Robotics used to be a hobby reserved for that odd, brainy kid down the street – the geek who was building something in secret, from plans he found in Popular Mechanics. Today’s robots do it all: drive, walk and even clean your home. Today’s robots are smarter and more powerful than ever before – and they’re being built and programmed by people just like you!
LEGO’s NXT Robotics Kit: Bits, Bricks & Gears
These days, robot hobbyists are creating all kinds of different robots with the acclaimed LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotics Kit. These custom-built robots have some amazing talents – some can walk, some can drive, some robots even climb ropes. Using everything from pulleys, gears and programmable appendages, these days there’s almost nothing you can’t program a robot to do. LEGO’s Mindstorm NXT kits give builders lots of creative options. But it’s the program’s ease of use and ability to modify robots that has endeared the NXT to a whole new breed of robot-builders. LEGO estimates that the average user can create their first robot with the NXT 2.0 toolkit within a half hour.
It’s a simple, component-based system of interchangeable parts that lets you build a variety of programmable robots and other mechanical creations. At the heart of the NXT is an intelligent microcomputer (or programmable brick), that serves as the brain of any robot an inventor might make. The brick contains a 32-bit microprocessor, a matrix display, input and output ports and a communication link that uses Bluetooth and USB technology.
The brick works with three interactive servo motors which can be attached to arms or legs; these robotic appendages carry out the motion programmed into the brick. The 2.0 toolkit gives builders 612 individual pieces of LEGO robotics hardware, and the kit features different types of sensors that can guide a robots actions according to sound, touch, and color information received by the brick.
This Means (Robot) War!
Robots are more popular than ever, so where is all this robo-mania headed? Why, straight to the fighting arena, of course! And we’re not talking about Real Steal, the new sci-fi action flick starring Hugh Jackman as a robot-fight trainer in the future:
No, this battle is for real. It’s a battle of robot-maker against robot-maker. Where tricked-out fighting robots declare war on each other, and go head to head in a battle royal. At Digital Media Academy, students in the Programming & Robotics course compete to build the perfect battle robot (or Sumo-bot), and end their week-long session by waging a robotic sumo competition to see whose techno-creation can kick the most robot butt.
As hobbies go, building robots is one pastime that could not only challenge your brain, but help provide a future career. If you want to learn mechanical engineering, building robots is a great way to get started.
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