New technologies make new ways of learning possible. With
computational technologies, ideas of control, sensing, and feedback
can be made accessible and exciting to learners as young as six or
eight years old.
This talk presents a brief history of the ideas, prototypes, and
research that led to LEGO Mindstorms, the immensely popular robot
construction kit, launched just two years ago but easily thirty years
in the making.
LEGO Mindstorms has its roots in the pioneering work on the Logo
programming language begun by Dr. Seymour Papert in the 1960s. Papert
was perhaps the first to suggest that children should program
computers, then an absurdly radical idea. This notion led to Papert's
theory of learning called "constructionism" which suggests both that
(1) learning is an active process of building ideas which is unique
and personal for each learner, and (2) this journey can be greatly
facilitated when the learner builds things-in-the-world which become
social and shared objects of reflection. Papert's Logo programming
language, the later LEGO/Logo system, and ultimately LEGO Mindstorms
all inherit from this set of ideas.
The talk will conclude with a technological discussion of MIT
Crickets, the latest in this line of design toys for learners.
Crickets are tiny programmable bricks that can interconnect in myriad
ways, and employ an unusual virtual machine/compiler architecture that
will be described in detail.
- "MetaCricket: A designer's kit for making computational devices,"F. Martin, B. Mikhak, and B. Silverman, IBM Systems Journal, volume 39 numbers 3-4, 2000.
Presents the MIT Cricket, a tiny embedded controller created for kids
but valuable as a prototyping tool for professional designers who
aren't necessarily engineers. Full published paper available at
- "To Mindstorms and Beyond: Evolution of a Construction Kit for Magical Machines," F. Martin et. al, in "Robots for Kids: Exploring New Technologies for Learning," A. Druin & J. Hendler, editors, Morgan Kaufman, 2000.
The paper from which this talk takes its name, describing the history
of the ideas and prototypes which led to the LEGO Mindstorms product,
and our further work and motivations behind developing the Crickets.
A pre-publication draft is available from
- "Design, Story-Telling, and Robots in Irish Primary Education," F. Martin, D. Butler, and W. Gleason, presented at the IEEE Systems, Man, and Machine conference, Nashville TN 2000.
Describes "Empowering Minds," a project to bring LEGO Mindstorms
technology into Irish primary schools, with a focus on children's use
of the materials for narrative expression. A copy of the paper
presented at the conference may be retrieved from
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