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NI, LEGO to tap robotics platform for students

Posted: 11 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:robotics? programming? learning? interface? education?

National Instruments Corp. (NI) and LEGO Education are pursuing their concerted efforts in promoting educational robotics with the new LEGO Education WeDo classroom robotics platform. Powered by NI LabVIEW graphical design tool, LEGO Education WeDo Software is a drag-and-drop, icon-based environment that children ages seven to 11 can use to easily make their own robotics inventions in school. Using the software, elementary students are provided with the basic programming skills when designing their robotics applications.

Mentors may integrate the WeDo concept in a wide array of curricula like science and technology, mathematics, language and literacy. As students learn how to use robotics applications, their innate skills on creativity, teamwork and problem solving are enhanced. These skills are necessary when they compete in the international marketplace. The software can be used in the Intel Classmate PC running Windows XP, the One Laptop per Child XO running the Linux OS, any PC supporting Windows XP or Windows Vista (32bit) and any Mac running Apple Macintosh 10.5.

Interactive collaboration
"LEGO values its ongoing collaboration with NI to provide at least seven-year-olds with a robotics product that actively integrates their own learning process and promotes creative thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Such skills when fully developed are essential in the workplace today," said Lars Nyengaard, director of innovation, LEGO. "Combining intuitive and interactive interface of LEGO WeDo software with the daily experiences of building models out of LEGO bricks, we can mend the gap of the physical and virtual worlds in giving the ultimate hands-on, minds-on learning experience," he added.

Independent learning
The software seeks to help teachers in preparing curriculum-based challenges that children need to solve. Activities that promote team building enable the students to look for ways using LEGO models and work on specific tasks to perform.

Cause-and-effect learning is brought by the models remaining tethered to a computer. This may be the same principle that scientists use while working in labs where children are given the chance to test and adjust their programming in real time. With their own experiences as how things happen, students can validate and ask their peers, select better programming, use other models or start again.

Future leaders
"NI is committed to educate and inspire today's students to become engineers and scientists through hands-on, project-based learning," said Ray Almgren, VP, academic relations, NI. "Partnership with LEGO has leveraged the strength of both companies to provide our third educational robotics toolset in the past decade," he added.

Humble beginnings
The NI's collaboration with LEGO began in 1998 when RoboLab, the software powered by LabVIEW and developed by the Tufts University Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, was introduced for the original LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics software. In 2006, LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT, the current generation of LEGO robotics, was codeveloped by these companies to give students the latest hardware and software technology for building advanced, autonomous robotics. The new software will be available from LEGO Education in January 2009.

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