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Topic Title: What can Lego Mindstorms teach us?
Topic Summary: Robotics design education
Created On: 13 April 2007 03:57 PM
Status: Read Only
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 13 April 2007 03:57 PM
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Joined: 13 April 2007

Hi all,

I'm an editor with an engineering magazine, currently researching for an article about the Lego Mindstorms robotic kits. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about real-world engineering skills that students and professionals alike can learn by playing with the kits.

- Evan
 13 April 2007 08:23 PM
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Joined: 28 May 2002

I have worked with school children on Mindstorms projects (for First Lego League) for a number of years now, I also have 20 years experience of running professional engineering design teams.

The more I work with Mindstorms, the more impressed I am with it. The original Mindstorms certainly had bugs, but they don't stop the children a) picking up its use quickly (very important) and b) then taking it on to very complex levels. I have recently recommended it to my local university for undergraduate robotics introduction, equally I know someone who uses it with infant classes!

In terms of real world skills, it does allow structured programming techniques, and certainly encourages problem solving. I haven't yet looked at NXT, but to make the original system work well then the use of feedback in the system was essential (otherwise your machine performs differently as the batteries run down!) which again teaches valuable lessons about engineering - for it to work reliably you have to allow for and compensate for its limitations.

I was fortunate enough to attend last year's national finals of the First Lego League, the standard of programming and engineering shown by the finalist and semi-finalist teams was incredible - these GCSE level school children had solved problems which I couldn't work out how to solve.

The major issue I have come across is pure snobbery from robotics lecturers over the use of a 'toy' - luckily I don't think students care. Oh, and if it was half the price that would be nice too!

Hope this helps, please feel free to use any part.

Andy Millar
Schools Liaison Officer, IET Devon and Cornwall
Engineering Design Manager, Bombardier Transportation

Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 08 May 2007 02:47 PM
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Some very good examples of lego mindstorms projects may be seen on YouTube.
any good search engine will get you there.

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