2 More Robot Kits From Lego Mindstorms

By Lisa Guernsey
The New York Times

September 16, 1999

Lego Mindstorms may have managed to capture the market of pre-teen-age boys (and their fathers) with its line of buildable, programmable Lego robots introduced last fall. This year, the company wants to give 9-year-olds, too, a reason to pester their parents for Legos. And they won't even need a PC.

Two new products -- the Robotics Discovery Kit and the Droid Developer Kit -- are showing up in stores this month. The droid kit, which features white, blue and silver-colored pieces, enables children to recreate and program the robots of ''Star Wars.'' The discovery set is more colorful. Models made with its pieces can perform up to 3,000 behaviors like chirping, rolling forward and, to provide that element of security all 9-year-olds need, firing a harmless rubber dart as soon as they sense bright light.

Last year's product required children to assemble their robots, create their programming instructions on computers and then download the programs into their creations. The new sets do not require traditional computers at all; they come with palm-size microcomputers that can be programmed by pressing buttons on their cases.

''A lot of the learning here is for kids to understand the process of invention,'' said John Dion, a Lego Mindstorms spokesman.

Of course, Lego is still making some assumptions about the technical skills of its clientele: to read the droid kit's building instructions, you must have a computer with a CD-ROM drive.

Owners of shag carpets, beware: The discovery set comes with 387 easily lost plastic pieces, and the droid kit has nearly 700.

Copyright 1999