As we touched on briefly in our last piece on LEGO, the LEGO company is already in the midst of harnessing the academic potential of their toys, and you can read exhaustive research and see endless educational activities at the LEGO Education website. When you get to the middle school and high school levels, the crown jewel of LEGO education is the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 system, an incredibly sophisticated robotics kit that enables kids to build 5 working robots that walk, talk, and “think” – and then create their own! The educational applications are obvious: kids can test hypotheses like real scientists, and, as one child says in the video on this page, you can “immediately see the results of your project in real time.”
But Mindstorms EV3 isn’t just for kids learning the basics of scientific inquiry: real scientists are using this simple and user-friendly system as the base for much more sophisticated experimentation! The OpenWorm project has mapped the brain of a tiny nematode worm, and just this past year, OpenWorm co-founder Timothy Busbice used the brain mapping to create software mimicking the worm’s mind… and put it in a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robot.
Buspice told Gizmodo.com, “What we found is that rather than just random, crazy movements by the robot, it actually responded to its environment in the same manner as the biological worm.”
Watch the video to see how it works – and share it with your child who has a Mindstorms robot! (And if you have a little budding scientist on your hands, a Mindstorms system might be the perfect gift for their next birthday or holiday…)
Finally: we found a sneak preview of what’s new for LEGO in 2015, also featured on Gizmodo! We’re not sure how the European collection for the year will compare to the American collection, but we’ll have more info on that next week, when we attend the American Toy Fair in New York City. In the meantime… see anything in those photos that your kids will go crazy for? Let us know in the comments!