May 18, 2007

Teachers and Parents: How do You Handle the Technical Challenges of the NXT?

MSNBC did a review of the NXT this week. You can read it here.

The above-mentioned review is positive and good-natured. However, the reviewer also calls the NXT a "brain-buster" and "too complicated for adults".

In my opinion, Lego has done three things to make the NXT accessible to the "technically-challenged":

1) Lego made the user interface of NXT-G simple enough for even an adult to use. :-)

2) In the NXT retail kit, Lego packs the parts for the TriBot in a separate box with separate instructions. You can literally start building "right out of the box".

3) Lego's web site lists NXT books that include easy-to-follow building and programming instructions. An example is Jim Kelly's "Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure".

Still, the NXT can hold challenges for beginners. Teachers and parents: Do you have any pointers that would help other teachers and parents begin to master the NXT?

7 comments:

David Levy said...

I had spoken with about a dozen parents who had purchased the retail kit for home use. Some of them were not aware that they could start with the separate smaller package to get started. Some had spent time with their children building, but never installed the software. Others admitted that they never got around to opening the box.

My advice to parents is to be engaged with your child at least to the point where the child knows how to walk through the tutorials. It is also best to spot check the robot during the building phase. Things often get put on backwards or in the wrong place.

Rick Rhodes said...

Thanks, David.

Could you tell the parents that never opened their NXTs to give them to me? :)

Rick

Dean Hystad said...

A simpler starter robot would be a good idea. During the MDP program we had an unofficial competition going on to see who could build a functional rover with the lowest part count. Several designs had fewer than 50 pieces and could be easily built in 15 minutes. Most were better designed and better looking than the LEGO offering, though their expansion potential probably wasn't as great.

I remember when my first NXT arrived at the door. I went home for lunch that day and kind of forgot to go back to work. But soon all the odd shaped parts were causing flashbacks to that Christmas in '99 when I had a box full of plastic bags and a big yellow LEGO brick that I had no idea what to do with.

Anonymous said...

Lots of practice with Lego technics sets before being exposed to NXT certainly helps.
At the after school club i run with 10 eleven year olds, it was very quickly obvious which kids had a lot of prior building experience.
The article mentioned made me laugh. It's great for kids to be able with practise to follow directions and be able to manipulate 3d objects from a 2d picture.
Helps a lot with maths and 3d concepts also.
I have a good group of young engineers coming who have caugh on very quickly.

be reflective said...

I have had the NXT retail kit for a week.

The first day, I helped my son open the box and look at all the pieces.

I let him build the Tribot base and he got stuck a few times but nothing major... a pin in the wrong place etc.

Then he ran the demo program. Nothing really difficult at this time.

He decided to build the claw... This was harder than the tribot base and got stuck a few times.

Following the computer instructions together built the program not really understanding what we were doing.... it worked.

I then stripped the claw from the tribot and instructed him to just use the untrasound sensor to make a robot which could move forward until an obstacle was detected then turn ccw until there was enough room to go forward. I instructed to use a piece fo paper for making the "flow chart" although I didn't call it that. He then went on the computer and put entered his program himself and downloaded his program under my supervision. It didn't work very well. It was the ultrasound detection which was inverted. He was not able to detect this error. but we got it working after I explained it to him.

We then stripped the ultrasound and instructed him to do the same thing but with the touch switch. He was able to do this task by himself with 3 trials meerly adjustment for speed and turning time etc.

My son is going to be 9 in July and I am 38 - we had lots of fun working together for the first time!

Rick Rhodes said...

Thanks, Be Reflective.

Proof positive that kids younger than ten can manage the NXT.

Rick

Dean Hystad said...

My FLL team was all younger than 10 and they finished 7th in Minnesota this year. The year before I had two teams of 9 kids. Half of who were 8 and the other half 9. They had little problem building with the RCX and programming in ROBOLAB.

And speaking of ROBOLAB, I've heard of that being used to teach programming to kids in kindergarten.

It just points out how little children are challenged in school.

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