So John Crissman and Michael Kramer turned me on to Lego Mindstorms NXT, a robotics system for Legos. Basically, there is a computer (called the "brick") that controls the various motor and sensor functions. It can be programmed graphically on the brick, using a graphical program on you home computer, or directly by downloading programs in a variety of languages.
I was totally stoked and Jessie said "we totally have to get this for the boys."
So it came yesterday and we had to fight really hard not to tear into it! We had church so we did not get to play with it last night. but tonight we ordered pizza and sat around, then busted out the robot. it took John and Joe about 45 minutes to build the frame. Then we put the brick on, connected it to the motors and a touch sensor. Then in about 2 minutes keyed in a sample program by scrolling through icons. The program tells the robot to go forward until its touch sensor is activated then it goes backwards until the touch sensor is activated and it goes forward.
There are other sensors that it will be cool to mess with: ultrasonic, to measure distance; a light and color sensor. There are some after-market stuff like compass, gyroscope, thermometer, or linking a number of bricks together...
I am hoping that this is something that is fun enough for the boys but also gets them into science and technology, esp computer stuff. Here is the robot, ready to go:
Can't get a video uploaded... later.