Basic Programming


Name of Activity Basic Programming
Author Ali Boreiko
Keywords touch sensor, ultrasonic sensor, sound sensor, light sensor, simple programming, introduction to NXT, introduction to Mindstorms, introduction to programming
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students complete a simple series of programming challenges to familiarize themselves with Mindstorms programming.
Lesson Objectives: For students to become more competent programmers
Materials Needed: computers with Mindstorms, whiteboard/chalkboard, a list of simple challenges OPTIONAL: pre-built cars
Preparation and Set Up: 1. Decide what functions of the NXT will be most useful for your class. Do you want them to know how do use a particular sensor? How to steer the robot? How to make the NXT make noises? Then, create a list of ~8 challenges that target these areas of Mindstorm programming (see our example under “References”). Create the challenges so that harder challenges only require the students to change 1 or 2 parts of their program. That way they will see the direct connection between the change they made and the robot’s actions. They will also feel accomplished if they are able to complete more challenges.

2. You may have the students pre-build a car, but the activity can also be done by programming other things (e.g. an NXT arm)

  1. Ask each group to put the necessary sensor/equipment onto their robot.
  2. As a class, program the first challenge. As kids complete the challenge, have them come up to the board and demonstrate the challenge to either STOMPer. Once the students have accomplished and demonstrated the challenge, write their name on the board next to the challenge.
  3. Once kids have finished the first challenge, they may go on to harder challenges–but they must complete them in order!
  4. As kids complete the challenges, check off the challenges under their names. This way, you recognize kids who stay focused on the tasks.
Extensions: This activity can be adapted for various skill levels by simply making the challenges more difficult or adding more difficult ones at the end of the list
Previous Activity (if applicable) Introductory building
References Our list of touch sensor challenges
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Introduciton to Mindstorms, Introduction to NXT Robotics

Pet Training Activity


Name of Activity NXT Pet Training Activity – (Intro to Touch Sensor)
Author Leticia’s Group
Keywords NXT, animal, touch sensor
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 6
Time 4+ Hours Total
Brief Description This activity is designed for 6th graders to practice “training their animal robot” by using the touch sensor. Students brainstorm tricks for animal NXT robots. The level of difficulty can vary based on their familiarity with the touch sensor and estimated to last two weeks.
Lesson Objectives: Introduce students to the touch sensor by asking them to explore its properties through different ways of training your pet dog. It would require them to go through the design process and think through the ways we train our pets and how those commands can be translated and applied to the NXT animal robotics. Important for them to think about what sort of commands they are capable of programming that would work well on the robot.
Materials Needed: LEGO NXTS
Procedure The point of this activity is to train your pet dog using touch sensors. Some of the activities could be to see what happens or how the animal robot reacts when you pet its head or tail. One of the students tasks or goals should be to be able to program their robot so that when the touch sensor is pressed once it does a command and then pressing twice it does a different command. Possible solutions for them could be to get their robots to lift and shake a hand, twirl around, potentially use their sound sensor to bark, or wag their tail.

Frankenstein’s Robot


Name of Activity Frankenstein’s Robot
Author Charlie and Laura +Devyn and Alli’s Minigroup
Keywords Frankenscience, Introduction to NXT, sensors, instructions
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Time 4+ Hours Total
Brief Description Providing students “Frank” the NXT brick, and walking them through the process of making Frank functional. This activity is an intro to NXT, so instructions are there to guide students as they become comfortable with new parts. Parts should be entirely interchangeable between robots.
Lesson Objectives: Personification of sensors
Confidence in using individual sensors and motors
Ability to combine a number of simple parts to create a more complex system
Materials Needed: NXT kits
Procedure Frank the robot is broken down into several steps of building and programming. The goal is for the kids to build a fully functional robot with advanced behavior without the children feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the project.

Frank is introduced to the children as just an NXT brick. we comment on how Frank wants to be more mobile and introduce the deigns for the legs of frank the robot

Building Instructions [Frank the robot[moters+frame]]

distribute the PDF of the instructions to the kids, and the instructions should be intuitive enough for the kids to follow along. an NXT mindstorms program should also be developed that the kids can follow along as it’s programmed ( highly recommended to code and debug before giving to the kids)

once the kids have built frank up to the point of the instructions finish at, then the kids should bring out the laptops and start programming the motors. these small steps will show the kids that programming and building are not actually two separate tasks, but opposite sides of the same coin. this also allows for multiple iterations of the engineering design process.

once the kids have finished with the motors and basic frame then the other PDF’s should be distributed.



