"Connecting outdoor hobbies and technology with Lego Mindstorms" #88

During a workshop in a youth institution we worked with 8 teenagers for a 3 hour workshop. We were warned beforehand by the supervisors to pay attention to our stuff and that the teenagers could be troublesome. However, it was clear from the start that the Mindstorms were very popular with teenagers.

After just a half hour introduction of the Mindstorms, during which they had learned the different possibilities, the teenagers got to work by themselves. Their task was simple: choose your own assignment, define what you want to achieve, get to work and test it out. This trial-and-error approach challenged them to take it one step further each time. The teenagers each found a function of Mindstorm that they could embrace. One boy wanted to make music because he was a DJ in his spare time. Another wanted to challenge himself by linking different instructions to one big assignment.

But the most interesting one was the youngster who made it clear from the beginning that working with robots was not his cup of tea. Mindstorms was for nerds, he was an outdoor/sports person, and that was that. It was therefore all the more wonderful to see how he ended up connecting both elements. His sport was BMX, and he’d often go out with friends to ride their bikes and complete all sorts of obstacle courses. So why not create a similar kind of obstacle course under the tables, and program the robot such that it could complete the full course? It took several changes to his code and a few curse words we will not repeat here, but he finally succeeded. It was hard to say who was the most surprised at the end of the workshop: the teenagers at how fast the tree hours had gone, or the supervisors at the great work their proteges had accomplished!