The toy box, it is said, is every child’s first school. The things we play with as children have a powerful influence over the direction of our lives. Building toys such as Lego blocks have long been lauded as useful tools in laying a foundation for engineering, spatial physics, and problem solving. And being a formative toy is a responsibility that Lego takes seriously.
In 2013, Lego came out with Lego Mindstorms, a hybrid app-game and building project that allowed kids to design and program simple robots. The Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit has been a staple of learning centers and robotics classrooms since then. Mostly intended for high school students, Mindstorms was and remains incredible, but expensive. On Amazon, kits begin at $350. In 2017, they added Lego Boost, which averages $150 and is aimed at younger children.
In an event on April 2, 2018 in New York City, Lego announced their newest code-education line: Spike Prime. Spike Prime is aimed at students from grades 6 to 8, with cute, easy-to-build robots and some rather toothy programming puzzles. Each model comes with a central processing hub that can control six peripherals and interact with sensors like color and light sensors, a force-sensitive touch sensor like the one in a drawing tablet, a sonic distance sensor, and an accelerometer and gyroscope. Yes, it has a lot of options for students to design a robot that performs how they want it to.
Spike Prime is aimed at the classroom market, rather than in homes, but its compatibility with Lego Boost may mean the company has future plans for scaled-down versions. It currently uses its own programming language called Scratch, but definite plans were announced for a Python option in the next year
Robotics, and robotics as a means to teach children programming, is more and more common in classrooms, from college all the way down to first and second grade. The younger students learn these tools, the more solid a footing they will have in this increasingly digital world.
Photo: A girl works on a project with the Lego Mindstorms EV3 set. Credit: AlesiaKan / Shutterstock.com