When LEGO’s robot-making kit was first released in 1998, no one knew how much it would capture the collective imagination of the DIY robotics community. It allowed you to create specific robots easily out of a box. These days, there are apps, controllers, and entire websites dedicated to what can be created using the Mindstorm NXT kits.
The Gymnastic robot is attached to a bar, which it flips over like a gymnast. However, it also acts in a very human way. Rather than instantly being able to go straight over the bar, it rocks back and forth to gain traction to push it. It also has similar joints to a human (minus the legs), making for natural looking flips.
Here’s a pancake-making robot created using LEGO Mindstorms, LEGO bricks, and two ketchup bottles. It can make pancakes of all shapes and sizes. You can pre-program what shape you’d like your pancakes to be before the robot starts cooking.
The Time Twister a fully-functional digital clock made with LEGO Mindstorms. It is powered by two separate LEGO Mindstorms bricks communicating through Bluetooth. Each number has five layers and each layer is controlled by the one above it, so it starts from the bottom and builds the number from the ground up.
Search and Rescue Robot
This autonomous robot is able to explore a room randomly, locating “victims” as it goes. It can run over obstacles on its caterpillar tracks and send images with its camera. Most of the Search and Rescue Robot’s parts are made of LEGO, but it also includes a Raspberry Pi B+ board, which is used to control most of the components.
RoboFlush, built by Will Gorman, sits on the side of your toilet and automatically flushes it when you get up. It uses a motor-equipped LEGO Mindstorms NXT Kit, touch sensor, and an ultrasonic sensor for flush detection.
These autonomous soccer robots come equipped with a colour camera, compass, radar and light detector. Combine all these gadgets together and these robots are quite adept at tracking where the ball is on the pitch.
The Portrayer Robot draws portraits, elaborating photos, and images. To use it, give it any image to draw and it will copy it identically. The robot consists of a Mindstorm kit, a felt tip pen, and custom computer software. The software was developed by MATLAB, and the robot is programmed using NXC. Simply upload the image you want the robot to draw to the software, vectorize it and the robot will get sketching.
Bookreader is a digital book reader robot built with LEGO blocks and motors. It is attached to a Raspberry Pi prototyping board and a BrickPi. It attaches to a book and turns the pages as you read.
Rubix Cube Solver
From chess to Jeopardy, there’s no denying that robots can beat us at most things. With this in mind, there’s no denying that it was just a matter of time until this was extended to Rubix Cubes. This robot, built by Danny Benedettelli, can solve a Rubix Cube in under a minute. The puzzle solver grabs, rotates, and scans a Rubix Cube as it solves the puzzle. It features three motors, two touch sensors, and two NXT controller bricks.
Gripp3r is a giant robot with antennas and a special gripper located in front of the robot designed to grasp different objects.
For his third year project, a college student built a robotic LEGO face capable of expressing emotion. Its software allows the robot to respond to the tone of the user’s voice. In the future, many more devices around the home may have the ability to recognise and respond to emotion.
The Sudoku Solver is built by Tilted Twister, and is the world’s first Sudoku puzzle-solving LEGO robot. It scans the Sudoku puzzle using a light sensor, calculates the solution to the puzzle, and then prints the digits using a robotically controlled pen.
With two big wheels and three sensors, Dizz3 is an educational robot designed to understand the property of a rigid body under movement such as force, moment, moment of inertia, acceleration, or the center of gravity.
It’s clear to see that this set of underestimated tools and toys, is fueling the imaginations of the next generation of electrical engineers.