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Keywords: Lego Mindstorms, robots
Title: The Unofficial Lego Mindstorms NXT Inventor's Guide
Author: David J. Perdue
Publisher: No Starch Press
Verdict: Recommended for beginners.
Isn't it a bit grand to be talking about NXT Inventors? After all, Lego NXT is just a kit of parts to play with? Except that in the right hands it's possible to create intricate mechanisms that move, react and interact in complex and surprising ways. And for those who want to learn how to craft such complex and interesting mechanisms there's a great introduction in the form of David Perdue's 'The Unofficial Lego NXT Mindstorms NXT Inventor's Guide'. And why would you need a guide book? Because there's so much to NXT - both on the hardware and the software side of things.
The book consists of four parts: the opening section provides an introduction and over-view; part two looks at the construction of NXT robots; programming gets to have the three chapters of part three and the book concludes with seven different projects in part four. The book finishes with some useful reference materials in three appendices.
The tone of the book is fairly chatty and helpful, with plenty of asides and 'this is how I do things' remarks. It feels like you've got someone on hand to pass on hard gained experience. The structure of the book means that you move progressively from the basics to the more advanced stuff - from how to build simple but sturdy structures through to configuring and using programming your creations. There's even coverage of some of the 'unofficial' programming languages and toolkits that you can use for adding intelligence to your projects.
For many readers it's the projects where the bulk of the attention is going to be focussed. Perdue provides seven projects, and each of them offers a good combination of learning and fun. Each project is illustrated with step by step instructions that are easy to follow. The hardware construction is followed by the programming instructions, which are accompanied with useful discussions of why things are done. Sure, there are more complex projects available online or in other books (such as The Lego Mindstorms NXT Idea Book), but the projects selected by the author are pitched at the beginner keen to make progress rather than the experienced NXT Inventor.
Overall this makes for a good read for those wanting to really get to know their way around Lego Mindstorms NXT. If you're looking for that guidebook, look no further.