This past week, the Gadgeteer Kid and I had the opportunity to attend the “Build 4 Good” LEGO MINDSTORMS Robo Challenge at The EMP Museum here in Seattle. The premiss of the competition was to use MINDSTORMS to solve real problems or otherwise improve someone’s daily life. I have been playing with LEGO as far back as I can remember and the Kid & I love building with them regularly to this day. It is impressive how once simple blocks have evolved into being able to create actual machines/robots capable of helping real people with real problems.
My commentary will be in black and the Gadgeteer Kid’s will be in italicized blue text.
Dave: LEGO gave six local companies from the greater Seattle area (Amazon, Egencia, Expedia, HTC, Microsoft (Xbox), Nordstrom and Zulily) the opportunity to create robots designed and programmed to help people. Each fielded team was comprised of 3-5 employees from each company. The teams were given a MINDSTORM EV3 kit and had about 2 weeks to come up with a concept for “doing good for others”, design, build, and program their creations for the competition.
G.K.: Shubham Banerjee served as a special guest to demo BRAIGO, a low-cost Braille printer he designed from EV3 for a science project for school. I got to meet Shubham and found out that the BRAIGO took about three to four weeks to make, including programing.
Dave: The event was packed with onlookers, guests and media people alike…definitely standing room only. LEGO had a dozen different MINDSTORM EV3 robots on display for folks to checkout while the various teams set up for the competition.
G.K.: The of MINDSTORM EV3’s included the original five sets and seven others with everything from dinosaurs to R2 units. Many of the younger children were testing their reaction time against the quick biting R3PTAR or watching the different teams assemble their demonstration tables.
Dave: Each team was given about 5 minutes to present their concept and demonstrate their robots. There was no doubt all of the teams were very passionate about their robots/creations:
- HTC – a robot to take selfies for those who cannot due to physical limitations
- Egencia – a robot to help take care of the house
- Microsoft (Xbox) – two robots zookeeper/curators that pair with Zoo Tycoon
- Amazon – a robot farmer
- Expedia – a luggage handling robot
- Nordstrom – a robot to dispense medication
- Zulily – a robot to help mothers/kids pick up legos & toys off the ground
Dave: The panel of judges awarded Nordstrom top honors for creating a robot that made it easier (for parents of sick kids) to dispense medication. All of the robots were very inventive and several very bold in their scope and scale but the G.K. and I agreed with the judges decision. Nordy’s design was the most practical, useful, and performed the best under the pressure of the competition. Nordstrom won five LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 kits to be donated to a local children’s charity of their choice.
G.K.: Shubham Banerjee was one of the judges, along with representatives from the EMP Museum, Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for LEGO Systems, and a MINDSTORMS expert, who helped with the creation of the platform.
Dave: Michael McNally put it pretty eloquently, “In the spirit of these LEGO MINDSTORMS inventors and inspired by today’s competitors from Seattle’s elite companies, we encourage children around the world to put their ingenuity to work through play to creatively build a better world.”
Dave: The Gadgeteer Kid and I are in the process (aka beginning) of reviewing the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 ourselves. So, this event/competition was an excellent kickoff to our joint review. It gave us the chance to discuss a couple of designs we want to try to create…who knows what we’ll be able to come up with…