Lego Mindstorms

Business Week writes:

LEGO Mindstorms NXT ($250) is a significant improvement on the original 1998 Mindstorms Robotics Invention System, and like its predecessor is a collaboration between the Danish toymaker and the MIT Media Lab. A more powerful computer brain lets the new robots run longer, more complex programs that incorporate inputs from up to four sensors. And using the rods and beams of LEGO Technic construction kits instead of the LEGO bricks of the original makes for more interesting designs. You hook the small, programmable computer, the NXT controller, up to sensors that can detect light, sound, touch, and, through ultrasound, the presence of nearby objects. The NXT uses those sensors to control up to three servo motors, whose output shafts can rotate in precise 45-degree increments.

Sounds simple enough. But building robots requires manual dexterity and patience, a trait few children possess in abundance. Creating the suggested first project, a robotic vehicle that demonstrates all of the sensors, took me a good deal longer than the promised 30 minutes, even after I had sorted the myriad fiddly bits into plastic containers. LEGO recommends the kit for children as young as eight, but I suspect those younger than 12 will require a fair amount of adult help in assembling the models.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.