BrickEngineer: LEGO Design

LEGO Engineering for LEGO NXT and Robot Enthusiasts

Danny – NXT Matlab Bluetooth Router

Daniele Benedettelli introduces a MATLAB-based NXC Bluetooth Router. This router relies on connecting a master NXT Brick to a computer via USB. This master NXT Brick then can communicate messages to up to three additional slave NXT Bricks up to a distance of 10 meters from the master. This software would allow one to create small swarms of up to three LEGO robots, which is a nice starting point for investigating distributed robotic systems.

MATLAB NXT Bluetooth Router

MATLAB NXT Bluetooth Router

The system relies on the RWTH – MINDSTORMS NXT Toolbox, the NXT Fantom Library, and John Hansen’s enhanced firmware.  The brick software is written in Not eXactly C (NXC), which requires Brick CC 3.3.

Daniele Benedettelli also has a book published titled Creating Cool MINDSTORMS NXT Robots (Technology in Action)

Infrared-Ultrasonic Beacons for Localization

An article at highlights a three-wheeled robot that moves in one dimension and detects signals from an external beacon that emits ultrasonic bursts.  The robot relies on a microcontroller that runs a Kalman filter to perform and maintain spatial localization.  The NXT software is implemented using the LabVIEW NXT toolkit

NXT Reciever with Kalman Filter

NXT Reciever with Kalman Filter

Details on the project can be found at

MATLAB Packages for the NXT

There are now several MATLAB packages for robotics, and specifically for the NXT.  One paradigm is to run the code on a PC and have it communicate direct commands to the NXT Brick via Bluetooth or USB.  I have found this paradigm to be a bit dangerous since in the event of a MATLAB crash or a miscommunication, the NXT Brick will continue with its last command until ordered to stop.  This has the potential to destroy your robot.  The paradigm that I prefer to use is to write several programs that run on the brick.  These programs take commands from files on the brick that can be uploaded rapidly from the PC.  The MATLAB code then is in charge of sending the command files and starting and stopping programs.  In the event of a MATLAB crash or communication failure, the software running on the NXT Brick can be designed to terminate gracefully.

Here are the MATLAB packages that I know of.  The first two are specifically geared toward the NXT; whereas the last is a general robotics package.

Knuth: Developing Robotic Scientists for Space Exploration

The University at Albany (SUNY) has highlighted Knuth’s research in a recent news piece.

UAlbany Professor Kevin Knuth with a robot built from LEGOs. (Photo Mark Schmidt)
UAlbany Professor Kevin Knuth with a robot built from LEGOs. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Kevin Knuth has a laboratory in the physics department of the University at Albany that is filled with LEGOs. The bricks are relatively cheap and can be used to rapidly prototype a robot’s body. Knuth’s robots are being programmed to solve such problems as mapping complex terrain.

At UAlbany Day on Saturday, Oct. 25, he will give a demonstration on Robotics and Robotic Exploration in Life Sciences Room 143 at 10:45 a.m.

More here:

Building instructions for the robot shown in the UAlbany article can be found on

Visit Autonomous Exploration News for information on Knuth’s company Autonomous Exploration Inc.

Visit Robots Everywhere for a general blog on robotics news.

Smooth LEGO Clutch with Differential

In a previous post, I describe the design of a smooth LEGO clutch.

Here I introduce a version where I have added a differential to the top of the clutch. By rotating the main differential gear in one direction, the clutch will engage and rotate one axle. By rotating it the other direction, the clutch will engage and rotate the opposite axle.

LEGO clutch with differential

It would be straightforward to attach a motor to this system.

Here are the building instructions.


Hacking the LEGO Mindstorms NXT Light Sensor

We are working on interfacing the LEGO sensors and motors to a compact lightweight computer for more sophisticated control.  Aret Carlsen brings us a video demonstrating how one can hack into the NXT Light Sensor:

Additional details can be found in the excellent book Extreme NXT: Extending the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT to the Next Level (Technology in Action) by Michael Gasperi, Philippe E. Hurbain, and Isabelle L. Hurbain.

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.