Friday, May 4, 2018

Oh, patents! Lego® Mindstorms® – EPO Award Finalist

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Sixty years later, and more than 1000 patients after the first Lego® brick patent was filed in 1958 by Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, the Danish Lego® Mindstorm® inventors, Gaute Munch, Erik Hansen and team, are competing for a 2018 European Patent Office Award in the Industry category. In the interim also, The Lego Group Toy Company has also become the third largest toy manufacturer in the world.

Lego® Mindstroms® brings together Lego® brick playworlds and coding for robotics, according to the seminal theories of education and computer use, expressed in the 1980 book, Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, written by MIT Professor Seymour Papert, one of the founders of the MIT Media Lab. In other words,  Lego® Mindstorms®, launched in 1998, is the culmination of an almost 40-year partnership between the industrial Lego Group R&D and groundbreaking research focused on constructivist approaches to learning and the development of programming languages for children, carried out at the MIT Media Lab. 

In the year 2018, the partnership involves the Lego Foundation and the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, where the Lego Foundation has endowed three graduate student fellowships and the Lego Papert Professorship of Learning Research, in honor of Seymour Papert.

The Lego® Mindstroms® inventors, Gaute Munch, Erik Hansen and team, contending for the 2018 EPO Award in the Industry category, produce the robotics kits that have “ignited classrooms” everywhere.  An ignition that is fueled by competition since the use of the kits has also promoted the inter-classroom FIRST Lego® League (FLL) tournaments, complete with local, national and international rounds. The teams compete according to elaborate First Lego® League (FLL) tournament rules -- investigating a real-world problem such as food safety or recycling, building a solution, designing and programming a Lego® Mindstrom® robot that competes on a tabletop, and developing team participation skills and ethics. 

Thus, participation in the First Lego® League (FLL) tournament program, using Lego® Mindstroms® invokes intensive application and development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills in the classroom, as well as imagination and much creativity, in a fun and energizing context. To date, more than 250,000 students have participated, in 32,000 teams, building 32,000 robots, at 1464 events,  in 88 countries!

The Lego® Mindstorm®  inventions, enabling children to build and program robots using their computers and/or tablets, remotely connected to an intelligent brick, sensors, beacons and motors,  are recited in a series of patents, four of which are cited below:
  • EP1146941 (A1) ― 2001-10-24 - A remote-controlled  toy 
  • EP1148921 (A1) ― 2001-10-31 - A programmable toy with communication means
  • EP2217341 (A1) ― 2010-08-18 - A toy construction system
  • EP2032227 (A1) ― 2009-03-11 - A toy building system
The video below shows the accelerated construction of a third-generation Lego® Mindstorm® EV3 robot.

Barr, J. (Dec. 19, 2017) MIT’s Lego Legacy: Iconic toymaker supports learning through play
First Lego® League
Lego Mindstorm
Papert, S. (1980) Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas.New York, NY: Basic Books.
Papert, S. & I. Harel, Eds (1991) Constructionism: research reports and essays 1985 - 1990 by the Epistemology and Learning Research Group, the Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ablex Pub. Corp, Norwood, NJ.
Papert, S. (1993) The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York, NY:  Basic Books.
Papert, S. (1995) The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap. New York, NY: Basic Books.

No comments: