mini-robots built by children
Incorporating digital technology into objects that can be manipulated
by young children is a largely unexplored area. The CAB project has produced a method of
linking digital technology to methods of play, in a way that challenges children's
The project uses the LEGO Robotics Invention System, part of the Mindstorms
product range, which enables children to design and program mini-robots. Children can
build working robots in under an hour and are provided with inspiration for more complex
robotic inventions. They can create many different things. Examples are a light-sensitive
intruder alarm and a robotic rover that can follow a trail and move around obstacles.
The heart of the system is a microcomputer, which is programmed using a personal
computer (PC). The microcomputer serves as the brain for each mini-robot, and uses the
sensors on the robot to gather information from the environment. The microcomputer
processes data and sends signals to turn small motors on and off. Users first build their
robot, then they create a program on the PC. Next, they download their program to the
microcomputer using an infrared transmitter. Their robot can then interact with the
environment, autonomously from the PC.
Visitors to the stand can see how young children, from the age of four upwards,
interact with the LEGO robotics construction sets. Examples of children's work and cases
from construction projects are also on show.