4. Using Legos to teach middle schoolers to code
As faithful Login readers know, last week I was in Denmark.
I can now reveal part of the reason why I was there: to get a behind-the-scenes look at Spike Prime — a new product from Lego Education designed to teach coding and robotics to middle schoolers using the company's signature building bricks.
Details: Spike was introduced to the world yesterday at a press conference in New York, but I had a chance to see the product in action last week and talk with Esben Stærk Jørgensen, president of Lego Education, the unit of the Danish toy giant that sells products to schools.
- While the ostensible goal of Spike Prime is for students working in pairs to build specific robots, the real mission is to teach students science, technology, engineering, art and math skills in a way that's fun and engaging.
- But Jørgensen acknowledged the bar for engaging middle schoolers is a high one.
- "I have a 15 year old at home," he said. "It’s not easy.”
Among the initial tasks for students is to build a robot that can move without wheels. I tried my hand at this and managed a bot that could propel itself forward, albeit not very gracefully.
Background: The company spent 2 years developing Spike Prime, seeking a product that was just as powerful as the company's Mindstorms line, but more accessible.
Fun fact: Spike Prime also contains 11 new Lego elements, ranging from a large Technics base to new clips to bricks that help bridge the world of Lego and Technics.
- That's a lot for one new product and sure to have Lego diehards clamoring to get their hands on the product. Although Spike Prime is only being sold through Lego's education channel, it will be available online for individuals that really want one.
Go deeper: You can learn more about Spike Prime in this video I made at Lego's headquarters in Billund, Denmark.