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LEGO NXT Mayan Robot

Mayan imageOur FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team decided to do a week long summer camp using the format suggested in the book Lego Mindstorms NXT The Mayan Adventure by Jim Kelly.

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LEGO NXT Mayan Robot

FLL teams use the LEGO Mindstorms NXT robotics kit to design, build and program robots to accomplish challenges which are announced in September each year.

The book Lego Mindstorms NXT The Mayan Adventure is a story about exploring an ancient Mayan Temple. Since it's filled with bobby traps, they need to create different robots to release the mechanisms making it safe for them the enter each of the rooms as they explore the temple. The story is a fun excuse to create a series of different robots.

Our team spent some time in the spring working on their building skills, but needed some practice with programming skills.  My first impressions of the The Mayan Adventure was that it would provide the structure and technical information the kids needed to work on their programming skills.

The next step was to start planning.

We know another team that is just starting out, so we invited them to be part of our week long robotics camp.  That decision is a wonderful example of how gracious professionalism really is a good idea.

Our team was very enthusiastic about sharing this opportunity with a new team.  They didn't care that it would help one of the competitors be harder to beat at the tournament in the fall.

The best part was that I had a second coach to work with.  I had been playing with ideas for each of the challenges.  Our kitchen has an island in the middle, so I figured the first challenge could be held there.  I was working on locations throughout our home for each of the challenges.

Peggy, the other coach took one look at the size of my garage and suggested it be the temple for the week.  She was able to get about 30 boxes that we turned into temple stones that formed the walls and tunnels.  There's no doubt that her ideas and work made it a much more fun for our team too.

Their decision to invite a second team made it a better experience for them.

Peggy and I met for a planning day.  Our main resource was the Lego Mindstorms NXT The Mayan Adventure book, but we started using other books too.

Here are a couple of the books that turned out to be useful for decorating the temple.


Maya Designs by Wilson G. Turner from Dover Publications 1980.

Mayan imageLife in Ancient Mexico Coloring Book by John Green from the Dover Coloring Series 1991.


I made copies of some of the images from the book and we taped them to the boxes so they would look a bit more like carved rocks.  There were some interesting round glyphs that we turned into pressure plates for some of the challenges.

Peggy found half a mannequin that was being thrown out.  We added a mask and robe, and he became our King for the week.

One of her best finds was a font for the Mayan Alphabet.  We used it throughout the week to do everything from translate the kids names for their folders, to creating a puzzle on the scrolls they would retrieve on Day 4.

We worked on the weekend before to set up the temple.  Peggy had tons of fabric that we draped around the walls of the garage to hide all the usual stuff you find in a modern garage.  Then all we had to do each day was rearrange the stones to create the next room in the temple.

It was up to the kids to create robots to do each of the challenges.

Mayan Adventure Day 1 - go through a tunnel to activate a pressure plate.

Mayan Adventure Day 2 - climb across a string to drop pebbles in a vase.

Mayan Adventure Day 3 - retrieve the key from the library.

Mayan Adventure Day 4 - get a scroll from a tunnel

Mayan Adventure Day 5 - move statues onto pressure plates and up a ramp.

The kids did amazingly well. Including breaks and lunch, they had less than 6 hours from when they first heard what the robot had to be able to do, to when the challenges was held.

There were lots of frustrating moments, and lots of cheers as the robot did what it was suppose to.  The three teams were just as excited when another team's robot solved the challenge.  They loved seeing the different ideas that each of the teams thought could work.

What a great way to spend a week!



Robots and robotics

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