Saturday, August 11, 2012

You would think it was Christmas Morning

My kids have been wanting a LEGO Mindstorms NXT for years.  Ever since they got their first Lego magazine and saw Alpha Rex starring at them fro the page they knew the just really had to build a robot.  So these kids have been saving their money. Any money the get goes into a little Mindstorms account and together they finally had enough to buy this toy .

It arrived yesterday morning while I was getting dressed. The hooting and exciting whoops were so loud. They knew what it was before the mail lady even dropped it on our doorstep. They couldn't wait to cut open the package and pull out their very own Mindstorms.

Before I would let them open the actual box I asked them what they thought would be the best thing to store all the pieces. They explained that most people got a tool box with little dividers and shelves and things to organize their mindstorms pieces.  So I held them back a little longer and piled them into the car and headed to the hardware store to buy a toolbox.  It took them only a few minutes, once we got there, to find one that would work perfectly. We bought it along with some black electrical tape and batteries and then headed over to Costco for one more purchase (OK I can't ever go to Costco for just one item.  I ended up with a cartload of things). We needed a laptop.

We had been talking about getting a laptop for months now so it isn't quite spur of the moment but we hadn't really planned on buying one that day. But I knew with a Mindstorms in the house we would need one. And I am so happy I did.

When we got home and while the kids put all the pieces in their new toolbox and got started on their first robot, I set up the new laptop computer. After years of using of iMac it took a few minutes to remember where to find things on a Windows based machine. Once I got the WiFi working and set up my admin account and other accounts for each of the kids I popped in the CD that came with the Mindstorms and uploaded the software needed for the kids to program their robot.

I was quickly pushed out the way while the kids took over. Sophie had already had a lego robotics class so knew the interface. They got started right away programing their new robot to do a number of different things.

When things didn't work they had to check their program and also check the connections on the robot to troubleshoot. I did nothing. I haven't even looked at anything so wouldn't have been any help anyway. They quickly got the hang of things and I just sat back with Molly and played dolls to keep her out of their way.

Ian has always been the most excited about this robot building. He has been looking forward to it so much and he was totally in his element yesterday as he took apart the first robot and then proceeded to build the aligator robot. The directions came with the software.

This is what Ian was designed to do. He sat there for hours building and building. Sophie went and read books. Henry went out and rode scooters with Molly but Ian just sat there building and building this gatorbot.

He was in heaven!
Once the gator was complete the other kids joined in again and started programing it to do a few different things. Molly thought it was cute and wanted to carry it around like a baby.

After a hour or so of fun with the gator Ian said "now for the Alpha Rex". I had to tell him to stop for now. I hated to discourage him but he had been building robots for over 5 hours almost non stop. I don't think he even ate anything for lunch. Plus I needed the table to be set for dinner. So he reluctantly closed up his Mindstorms shop and shut down the computer to put it away.

But I have a feeling Alpha Rex will make and appearance some time this weekend. There is no stopping this boy from his new toy. We have even visited a few sites looking at new sensors so the robot can do even more.

I love it that my kids are excited about robots. I am really excited about the problem solving I am seeing them do. I hope there is years and years of fun ahead for this toy.

1 comment:

Bibliophile said...

I hadn't read your blog when I chatted with Mark this afternoon. I didn't know about the Mindstorms robots, but Ian soon showed me all the intricacies of the man-robot that he built. What a great thing for Ian! His mind works just the right way for mechanical engineering. Good buy!