Same End, Two Ways of Getting There


Name of Activity Same End, Two Ways of Getting There.
Author Matt’s mini group
Keywords NXT, Ultrasonic sensor, light sensor, understanding how they work
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Understanding how sensors really work and use different sensors to accomplish the same goal.
Lesson Objectives: To understand how the ultrasonic sensor works. Use two sensors to accomplish same goal.
Materials Needed: Already built NXT car, bouncy ball to demonstrate ultrasonic sensor, flashlight maybe to demonstrate how the light sensor senses both reflected and ambient light and the difference between the two.
Preparation and Set Up: Already built car and a thorough understanding of how the sensors truly work.
Necessary Background Understand how the sensors are able to accurately sense whatever it is they sense.
Procedure In order to understand how untrasonic sensors work, children can throw a bouncy ball against a wall from different distances and see how it takes longer to come back to them when they are farther and less time when they are closer.  In order to understand how the light sensor works, they should pull up the real time reading of the light sensor on the brick and hold it up to different lightings and see how the reading changes and test how it is different when sensing reflection as opposed to ambient light and use these readings to set the threshold to put in the program.  A flashlight can also be held up to a piece of paper at different distances and see how the intensity changes.  The challenge will then be to have a car go back and forth between two walls using the ultrasonic sensor on one side and the light sensor on the other side.
Extensions: Use a different sensor as well to accomplish the same goal if a group is far ahead.
Previous Activity (if applicable) Basic programming knowledge and basic sensor usage.
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) NXT

NXT Elevator





Name of Activity NXT Elevator
Author STOMP
Keywords Simple Machines, Civil Engineering, NXT
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students construct an NXT-based elevator to move a platform from one level to another and back. When completed the elevator should use a motor and a sensor to control it.
Lesson Objectives: - Learn what makes a structure sturdy
- Learn how to use pulleys and gears
- Practice basic programming
Materials Needed: - NXT kits
- extra Legos (mostly beams)
Preparation and Set Up: Make sure NXTs and Legos are available in the classroom.
Necessary Background None
Procedure - Introduce the activity with a story depending on the context. Go over the engineering design process, emphasizing that they should plan and sketch their design first – Sign off on designs before they can start building – Give students the rest of the first hour to build their designs. – At beginning of second hour, make sure all groups have finished building and start with programming the elevator. They should all use at least one sensor and one motor to control the elevator. (Students should have some prior experience with programming) – Test all of the elevators as a class

Sochi 2014 – Figure Skating





Name of Activity Sochi 2014 – Figure Skating
Author STOMP Minigroups
Keywords Robotics, NXT, Olympics, Sochi, ice skating, figure skating, movement
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will program a pre-made car to move around on a “rink” like a figure skater.
Lesson Objectives: - Explore the movement options on MINDSTORMS
- Familiarize students with programming on pre-made cars
Materials Needed: NXT kits (premade cars)
Material for a rink
Optional: different colored paper for conditional programming, tape to outline a rink
Preparation and Set Up: Make NXT cars beforehand.
Set up a rink, distribute kits and cars.
Necessary Background NXT Programming (including sensors)
Building with LEGOs
Procedure - Distribute materials – Depending on the age group, introduce programming and the theme of the lesson (Olympics, Sochi, Figure Skating) to get the kids excited – Depending on the age group, decide which extensions and modifications you need in place to be at the appropriate level for the students – Have the students make their robot “figure skate” using MINDSTORMS and make their routine fit into whichever requirements you give them (e.g. +1 point for a 360, car must do a 180 every time it drives over a red block, -1 every time the car moves off the rink)
Extensions: Depending on the age group, introduce restrictions and point incentives as described above.

Silly Walks





Name of Activity Silly Walks
Author Laura Fradin, Jake Hellman
Keywords NXT, robotics, brick programming, 5th grade, aguayo, wheels, programming. JQS
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Build and Program a robot that uses something other than wheels to move.
Lesson Objectives: -Understand brick programming
-practice building with NXT kits/pieces
-using non-traditional ways to make the robot move (NO CARS!)
Materials Needed: -NXT kits
-projector (to demonstrate on brick programming and show example video)
Preparation and Set Up: Show kids a video that has examples of Silly (
Procedure 1) Show kids how to attach the motors to the brick. Explain that the motors must be attached tot eh brick in order for the whole thing to move. 2) Demonstrate how to program the robot to go forward (turn it on, NXT program, forward, empty, forward, empty, stop/loop). Make sure each student does this and that their motors work. Explain that it is the ORANGE part of the motor that moves to make sure that things are attached to that. 3) Hand out kits. 4) Allow students to build and test as they build. Help students as needed. 5) Present at the end of class
Extensions: -use more or less motors
-make the robot walk in a way that mimics a real animal
Reference 1

Say Hello!





