Friday, September 23, 2011

Lego and Robotics

Years ago a friend of mine handed me a bag of Lego her daughter had outgrown. Well, I don't know if you ever truly outgrow them, but they passed them on to my daughters anyway. When she handed them to me she said, "Welcome to the world of vacuuming up Lego". I laughed.

Of course, I had grown up with Lego and knew all the greatest ways to make a game out of setting up a storefront and trading pieces back and forth with my siblings. Usually we would trade for something from another sibling's store so that we could have that one special piece they had built into a structure. Those are great memories.

I taught that game to my children, but they made it their own. They customized it to fit a new generation with new ideas and challenges. We discovered K'nex along the way too, which opened up a whole other world. But that is another engineering moment.

The thing that really opened a new door as far as Lego is concerned was when my son became interested in robotics and we realized there was a 4-H robotics camp coming up. The door opened, we walked in and they fell in love with the idea of building a robot, hooking it up to the computer and telling it what to do, all with a specialized set of robotic Lego. It's not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes they would program the robot only to discover that they hadn't told it to turn far enough at a certain point or had given it some other faulty command that threw off the sequence. This took them back to the computer to fix the program and what I realized as I watched them is that they were learning engineering skills that could help take them toward a rewarding career if they were ever interested in that.

Just one more wonderful, hands-on way of learning. Lego has led us from the store front game to the world of robotics and headed us down a fascinating road where we are busy exploring other robotic mediums for learning.

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