LEGO Mindstorms is a kit that lets users create and command robots that walk, talk, think and do anything they can imagine. Although Mindstorms is not a free tool, it has been shown to create wide-ranging interest in youth between “LEGO culture” and the international FIRST LEGO League competition. After purchase, users start by following the easy, step-by-step 3D building instructions to create one of 5 robot characters and command them with a smart device or the included remote control.
The kit was sparked from ideas in the book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas” by LEGO educator Seymour Papert, which has become one of the leading resources for designing programming systems for learning. Since its introduction in 1998, Mindstorms has become the best-selling product in the LEGO Group’s history. LEGO, a long-standing champion of imagination and young tinkerers, has lead to the development of a global community of users and students of all ages over the last 15 years who create and command robots.
Keywords / Definitions
- LEGO: a popular line of construction toys manufactured by The Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark.
- Physical Pixels : Using computer based tools to manipulate physical objects
- Brick Programmer: Highly used, visual way to convey programming languages that resemble physical blocks or bricks that appear to snap together
- GUI: Graphic User Interface
“Imagine that children were forced to spend an hour a day drawing dance steps on squared paper and had to pass tests in these “dance facts” before they were allowed to dance physically. Would we not expect the world to be full of “dancophobes”? Would we say that those who made it to the dance floor and music and the greatest “aptitude for dance”? In my view, it is no more appropriate to draw conclusions about mathematical aptitude from children’s unwillingness to spend many hundreds of hours dong sums.
—Seymour Papert, Author, “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas” and LEGO Professor of Mathematics and Education at MIT
The pilot tournament in 1998, lead to a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and LEGO partnership to launch FIRST LEGO League, a robotics competition for middle school students introducing Mindstorms sets to regional competitions. The competition has spread throughout the globe and in 2008, LEGO Mindstorms was inducted to the Carnegie Mellon University Robot Hall of Fame.
The premise of the hardware and software for Mindstorms goes back to the programmable brick created at the MIT Media Lab. Now, users can download everything from customized software to building instructions, hardware development kits, guides, and other fun stuff.
In addition to being a robotics learning tool in its own right, Mindstorms is also compatible with LEGO Minecraft, which opens up an entire new world for users to explore.
Mindstorms kits are also sold and used as an educational tool, originally through a partnership between Lego and the MIT Media Laboratory. The educational version of the products is called Lego Mindstorms for Schools, and comes with the ROBOLAB GUI-based programming software, developed at Tufts University. The only difference between the educational series, known as the “Challenge Set”, and the consumer series, known as the “Inventor Set”, is that it includes another touch sensor and several more gearing options.
The latest system, called the Lego Mindstorms EV3, was released on September 1, 2013.