Lego Mindstorms was a great step for Lego in the late 90s. The Lego NXT arrived in time to play with as a new Primary teacher.
An early project – entered into the local Science Festival – was to race a Lego NXT robot in a giant maze against a woodlouse in a Lego maze. The first one to make it out won. In the time that we had to present how we had gone about programming the robot to use ultrasonic, a bumper and a juddering, bumping technique of hit and miss to navigate the bigger maze, the plucky little woodlouse had quietly slipped away. Woodlouse 1, NTX 0
This is Prince Hal. Originally a Christmas Present (c1989) he was infra red controlled with the ability to follow a sequence of instructions sent to him from a television-remote style controller. Then, for no apparent reason, he ceased working . I gutted him and replaced the circuitry with that from a radio controlled car and a walkie talkie headset unit. Also a radio doorbell.
The walkie talkie sound output to his chest speaker and the radio controlled car circuit ran to his motors and head LEDs. Various other connections were made which allowed for connecting a charger and pressure pad (for the doorbell as a proximity alarm).
The happy accident is that the voice activated microphone now triggered the wheels and the headlights. When put in front of a speaker the robot danced with delight and flashed his eyes. I added a mercury tilt switch and sometime later a mobile radio detecting LED, all of which made for a fun early experiment!
Circuitry is, in my opinion, the ultimate building material: not only can it be joined together, shaped and assembled to produce creations that have wonderful potential for all sorts of fun, it can now also be linked to computers through any number of teacher-friendly interface kits.
Coding then becomes a means to trigger electronic creations which is much more immediate and eye-catching for learners.