The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book

3Po and Jammy love LEGOs, but the real LEGO wizard in our family is my nephew, Mr. Math, who was building LEGO X-wing fighters all by himself at the age of 6. At the age of 10, he's moved on to sets like the Guggenheim Museum and the Taj Mahal. He received a MINDSTORMS® NXT 2.0 when he was eight or nine and he really loved it, but he never really got much further with it than the basic robot. So when I received an invitation to review The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book, I knew Mr. Math would be the perfect person to try it out and let everyone know whether it was a good buy or not.

Here's more information about the book from O'Reilly Books:
MINDSTORMS® NXT 2.0 set brings robot building to a wide range of hobbyists. But the NXT kit doesn't come with a how-to guide and it only includes building instructions for four robots. Users new to building complex LEGO models or lacking experience with the NXT programming language need guidance to help them reach the next level. The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book is the introductory book that they've been waiting for.

In The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book (No Starch Press, May 2010, 320 pp., $29.95, ISBN 9781593272111), readers learn how to harness the capabilities of the NXT 2.0 set to build and program their own robots. Author Laurens Valk begins by walking readers through the set, describing the pieces and explaining how to get started with the software used to program NXT robots. Once readers understand the basics of the NXT programming language, the book's tutorials show them how to build robots that move, monitor sensors, and use advanced programming techniques like data wires and variables. With crystal clear, step-by-step instructions, readers will find it easy to create working robots in no time.

The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book features:

* A complete introduction to LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0
* Building and programming instructions for eight innovative robots, including a robotic defense system, a six-legged walker, and an autonomous robotic arm
* 50 sample programs and 72 programming challenges (ranging from easy to hard) that encourage readers to explore newly learned programming skills
* 15 building challenges that expand on the robot designs to help readers develop ideas for new robots

At age ten, it's getting difficult to think of presents to get for Mr. Math (he's my godson, so there's extra pressure to get him cool stuff) -- and I think this book hits the nail right on the head. It's perfect for him because he loves LEGO, loves to read, loves to follow methodical instructions, loves complicated building projects. The projects in this book only require one NXT 2.0 set to complete, so there's no frustration for him and no pressure on my sister (or me) to buy her son extra pieces so he can start building.

Even better, the instructions are clear and simple and don't presume any knowledge of the NXT 2.0 at all -- it's great for kids and adult beginners. Mr. Math can use this book all by himself, without help from his parents (both of them have MIT graduate degrees but their son probably understands this stuff way better than they do, in any case!). The only drawback I can see at this point is the lack of color illustrations -- they're all grayscale. Not that Mr. Math seems to mind. It looks like The LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Discovery Book will be giving him hours of entertainment and learning!

Disclosure: I received a product sample, but was not paid to review the product or give my opinions. Product information is provided by the featured company/product and is clearly indicated as such. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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