OLPC and LEGO - A Match from Heaven?


At the end of June LEGO announced that it would introduce "Education WeDo" which the company describes as:

a new product that redefines classroom robotics, making it possible for primary school students 7-11 years of age to build and program their own solutions. Bridging the physical world, represented by LEGO models, and the virtual world, represented by computers and programming software, LEGO Education WeDo provides a hands-on, minds-on learning experience that actively involves young students in their own learning process and promotes children's creative thinking, teamwork and problem solving skills
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A Match from Heaven?

Having spent a lot of my youth playing with LEGO and considering that the XO is definitely my favorite toy these days I'm certainly very excited about being able to combine these two platforms:

One LEGO USB Hub connects directly to a Mac/PC laptop, desktop, OLPC XO or Intel Classmate computer to allow control of hardware input (tilt and motion sensors) and output (motor), thereby bringing models to life

How great would it be to be able to control the machines and robots built with LEGO bricks from an XO, with say something like Scratch or Turtle Art? Or process the sensor input from these robots on the XO? It certainly sounds like a lot of fun!

Especially since I always expected the XO to create somewhat of an eco-system around it, similar to what exists for Apple's iPod brand which can be enhanced by a million different accessories and add-ons these days. Unfortunately that somehow hasn't really happened so far. If you had asked me 12 months ago about the state of peripherals and extensions for the XO I would have said that I expected things like the $1 microscope, the $30 projector and the $15 Tam-Tam piano-extension to be available by mid-2008.

Now with LEGO Education WeDo becoming available I finally start to see this happen and I hope to see more companies follow suite by making their products compatible with the various 4PC solutions available today. The challenges in this area are the same as with any other project when it comes to ICT-for-education:

  1. making it affordable (e.g. will be interesting to see how much the kit ends up costing)
  2. making it usable (e.g. translations of the software and instructions?)
  3. making it available (e.g. will there be an activity for the XO?)
  4. integrating it with existing curricula
As for myself, I certainly want to get one of these kits once they become available in early 2009. Then I'm going to lock myself in my flat for a weekend and pretend it's 1995 all over again!

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Thanks for writing this up Christoph. Looking around the LEGO web site, I noted that the motors, cables and battery box for WeDo are already available as part of the low cost "Power Functions" products that enable IR controllable motion of Technics models.


The basic motor is only USD $6.99, which I think is a fair price. Given the lower price point of the Power Functions pieces, I am hoping they can price the WeDo at under USD $100.

Regarding the XO version of WeDo, I think a fully Sugarized activity is essential to making the product consumer friendly. Presumably, they've also gone to the trouble of coding a USB driver for the XO too.

And not surprisingly, peeps are enthusiastically hacking the Power Functions product:



You know how the outside of the XO is covered with little bumps? Wouldn't it be cool if those were lego connection bumps?

This is a cool news indeed.

This makes me think. Once the field of synthetic biology takes off (even more than now) we might really get to see inexpensive diy biology kits aimed at educations market, with OLPC as one of the major platform of choice.

Update 1/12/09: I received my LEGO WeDo set only to discover that it DOES NOT Support the OLPC XO. Poking around their site, I finally found an obscure mention that support for the XO is delayed until mid-2009. More here in my forum post:


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