Combining crafting with coding, Lego Boost packed with potential

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Categories Consumer technology |

A new building kit from Lego aims to give kids the chance to construct fun, motorized models that they can control.

In a video briefing, Simon Kent said that the special hardware and sensing technologies that are part of Lego Boost will allow builders of any age to “bring their creations to life”.

Kent is the lead developer on Boost, which became available on August 1 and is priced at CAN$200. He explained that the new system is the “baby brother to Mindstorms,” Lego’s robotics kit.

While programming Mindstorms is relatively complex, the coding language for Boost, which was developed for ages 7 to 12 years old, is simpler, and kids learn it progressively. Within five minutes of opening the box they have constructed something and have a basic understanding of how to code movement.

The first build is Vernie, a robot, and the sequence is quite deliberate: do some construction, learn a bit of coding, have some fun and play. Kids never spend too much time doing only one thing.

There are five models for which designs are provided:

  • Vernie the robot
  • Frankie the cat
  • Guitar4000, a playable instrument
  • M.T.R.4 vehicle
  • AutoBuilder, which can be coded to assemble Lego bricks

But as with all Lego, you can also create your own models out of the kit’s 847 bricks. And you can use other Lego bricks to supplement your creations.

At the heart of all of this is Lego’s knack for instructional design. Using only cleverly designed pictures and step-by-step instructions, kids in every language and culture around the world are able to construct intricate models from hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic.

With Boost, those instructions are served up on a tablet, which is a required accessory. The screen is a perfect way to deliver Lego’s instructions, it turns out, because you can rotate and scale the image to better see how the model is coming together.

The tablet – not a smartphone – is also used to code movements and actions in the Boost models, and the system uses both the microphone and the speaker from the tablet.

Built into Boost are sensors that are used to gain an awareness of the environment. Among them are a tilt sensor also detects impact, and a combination sensor which detects colour and distance.

And while the basic Boost coding language is simple, as with all code it can become as complex as you want. The system is flexible so you can create your own code blocks that can be saved, and then assembled to result in some complicated movement and behaviour patterns.

With Boost, Lego has delivered another product that will have kids learning while playing, something the company does very well.


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