James Floyd Kelly

Writer and Swashbuckler-for-Hire


I’m a freelance writer in Atlanta, Georgia.  Currently I write non-fiction books relating to technology – all kinds of subjects from building a CNC machine to LEGO robotics to Open Source software… all over the place.

I want to try my hand at writing YA fiction – that is, Young Adult fiction.  Wish me luck…

I maintain a lot of blogs… a LOT.  I started thenxtstep.com in 2006 – it focuses on LEGO robotics.  It currently gets about 60,000 visitors each month.  My latest is handsonelectronics.blogspot.com where I’ve been documenting my experiences as I work through a teach-yourself electronics book.  I’ve got a blog following my work on a homemade arcade cabinet and now a blog that (I hope) focuses on my writing work and experiences.  I figure I’ve written enough blog material to easily fill a few books.  It’s an itch… so if I’m not writing a chapter for a book, I’m writing something in a blog somewhere.

I may need some professional help someday… but not today.



  1. Hello,

    I am the program coordinator at the Okanagan Science Centre, and I just started reading one of your books – it’s fantastic! We are hoping to do a camp this summer based on The King’s Treasure.
    Do you ever travel to the Canadian West Coast?


    Comment by Elizabeth Brown | December 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. Just stumbled over your web site and saw that you are teaching yourself electronics, this site may be of interest
    it may be a great resources with lots of free material and a person that loves electronics.

    I’ll visit the rest of your site it looks interesting…I would love to read some of your articles as well.

    All The best.

    Comment by Joe | January 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. I wanted to drop by and write you a little fan letter for The Mayan Adventure. My 9-year-old has been into Mindstorms off and on for a couple of years, and finally this year has gotten old enough to really engage. We homeschool, and he absolutely didn’t want to take a class, and I was a little unsure how to get started and guide him. We got The Mayan Adventure recently and we’re working our way through it. He loves it; we both do. He likes the story, and the way the story parts reveal the problems that need to be solved. I have been surprised by how much he enjoys the planning and design process; he likes that he can keep his planning pages and sketches so he can re-build a robot someday if he wants to. I like the way the book leads us through that process, and emphasizes multiple solutions to problems. It also models trial and error and debugging, which is great because my kid is a perfectionist. It’s good for him to have someone telling him that mistakes and best-guesses and second and third tries are part of the process. I think it took us 14 or 15 tries to get ExploRobot to work (but our StringBot worked the second try!). I have been raving about it to other parents; for us, it has been the best route into really working with Mindstorms. I am very glad to have learned just now that there’s a sequel. It’s just terrific! Thanks so much.

    Comment by SP | April 1, 2011 | Reply

  4. Hey swashbuckling jamesfloydkelly,
    We are ready to move into the Lego NXT and I came across all the fabulous reviews on your Mayan Adventure on Amazon.(I just read the very nice comments listed above, too.) If I buy the Education NXT Homeschool Pack LegoEducation website (Product ID: W979917) will this be compatible with the Mayan Adventure? I don’t know whether to buy a NXT 1 through ebay or get the NXT2. And I’m confused about the “education” pack vs. the “retail” pack and the homeschool pack with the curriculum Robotics Engineering produced by Carnegie Mellon. We are interested in going the same way as the previous poster: not joining a Lego league yet, but working on the building and doing your “story adventures”. I’d appreciate any advice. Thanks in advance.

    Comment by moe | April 26, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi, Moe.

      I’ll try to answer this as best I can… here goes:

      1. The NXT 1.0 and 2.0 are retail sets – these differ in parts from the NXT 1.0 Education Set. There are pros and cons for all 3 versions, but you might find it hard to now find the 1.0 retail set.

      2. Mayan Adventure was written for the 1.0 Retail set. If you purchase the Education Set, LEGO Ed also sells a Mayan Parts Pack that will provide the 20 or so extra pieces the book requires but that are not found in the Ed Set.

      3. King’s Treasure – sequel to Mayan Adventure – was written for 2.0 Retail set.

      4. There are a couple of places out there that sell parts kits that will upgrade the 1.0 set to the 2.0 retail set… and vice-versa.

      5. I know very little about the Carnegie Mellon stuff, but I believe it is written for Education Set.

      Your best bet is to do a search of the http://www.thenxtstep.com blog for key terms such as “Education set”, 2.0 vs 1.0, and similar… you’ll find years of posts that compare the three versions and discuss them in detail.

      Hope this helps!


      Comment by jamesfloydkelly | April 26, 2011 | Reply

  5. Hi there, im still keeping up with your blog and reading the make book. Im currently on the robot cart exp. 32 and have the exact same issue you had, you have to keep the button pressed to move the motor in reverse. Did you ever figure out what the problem was?

    Comment by shane | February 26, 2013 | Reply

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