Let’s begin honing our skills by answering the following
• Why use the NXT computer software?
output values of multiple sensors, and at any given point
know exactly how many sensors are being tripped.
The ability to physically interact with the surrounding
environment — coupled with the simplicity of the sensor’s
output value — make the touch sensor both a great asset in
developing robots in general, as well as a great stepping
stone into more complex sensors.
After we cover these questions, we’ll dive in to some
programming and extensive use of the touch sensor.
Why use the NXT computer
While the NXT itself has a very basic programming
function built in, it is almost nothing when compared to the
power and versatility of the computer software. While the
built-in function allows for a simple, linear, five-step
program, the computer software allows for non-linear
programming with no limit on the number of steps. In
short, if you’re not using the computer software, you’re not
getting the most out of your NXT.
What other sensors can we use
in the future to continue the
development of Eddie?
The awesome thing about working with the NXT is that
there is truly no limit to what sensors you can add. There
are a few sensors available from LEGO directly, as well as a
wider selection from Hi Technic, and an even wider selection
of precision sensors from Vernier. If you’re feeling truly
adventurous, you can even buy a kit to develop your own
sensor and accompanying programming block within the
With that in mind, let’s get started by familiarizing
ourselves with the NXT computer software.
How can we get the most out of
our touch sensors?
Touch sensors are nifty for several reasons. First and
foremost, they present a way for our robot to actually ‘feel.’
In other words, touch sensors give our robot a way to
interact with its environment in a directly physical way. As
opposed to something like an ultrasonic sensor that would
let us see how far away an object is, a touch sensor allows
us to push into things, making direct contact.
In addition to the physical interaction
aspect of the touch sensor, it has a distinct
advantage of simplicity over other sensors.
The touch sensor’s output value is binary —
meaning that it will always be either 1 or 0.
This binary output is very easy to work with,
especially when you consider the
After you’ve installed the software on your computer,
opening it will bring you to a welcome menu including a
window in the center with both “Getting Started” and
“Software Overview” options. If this is your first time using
the software, I highly recommend going through each of
these guides, as well as familiarizing yourself further with
the NXT software by running through a few of the “Robot
The MINDSTORMS NXT kit has several
variations, and within them, several software
variations. This article is based on the NXT kit
available from LEGO Education, rather than
the retail version. Additionally, the software
used in this article is the MINDSTORMS
Education NXT Programming version 2.0. That
said, if you have a different kit or different
software, have no fear — chances are you’ll
be fine. Just know that you’re on your own
with technical issues.
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