“They seem to be growing in popularity everywhere. It is a great way to get kids introduced to some of the basic concepts involved in robotics.”
I agree totally. I’m a big fan of Mindstorms, especially for teaching and prototyping. I’m a little clumsy, and don’t have good manual coordination, so they can be a little frustrating for me. I usually manage to knock some pieces loose right at the worst possible moment. Still, they are a fantastic tool for quickly and relatively painlessly proving or teaching a concept.
Another reason why I’m so fascinated by the Mindstorms phenonmena is the way it’s been accepted globally. Ignoring really old handcrafted mechanical dolls, the first practical robots – the Unimate - were imported to Japan from the US where they were developed for auto manufacturing applications.
Sidebar: The Unimate page at the Robot Hall of Fame states– “Unimate was conceived in 1956 at a meeting between inventors George Devol and Joseph Engelberger, where they discussed the writings of science fiction. Together they made a serious commitment to develop a real, working robot.”
The Japanese refined and advanced the state of the art for industrial robotics tremendously. Now we have a Danish company (Lego) working with a major US technical university (MIT) to produce a product (Mindstorms) that’s being used in Japan to teach young budding roboticists . . . You can’t get more global than that. The technology and the desire to learn bridges geographic and cultural barriers.
By the way, Redcone has a great website focused on robotics. I am constantly surprised and delighted by some of the interesting and often arkane robot news stories he manages to dig up.