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Reviewed by Major Keary
The sub-title describes the book's content: a beginner's guide to building and programming robots. It is, of course, Lego-centric; there are other educational/hobbyist robotic systems and components, but the Lego kits are a good entry point and the Mindstorms system is very well documented—No Starch Press has a number of titles.
Most people probably associate Lego with the bricks that have amused young children for many years. The idea of using Lego for teaching engineering students was put into practice at an American university. A programmable brick was developed to fit into Lego's modular system, and became the heart of a kit developed for the general market. The system has progressively stepped up to the current version, Mindstorms NXT 2.0, for which there is a remarkable array of components.
Apart from hobbyists and participants in team-sports—such as robo-cup junior (http://www.robocupjunior.org.au)—robotics has a high educational value. It involves physics, mechanics, electronics, maths, computer programming, and documentation; it also lends itself to co-operative effort and team participation.
The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Discovery Book is designed to introduce robotics newbies to the latest Lego robotics kit. It describes in detail the construction of several projects and how to program them. No prior experience is assumed. The book begins with simple projects and works it way through increasingly complex levels. Each project—there are eight in all—is accompanies by excellent diagrams that show the components and how they are assembled. Programming and wiring are fully explained.
Linux does not get a mention in this text, but I have seen its use covered in other books on Lego robotics. A PDF file, LEGO.pdf, describes the use of Linux for programming Lego bricks; it and several other references were noted on a search for "lego mindstorms" "linux".
An exceptionally well presented guide that can be used by children and adults, and by teachers and students. The RepKover binding allows the book to lie flat at an opening, which is a great advantage for anyone following the insructions and diagrams.
Laurens Valk: The Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Discovery Book
Published by No Starch Press, 297 pp., RRP AU$ 42.95
Woodslane. This title can be purchased from the Australian distributor at
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