What is the difference between Mindstorm and Mindstorm NXT?
My first impression from the LEGO site was the NXT is a
"humanoid" robot. But maybe not.
Would either be appropriate for a very bright 10 and, if so, which
would be better?
Mindstorms used a controller called the RCX; NXT uses a controller
called the NXT. The NXT is a newer, more capable controller. Also, the
NXT kit comes with new motors that have integrated rotation sensors, and
new sensors as well including an ultrasonic range sensor.
So basically, all the electronics are different. The rest of the kit,
the technic beams and so on, are pretty much the same.
No, Mindstorms NXT is a building kit. The humanoid is one of the models
they include instructions for, as I recall, but it's by no means the
only thing you can build with it.
It would absolutely be appropriate. The NXT is newer and better in
pretty much every respect, though you can find the older RCX-based kits
much cheaper these days.
Wired magazine wrote up an article about the development
of the NXT system. Luckily Wired has a pretty enlightened
attitude about publishing their articles on the web; here
is a URL:
Besides newer and better electronics, Lego addressed one
of the biggest headaches of RCX based Mindstorms -- the
fragility of the robots. The bricks in the Lego NXT system
tend to use the Technic posts and beams which snap together
rather than the bricks where are held together by friction.
At robot presentations at our robot club, we have had
numerous robots based on the Lego RCX simply fall apart
before the everybody's watchful eyes. It will be much
easier to build rugged robots using the NXT system.
You can buy used RCX systems on Ebay for a fraction of
the $200 that they used to sell for new. None-the-less,
I would recommend the NXT over the RCX, even though it
costs even more (~$250) new. Only go for the RCX based
system if you are on a real tight budget.