Name of Activity Say Hello!
Author Laura Fradin, Jake Hellman
Keywords NXT, programming, mindstorms, robotics, aguayo, 5th grade, sensors
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 5
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students build and program robots that “interact” with the outside world using a sensor.
Lesson Objectives: -Practice building with NXT kits
-Learn how sensors work and where they should be placed in order to work
-Basic Mindstorm Programming
Materials Needed: -NXT kits
Preparation and Set Up: Jake and I made two example robots with two example programs to give them an idea of how sensors work and a very basic program would be done.
(The easy example programs, “Say Hello” and “Touch Sensor”, are attached and on the outline)
Procedure 1) Introduce the Challenge The Challenge: Build a robot (or modify your robot from last week) that “says hello” to you. This means that it acknowledges your existence it some way. This can be it actually saying hello as in our example program, or can merely have it react (back up, turn, make a noise, display a picture, etc.) to a certain stimulus (light, sound, etc). 2) Split students into smaller groups. Run the example program. Have the students tell you what the robot did. Then go through and go step by step to make the program they just witnessed. 3) Have students plan what they want to do (what sensors they will use, what the robot will do after the sensor is activated, etc) 4) Hand out NXT kits. Allow students to build for one class period. 5) The second class period/hour should be spent programming, testing, and re-programming. 6) Allow students to present
Extensions: -use more than one sensor (create a longer code)
Reference 1

Wheel and Axle Lesson





Name of Activity Wheel and Axle Lesson
Author STOMP
Keywords Simple Machines, Wheel and Axle, NXT
Subject NXTs, Simple Machines
Grade Level 5, 6, 7, 8
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students work in groups to build a vehicle using NXT kits that includes a wheel and axle and has to be able to hold a ball. To discourage everyone from using a basic car design, their designs cannot have exactly four wheels. Once their design is complete (including motors and the NXT brick), each group learns how to use on brick programming to make their vehicle move the ball across their workspace.
Lesson Objectives: Improved understanding of the wheel and axle as a simple machine. Students gain skill building with NXT kits and using on brick programming.
Materials Needed: -NXT kits (1 per group)
-extra Legos
Preparation and Set Up: Consider bringing extra Legos for groups to build with, prepare to talk about the project in terms of the Engineering Design Process and simple machines.
Necessary Background None
  1. Introduce the project by talking about the importance of the wheel and axle as a simple machine.
  2. Tell them the objective: to make a vehicle that can’t have exactly four wheels, includes the NXT brick and motors, and is capable of carrying the NXT ball across their workspace.
  3. Explain the project in terms of the Engineering Design Process, discuss which steps would be best to focus on for this project.
    • We drew the entire Engineering Design Process on the board and went over each step, asking them how they though the steps fit into this activity. At the end of the discussion we decided that the most important steps for this activity would probably be developing/ sketching solutions, prototyping, and communicating with other group members.
  4. Separate students into groups of 3-5.
    •  Most teachers already have some method of grouping students, or know which students shouldn’t be in a group together.
  5.  Give them the rest of the first hour to sketch a design and then build it.
    • Make sure each group includes motors and the NXT brick into their design.
  6.  If the lesson is taking place over two, one-hour blocks leave 5-10 minutes at the end of the first block for cleanup.
  7. Once a group has their vehicle fully assembled, show them how to make it move using on brick programming.
    • Make sure each member of the group gets a chance to try programming, and show them how to do things like change direction, turn, and loop through a set of instructions.
  8. If any of the groups finish early, show them how to add sensors and change the on brick program to respond to sensor input.
  9. Leave 15 minutes for each group to demonstrate their finished vehicle and clean up.
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Simple Machines

Red Light, Green Light





Name of Activity Red Light, Green Light
Author STOMP
Keywords NXT, cars, robotics, sensors
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will program cars to play a game of “Red Light, Green Light” based on sound. Robots will race each other, but have to stop at hearing a clap, go on the next clap, etc.
Lesson Objectives: Learn the use of the sound sensor.
Materials Needed: NXT Kit, laptop
Preparation and Set Up: Have a defined start and end line for the race.
Necessary Background Have a functioning car to be programmed, knowledge of programming loops.
Procedure 1. Brainstorm the programming strategy. 2. Program the cars to alternately stop and go on hearing a noise. 3. Refine the decibel threshold of the sound sensor so it is not too sensitive or overly sensitive. 4. Have the cars race each other, disqualifying cars if they don’t follow the rules.
Extensions: This could be modified to use another sensor as the “light.”
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) NXT Robotics

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