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Keywords: Lego Mindstorms
Title: The Lego Mindstorms NXT Idea Book
Author: Martijn Boogaarts et al
Publisher: No Starch Press
The first thing to say is that this is a book that scores highly on graphic design. The schematics, diagrams and screenshots (albeit in black and white only) do an excellent job of portraying how to build and program the different robot ideas contained in this book.
The first part of the book is really about introducing the nuts and bolts of Mindstorms NXT. Here's where you learn about constructing and programming your robots. It covers not just the mechanics, but also looks at the NXT-G programming language - this is where your robots gain some intelligence (if you do it right). There's even a chapter on debugging, which is a subject that's not often covered. Note that there's no coverage of alternatives to NXT-G, such as some of the Java bindings or firmware replacements which are available.
The second part of the book provides a set of project ideas, which is where readers who are already familiar with NXT can dive in and grab some inspiration.
The tone of the book is friendly and informal, but still manages to really help the reader. A downside is that occasionally the authors wander off the point, but on the whole this isn't much of a problem.
There are some really good ideas on offer. In particular Marty - the drawing robot - and the Beach Buggy really stand out. Also interesting is BenderBot, which manages to combine music theory and robotics. It's a cool combination and comes with programs for generating beatbox sounds and even a tremolo based on the hum of the motors. For lovers of 50s science fiction, here's a chance to create some theremin sounds as well.
All in all this is a great little source of ideas and information. The sample projects are packed with suggestions for further enhancements and improvements to try out. This isn't just a collection of fixed recipes to follow. There's room for experimentation built-in, which is exactly what you want from an ideas book.