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It's been a few years since I bought a Lego Mindstorms (v2) which comes with the technic style pieces.

There's beams, axels, rods, connectors... but the majority of the times when I'm building (my own designs, not following instructions) I wonder which is the right part to use. There's usually several options and I never found what is the exact intended purpose of each one.

Is there a website, document, or anything that I could use as a reference for what each part in the technic set is meant to do?

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The best way to learn is to build the robots that come with instructions. By doing this you learn all kinds of ways to put the parts together to make functional models.

I bought a Lego Mindstorms (v2)

I assume you're talking about the NXT? If I remember correctly, there is an instruction manual with instructions for a simple wheeled/tracked vehicle, and several other robots are included in the software. Pick one (or all of them!) and start building! You'll notice that there really aren't that many different types of parts:

  • Beams are the main structural component of the model. Pins and axles connect to them.
  • Pins connect beams together. They come in several shapes for different situations.
  • Axles rotate smoothly and support the wheels, motors, and gears. They can also be used as long pins. Use bushings or half-bushings to prevent axles from sliding out of their beam holes.
  • Connectors like this one allow you to attach beams and other parts at an angle to each other. These big pins are excellent for 90-degree angles.
  • Gears transfer/multiply torque. See this guide on gears.

For a simple wheeled/tracked robot, the basic design process is:

  • Build a sturdy chassis for the robot out of beams. Usually this frame is built around the motors. Since the motors are kinda weirdly shaped, consult other robots' instructions for tips on how to position them and attach them to beams.
  • Attach wheels to the motors using axles and bushings. You can change how fast the wheels move using programming or gears.
  • Attach the NXT to the top of the robot, so build up some structure from the frame to support it.
  • Wire the motors to the NXT outputs (A, B, and C), plug the thing into your computer, start programming.

But all of this becomes more apparent and obvious after you've built a few robots from the instructions. Again, pay special attention to how beams are connected to each other to form a chassis, how the motors are mounted, and how different parts of the robot can be reinforced.

  • Thanks for your detailed answer! I did build all of the robots in the book when I bought it, but I guess I just followed instructions and end up with a finished product, not really learning anything from the process or questioning why each step used the parts it did. I think what I'm going to do is just build them again and this time do it with the purpose of understanding this. Thanks for the links also, very useful to understand your comments. – palako Jan 8 at 18:19
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I'm affraid a guide covering all possible applications does not exist. Actually, this would be impossible as people keep finding (and using) new applications of existing bricks.

Keep in mind people are different. Some just keep using certain parts compared they are familiar and comfortable with. While others may keep using different set of parts (bricks) for similar purpose.

In order to learn different building techniques it is advised to build other people's creations as building instructions are pretty common these days. You will be surprised what people come up with to solve issues during the creation of the model.

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