My Consumer News

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lego Mindstorm | Robotic Toys

Early last week, my son asked me if he could take robotics as a 6th grade elective. I said that sounded like a good idea. However, there were two little problems. First, he had forgotten the sign up form at school, and second it cost a couple hundred bucks in supplies. As it turns out, the class was full, so he will have to wait for the next quarter.
Anyway, I began to do a little research on his schools robotics class, and as it turns out his school like many others is using the Lego Mindstorm for their Robotics class. These kits are going for around $250. A little further surfing, and I came to the Wired Magazine(Feb 2006)article"Geeks in Toyland and" which tells the story about how Lego developed the new Lego Mindstorm NXT with the aid of unpaid Mindstorm fans.
The orignal Mindstorm, according to the blog, brykmantra.com, came out in 1998. Apparently, it was very complicated to use, and often times was abandoned due to frustration while trying to understand the programing code. An experienced Mindstorm 2.0(2001) enthusiast can build a robot in about an hour, the new Mindstorm NXT allows users to easily make a working robot in about 20 minutes. The new code is said to be a lot more user friendly.
For a detailed comparison of the 2.0 and NXT, see the article in Wired magazine entitled "Geeks in Toyland"
While comparison shopping for a kit for my son, I discovered some Mindstorm kits being sold on Ebay for as little as $180. With shipping it comes to over $200, but still less than $250. Of course it is on ebay, so when bidding, you must read closely. I would hate to win one, and find out it does not work and also discover it was an "as is" auction.
Next I came across a site, http://www.dreamalong.com/, that sells not only Mindstorm NXT, and other Lego products, but unlike ebay, Dreamalong has a 30 and 60 day return policy on all of its toys to include Lego products. This sounds like the perfect place to do my Christmas shopping for next year.

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