If you like robotics and programing then this kit is for you!
The LEGO MindStorms Robotics Invention System is powerful enough for adults and easy enough for kids to make impressive use of it. You can create programmable robots that follow trails, navigate obstacles, or react to changes in light detected by its sensors and then program them from your Windows 98- or Windows Me-compatible computer.
The robots are all based around a bright yellow basic unit, which serves as the functional heart of whatever is being built. It is called 'brick' or RCX. It receives commands from the computer via an infrared tower unit. The computer interface is user-friendly and very intuitive. What's most impressive about the system, however, is the large variety of robots that can be built. There are detailed instructions for each one, and since these are LEGOs, builders are free to come up with an endless variety.
No programming experience is necessary; LEGO's intuitive software helps you along the way.
What makes MindStorms so great is that its simple to learn programming can control robots that perform such complex functions. Robot construction is like putting together regular LEGOs, everything snaps together. The instruction book lays out step-by-step plans for seven robots.
The MindStorms system has been used to create alarm devices that sense when someone passes through a door, a candy dispenser that dishes up sweets according to simple bar codes, coin-sorters that distinguish coins by detecting their diameter and a wandering robot that takes pictures with an onboard camera. The devices are intelligent enough to follow paths (via markings on the floor), and move around obstacles.
You first build your robot using the RCX and over 700 LEGO elements, attaching sensors, gears, motors and other LEGO bricks. The Robotics Invention System 2.0 includes detailed instructions for building modular "plug-and-play" robots: The Roverbot--a steady going robot that moves around, avoids obstacles, and can follow a line; the Acrobot--a fast moving robot that flips and dances; and the Inventorbot--a smart, attentive robot that can greet you and help you in many other ways. All LEGO MINDSTORMS products work with LEGO SYSTEM and LEGO TECHNIC sets.
The RCX Programmable Brick
The heart of the MindStorms kit is the RCX programmable brick. About the size of two decks of playing cards, the RCX uses sensors to take input from its environment, process the data, and signal up to three motors to turn on and off in forward or reverse at any one of 8 speeds. This "smart brick" can process over 1000 commands per second. The RCX uses an 8-bit Hitachi H8/3297 microcontroller running at 16MHz. It has 16K of ROM, 512 bytes of SRAM (for firmware) and 32K of external SRAM for your programs. It features a fully multi-tasking operating system (up to 10 simultaneous tasks), three eight-bit timers, three 500 mA outputs, and three inputs. The RCX also houses the battery power.
Programming the RCX
Everything about the Robotic Invention System has been optimized for ease of use. The most amazing example of this is the RCX code. It is an easy-to-use, yet powerful, icon-based programming language which is loosely based on Logo. This visual programming environment allows you to drag, drop and stack commands and bits of code. This means there is no program code to write!
You can choose from a long list of commands such as left and right turns, reverse, sound effects, pauses, sensor settings, motor speed, or custom-designed functions. With two clicks of the mouse, you can upload your program to the RCX, then hit the "run" button and your creation goes to work.
Each RCX unit can store five programs so one robot can do multiple things. Programming can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose
The Microsoft .NET interface for Lego Mindstorms lets you programmatically control Lego Mindstorms directly from Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual J#, or Visual C++ Express. Working in conjunction with LEGO, Microsoft created an application that lets the robotics communityuse Visual Studio Express to program their LEGO Mindstorms robots to do specific commands, such as maneuvering around obstacles, and control them from their computer keyboard or mouse. The Visual Studio 2005 Express editions are available for download today from MSDN.