An innovative robotic kit for children
Head, Lifelong Kindergarten group
MIT Media Lab
MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA; and The LEGO Company, Denmark
To create a robotics kit for younger children (ages 7 and up) that provides a hands-on learning experience to actively engage children’s creative thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
Building on a 20-year collaboration that earlier resulted in the highly successful LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit (for ages 11 and up), the Lifelong Kindergarten group and LEGO initiated an exploration of how to create a lower-cost, easier-to-use robotics kit that could engage younger children in a wide range of creative activities.
In 2006, Mitch Resnick and his Lifelong Kindergarten group began discussing the project with Erik Hansen, head of LEGO’s Electronics R&D department, who for more than 10 years has served as LEGO’s primary liaison to the Media Lab. After six months of developing concepts and prototypes, they presented their ideas to key decision-makers at LEGO, who gave their strong endorsement. In 2007 the project was moved into LEGO’s mainstream product development. The Media Lab continued to provide advice on the product and contributed actively to the software development.
By the summer of 2008, the product, now named the LEGO Education WeDo™ Robotics Construction Set, was ready for launch at approximately half the price of the Mindstorms kit. The WeDo kit contains 150 elements including a motor, tilt sensor, motion sensor, LEGO bricks, gearing mechanisms, and easy-to-use software. It also includes a collection of sample projects—everything from an alligator that snaps its mouth shut when anything comes near (using the motion sensor), to an airplane that plays different sounds as you move it (using the tilt sensor). In addition, children can use the Media Lab’s free Scratch programming system to create stories that combine on-screen animations with WeDo constructions, allowing them to integrate virtual and physical worlds and share their stories with other children around the globe.
In 2008-2009, the Media Lab also participated in the launch of the WeDo product, with Mitch Resnick presenting at launch events in Singapore, Australia, England, Japan, and the United States. The product is now in production and available through the LEGO Education Web site