perform; often, the definition is influenced by science fiction and Hollywood movies when, in reality, devices as simple as automatic garage openers and automated floor vacuums qualify as robots, too.

    Introduce the NXT kits by having each team open their kit and arrange the major parts on the table. Take the time to discuss taking inventory of the kits. How will the teams or individuals keep track of pieces and insure that they return to their appropriate slots after use? Also make sure that they start thinking of a strategy for working with the kits. It’s easy when working with only one partner, but larger groups work better when each person has a task (construct the robot, find parts, program, inspect the result, etc.). From a STEM standpoint, it may also be very helpful to have one member of the group serve as recorder, writing down what decisions the group made and what problems and successes the group encountered.

    After deciding on a management method, move on to construction of their first robot! The software included with the kit contains instructions for a number of different robots. To access these designs, start up the Mindstorms NXT software, select the Vehicles heading under the Robo Center tab on the right-hand side of the screen, then select the TriBot. On the next screen, click on the Driving Base heading to bring up the building guide.) When they complete the TriBot, introduce them to the programming interface; remind them to name their first program something they can remember. (The programming pane of the Mindstorms window is on the left-hand side of the screen.) A team name followed by the session or program number is a convenient choice. For their first programming attempt, all they need do is to make the robot go forward, backward, and turn 180 degrees left & right.