Skip to main content

World Highest NXT… by (many) miles

It seems a group of faculty & students have taken an NXT where no NXT has gone before… into space. OK, OK, I know the technical definitions, and they didn’t get quite that far, but it’s an amazing use of off-the-shelf technology none the less. Part of the NevadaSat program at the University of Nevada, Reno, is to launch high-altitude balloons carrying student experiments, including dataloggers & cameras. It seems one of the devices they use in these experiment packages are NXTs to control things like the cameras (off-the-shelf digital cameras) and take data. On Mission NBS-07-06, the balloon reached roughly 97,000’, and a later mission (also carrying an operating NXT) reached 101,253’. For those of you that are wondering, that’s 19 miles above sea level, about three times as high as a commerical airliner, where temperatures are sub-zero and the equipment is practically operating in a vacuum. They reported that the NXT works great, and is recovered and reused even though some of the “landings” are a bit rough (decent speeds at ground impact are around 1000 ft/min (about 10 mph), although they have reached close to 2000 ft/min in some cases). They are programmed in ROBOLAB or NXT-G (depending on the experience of the students), and have used sensors like accelerometers, gyros, temperature, pressure, etc., to monitor the 1-2 hour flight.

To me this is a really amazing and inspiring use of the NXT – as an educational & research tool, & well beyond “a simple toy”. I was once asked if an NXT-based rover could function on Mars, and opinioned that I didn’t know, but doubted it: conditions on Mars are sub-freezing, and the atmospheric pressure is only bout 1% Earth sea level, almost a vacuum... certainly not on the list of environments the NXT was designed for. But here is an example of such “consumer electronics” performing under similar conditions, at least for a limited time. Pressure at 100,000 feet (30 km) is roughly 1200 Pascals… or just 1.2% of the sea level pressure. And temperatures in the payloads hover around 0° C (32° F) (they use small internal heaters to keep it that warm). Not too far from roving around on a Martian sand dune.

An amazing accomplishment for the NXT, especially for the students and advisors in the BalloonSat program. Congratulations!

Brian Davis

Popular posts from this blog


2023 is the 25th Anniversary of the MINDSTORMS brand. For 25 years, MINDSTORMS has educated and inspired a generation of robot builders, both children and adults. Unfortunately, the LEGO Group decided to end the line on December 2022. Many ROBOTMAK3RS have been passionately involved with the development of MINDSTORMS through the MUP and MCP programs. Even with the newest Robot Inventor line, several ROBOTMAK3RS were invited to submit additional bonus models that were included in the official app. Regardless of the retirement of a major LEGO robotics product line, ROBOTMAK3RS continue to MAKE-SHARE-INSPIRE using all LEGO robotics platforms available to us. Here is the official statement from LEGO. Since its launch in September 1998, LEGO MINDSTORMS has been one of the core ‘Build & Code’ experiences in the company’s portfolio, carrying with it significant brand equity and becoming a stand-out experience for the early days of consumer robotics and leading to current Build & Code

Celebrating 25 Years of MINDSTORMS

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of MINDSTORMS, we take a trip through history. Please also visit ROBOTMAK3RS Community every week as we highlight different projects all through 2023 in celebration of the anniversary. Some of the early history is based on the content shared by  Coder Shah  in our  MINDSTORMS EV3 Community Group . Some of the text and links may have been edited from his original posts for consistency and clarity.  1984 - Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen watched a TV program called "Talking Turtle," where MIT professor Seymour Papert demonstrated how children could control robot "turtles" using LOGO, a programming language he developed. 1988 - The collaboration between MIT and LEGO resulted in LEGO TC Logo in 1988, which allowed students to control LEGO models using computer commands. The video shows Papert demonstrating TC Logo. 1990 - LEGO TC Logo was hampered since the robots you built had to be tethered to a personal computer. LEGO and MIT

Celebrating MINDSTORMS with a Remix Part 1

In honor of the 25th Anniversary of MINDSTORMS, we asked ROBOTMAK3RS to combine a LEGO set of their choice with a MINDSTORMS set. Here is what these five ROBOTMAK3RS came up with.  MINDSTORMS Chess Assistant by Arvind Seshan Overview: When you are new to chess, it can be a challenge to remember which pieces go where. Now, you can use machine learning and LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor to build a tool to help you learn where all the chess pieces go on the chess board. Sets used: LEGO® Iconic Chess Set (40174) and MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor (51515) Review: I really like how the chess set base can store all the pieces underneath and that the board neatly splits in half for handy storage. The chess pieces themselves are very sturdy and well built. My only criticism is the building of the box itself. It was quite difficult to see what pieces to use and since the entire box is made mostly of thin plates, it took a lot of time and patience. I would have liked the storage area to be sliding dra