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Not Enough Parts

I have been following the difficulties surrounding the introduction of the LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0. There is a lot of literature available that has building instructions for Mindstorms creations. Most of the instructions assume that you have the NXT 1.0 set, so the instructions are centered around that set. The NXT 1.0 was all that was available when the book, website or blog entry was written.

There are a lot of people new to NXT that are buying the 2.0 set, not realizing or thinking about the fact that there was a 1.0 set that was made before the 2.0 set and that there could be any difference in the building elements that LEGO would include in one set or the other.

Building with the NXT set reminds me of many years ago when I was much younger and the popular building set was the Erector Set. This was the best thing to get if you wanted to build things that were not just “glue it together and put it on the shelf” plastic model kits. For Christmas one year (many, many, many years ago) Santa brought me an Erector Set. The “Big Set”, lots of parts, and some getting started instructions of how to build several things; they were great! The getting started models helped me to understand how to use the building elements included in the Erector Set. I built many a contraption with my “Big Set”. But after awhile it was not enough, there were just not enough bits and pieces to build all the things I wanted to build. My imagination was much bigger than my “Big Set”. So I convinced my parents to buy me the Erector “Expansion Set”. With my new “Expansion Set” I could build many more things, but I after awhile I still ran out of pieces, so I needed another “Expansion Set”. Does any of this sound familiar?

A generation or two later in 2006 enter the Mindstorms NXT! Wow, now we can build anything in our imagination and we can program an on-board computer to make it do almost anything we want. For many of us it was our first Mindstorms set, our introduction to NXT and all the wonderful things we can create. Many folks started websites to highlight their creations. Writers wrote books teaching others how to build things and how to program using NXT-G and other programming languages to make our creations more than just a model to stick on a shelf. All was right with the world, there was the Mindstorms set, there were web sites, there were books there were blogs all centered around the NXT 1.0 and what we could build with just the elements included in that set. Nothing else required. Those were the golden ages. We could build and discuss what we built and we knew we had the parts necessary to build many wonderful things.

Then in January 2009 LEGO announced the Mindstroms NXT 2.0 set. Wow! Wonderful! A new set, new elements we can all build new and different robots. But then in August 2009 LEGO actually starting shipping the NXT 2.0 set and the problems began. It was not a problem for the folks who already had a NXT 1.0, It was just a welcome addition to the NXT line of products. But for the folks new to NXT there was a big problem! The NXT 2.0 set did not include all the pieces that were included with the NXT 1.0 set so the websites and books and building instructions did not match. The folks who bought the NXT 2.0 could not build the wonderful things that we as NXT 1.0 owners could build. Not enough parts! The folks new to NXT (with the 2.0 set) were outraged, they had purchased books on how to build many wonderful things with the promise that they could build all these things with just the parts included in the base NXT set. They did not realize that the books were written for the NXT 1.0 set and that they had purchased a NXT 2.0 set or that there would be any difference in the building elements included in the NXT 2.0 set. Just look at some of the book reviews from outraged consumers about the fact that they purchased this new Mindstorms NXT (2.0) set and some books to build beyond the box, only to find out that the books had building instructions for creations that they could not build because they did not have all the necessary parts. They did not know why they did not have enough parts, they just knew they did not have the parts and there was a promise on the cover of the book that everything could be built with what was in one NXT kit. Not enough parts! It is unfortunate that LEGO did not include all the parts from the NXT 1.0 in the NXT 2.0; life would have been so much easier for the folks who write the books and maintain the web sites, but that is not what happened.

I hate to break it to you, but you will never have enough parts! Remember my experience with the Erector sets? Not enough parts!

I look at the NXT 2.0 (or 1.0) like the Erector Set, “Big Set”. It includes a lot of parts. But it is just a start. I believe that is what LEGO really intended; give the consumer just enough parts to build many interesting things, but not enough to build everything possible that could be built with Mindstorms. Think about it. If LEGO made a kit that included everything anyone would ever want or need in one kit, that kit would be so large that the average person could not lift it. More importantly very few could afford it. So LEGO gave us the “Big Set”! A very nice starter set.

Some folks may have enough elements included in the base NXT 1.0 or 2.0 set to build everything they want. But many of us are not going to have enough parts included in the base set to build all we want. Not enough parts!

My suggestion is to build all the wonderful things you can build with your set (1.0 or 2.0), then start collecting building elements to build different, bigger and more complex devices, robots or whatever you can imagine. We can build many wonderful things with just what is included in the base set, but remember – The NXT 1.0 or NXT 2.0 set is just a start!

If life gives you LEGO®, build robots!

Andy Dannelley

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