LEGO Mindstorms NXT Interface

In 2007, LEGO introduced a new kit the Mindstorms NXT which consists of 510 pieces, thereby reducing the number of parts by 208. The LEGO Mindstorms NXT Kit uses a graphical programming interface to teach RC concepts. It is powered by a 32-bit ARM processor. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT brick also has a co-processor, an 8-bit AVR processor and includes Bluetooth communication. It includes 4 input ports that support both analog and digital interfaces and 3 output ports that are used to drive motors using precise encoders.

It also has an LCD display that can be programmed and a loudspeaker that supports up to 16 KHz. All of these features are included in a toy that is supposed to be programmed by a kid! students from biomedical, aerospace, mechanical and chemical engineering are not necessarily coding experts but they are specialists in their field, and have a good grasp on the algorithms and designs that can solve a particular problem. Traditional programming techniques posed a large learning curve to helping the students use RC hardware. Graphical programming alleviates these problems and provides a natural learning curve by abstracting the unnecessary implementation details. In Fig. 10 below, the LEGO interface is easy and intuitive for students to learn. On the right-hand side icons with a specific function are listed. The open space on the page is where the student can drag and drop the icons to formulate program.
Thus, graphical programming languages help kids build parallel, embedded programs that they can use to program the robots-without having to worry about the hardware interfaces and optimization issues. In addition, the kids can use the same brick and reprogram the hardware to perform a different kind of action.

Graphical programming languages provide the user with a true drag-and-drop interface that reduces the learning curve drastically. A program containing 3 icons that instructs the robot to turn continuously. The last icon with the two arrows in a circle denotes a loop. Hence, student working with high level icons are able to instruct the robot to do complex task with minimal commands or sequencing of the icons.

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