In 2014, thirteen-year-old Shubham Banerjee, showed up at the school science fair with a braille printer made out of a Lego robotics kit.
His invention created a storm within the tech community, with tech giants such as Intel willing to invest in the young boy’s invention.
His motivation, he said, was to create an inexpensive braille printer and after many late nights, his efforts finally bore fruit: Braigo (a play on the word braille and Lego) as it would later be known was born.
Shubham is but one of many scientists and engineers who have benefitted from the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) foundation provided by engaging with Lego robotics.
From designing to planning, construction and reconstruction, Lego robotics continues to excite and engage young minds since it was launched in 1984, equipping them with the qualities needed to become the next generation of innovators.
Birth of the Mindstorms
Lego Mindstorms is a robot construction set that combines hardware and software elements to provide building blocks that adults and children alike can use to build robots. Each kit comes with a set of lego bricks, modular sensors, motors and Lego parts from the Technic line for its mechanical systems.
The idea behind Lego Mindstorms was born in 1984, when the then CEO of Lego, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen stumbled on a television interview involving MIT Professor Seymour Papert. In the interview, Papert was explaining how children could learn how to code with a programming language he developed.
The idea resonated deeply with Kirk especially since Lego had already built a special education division around its Technic line of Legos where children could build and control (program) their own creations.
Kristiansen and Papert met later on, which culminated in a partnership between Lego and MIT Media Labs where Papert worked.
The collaboration combined the Lego Technic product line (beams, gears and motors included) with the Logo language and saw the release of several products children could use to build various mechanical devices. It is safe to say that this was the first robotic construction kit made widely available.
After several iterations to the first Lego/Logo system, including the development of and refinement of the programmable brick, the first Mindstorms was launched in September 1998 and was sold out by December.
Including the first that was launched in 1998, there have been four generations of Lego Mindstorms beginning with the Robotics Invention System followed by Mindstorms NXT launched in 2006, Mindstorms EV3 launched in 2013 and more recently in 2020 Mindstorms Robot Inventor.
Each of the Mindstorms series has had its unique differences but for all of these differences, they have singularly focused on realising Kristiansen and Papert’s shared vision.
How Lego Robotics is Cultivating Innovation in Young Minds
In each Mindstorms robotics kit, a set of instructions is provided as a guide for children to follow when building a specific model. If those instructions are not followed precisely, they will often fail to realise their desired outcome.
This is the same in professional engineering applications, where the mechanical integrity of a structure or project is heavily dependent on instructions being followed to the letter. Lego robotics sets teach children the importance of following instructions and develops within them the discipline required to follow through to achieve a desired model or result.
Some, however, believe that learning to follow instructions, may not be the most important quality children can derive from engaging with lego robotics.
Keeping in mind that the essence of lego robotics is to give children the tools and materials to effectively realise their imaginations, beyond encouraging them to build set models, it invites them to modify and conform them to their liking – to step out of conventions and create something new.
This fosters creativity and teaches children that they can build anything they wish, the only thing limiting them is the number of lego pieces they have at hand and the boundary of their imagination.
Children who embrace and internalise this mindset at a young age grow up to become more innovative in the future and as a result more successful in their careers.
Strong Foundations are an Accessory to Success
As an accredited STEM educational institution, STEM Genius is helping many children fall in love with science and technology through the engagement of Lego Robotics. Our classes – both for the 4-5 age groups and 6-11 age groups – are designed to help kids develop the critical skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. If you wish to learn more about our curriculum, you can reach us by clicking here.