With Lego Mindstorms, drag-and-drop programming reduces the geekiness involved in learning to make a robot do your bidding.
It’s especially enticing to a fourth grader, whose mind is bursting with ideas, and who wants to make her bot do more than raise an arm or beep when it encounters an obstacle. Last afternoon I sat with Bill Johnson, our mentor who comes in every week to help my robotics class with the technical aspects of Lego’s NXT brick. I was fascinated by the programming ideas at NXTprograms.com that let a 10-year old build a rattlesnake or a lawn mover.
No coincidence that Time magazine has featured Mindstorms this week! Thought it’s a thinly veiled plug for the new programmable brick, the model EV3, that will be released this summer, it talks about how Lego has been furiously adapting to a generation of digital natives who put app and bots in the same bucket –the bucket labeled ‘fun’ on one side, ‘hand-held’ on the other.
I keep a somewhat menacing-looking robot with a claw on my shelf in class, if only to remind my students in the computer and technology classes that computers are more than mice and keyboards; that games are more than sling-shotting an angry bird.
Games and bots are problem-solving opportunities in STEM-based curricula. In a few years –months, maybe– robotics is gonna go mainstream. It’s still a nice-to-have in many schools, but whenever I talk to engineers from Intel, Microchip and other tech firms, I see why they are keenly eyeing this sweet-spot. It’s where the puck –or rattlesnake bot –is moving.