a catch on one end. You thread the
loose end of the tie through the
catch; a ratchet in the catch keeps the
tie in place. Most ties have a one-way
ratchet that cannot be undone; others
have a catch "release" so you can
re-use the tie. Tie wraps are available
in a variety of lengths, thicknesses,
and colors. Get an assortment and
use the size that best suits the job.
You can use small hardware to attach
LEGO pieces together. In most cases,
you'll need to drill through the plastic
for the screw or bolt. You can use
self-tapping metal screws if the plastic
material is thick. When using self-tapping screws, be sure to use a drill
size slightly smaller than the screw.
You can attach non-LEGO things
to LEGO pieces with hook and loop
fastener. Get the kind with self-stick
adhesive backing. Put the hook material on one piece, and the loop on the
other. Press them together for a very
strong — but not permanent — bond.
Double-sided tape also performs well
here, though some versions are made
to set up after a day or two, making
disassembly difficult. If you want to be
able to take your contraptions apart,
be sure to use temporary tape.
LEGO Mindstorms comes with a
graphical programming environment
that is suitable for both students and
adults. With graphical programming, you
assemble blocks of programs by selecting
actions, connecting them in a way that
the robot does something functional like
follow a line, retreat when it encounters
a bright light source, or reverse direction
when it hits an object.
Over the years, a number of
alternative programming languages
have been developed for the RCX and
NXT bricks. For instance, NQC (for Not
Quite C) is a text-based programming
language specifically designed for
the LEGO RCX brick, and allows the
construction of fairly elaborate
event-based programs (in event-based
programming, actions are taken when
a certain event occurs such as
triggering a touch switch or even the
passage of a certain amount of time).
Similarly, ROBOTC and RoboRealm
allow you to program the NXT (as well
as the RCX and some other popular
educational platforms) and offer a
laundry list of useful functions. Some
programming alternatives will allow
for interactive play. For instance,
NXT++ allows you to control the NXT
brick using the C++ program, connecting to the NXT with USB or Bluetooth.
Here are some sources to get
you started in the world of LEGO
Mindstorms robotics. Because of the
breadth and depth of LEGO, this list
is necessarily selective. You can find
many more online sources for
products, add-ons, how-tos, and
information by using your favorite
Internet search engine.
Best-known as a book seller,
Amazon sells books about LEGO
Mindstorms, as well as the
Mindstorms sets themselves.
Combat robots, LEGO style. Includes
forums, photos, videos, and more.
LEGO Mindstorms’ main page is your first port of call for anything related.
FIRST LEGO League
Home page of the FIRST LEGO
League — an international consortium
that promotes engineering (through
building LEGO robots) among young
Specialists in third-party sensors
for the NXT. Includes optical, gyro,
and accelerometer, and color sensors,
plus modules for building your own
Full service retailer of LEGO products and books on LEGO Mindstorms.
LDraw is an open standard for
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