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LEGOs Meet Robots & Make High-Tech Teaching Tool

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MANKATO, Minn. -

An old–fashioned child's toy has become a high–tech-teaching tool.

LEGO brand building blocks have been around since 1932. But today the tiny snap–together bricks are being used to build computerized robots, and help kids foster an interest in science, engineering, technology and problem solving.

For most kids, winter break is a time of less learning and more play.

but when LEGOs meet robots, learning and play end up being the same thing.

Seven-year-old Ethan Brewer says, "It's really cool."

It's the LEGO Robotics play lab at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota,

Program Manager Deb Johnson says, "They learn about the mechanical design, they learn a little about the electrical design, and they learn a lot about programming."

Kids first build their robots.

Eleven-year-old Rachel Sorenson says, "I'm putting a touch sensor on my robot."

They then use a computer to program them. For some, it may seem a little confusing,

Johnson says, "But the children are whizzes at it."

Ten-year-old Loghan Julian says, "I thought it was going to be a lot harder to build this stuff when I came here."

The kids can program their robots move and turn and even respond to its environment.

Rachel says, "It's sort of like telling a dog what to do."

Except if it doesn't do what you want, you can just plug it into the computer and reprogram it.

Johnson says, "I think it is important for children to learn through play and learn through experimenting, learn how to fail, learn how to succeed."

Like when one young programmer was trying to get his robot to touch the wall and come back crossing the line it started behind.

One attempt, just a couple inches short, but after a little tinkering, he was right on.

Showing LEGOs can be used to build robots and bright futures.

If you think your child would be interested in a Robotics play lab, the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota still has openings for workshops next week, and plans to have more over school holidays and the summer. You can call the museum at (507) 386-0279 or e-mailing Deb Johnson at