LEGO kid builds cheap Braille printer

The Braigo, a low-cost Braille print, was built out of a $350 set of LEGO MINDSTORMS.A California seventh grader has built a low-cost Braille printer out of LEGOs, reports the New York Daily News.

Shubham Banerjee, 12, used a $350 LEGO Mindstorms set, modifying a robot model to make a “Braigo” printer. Basic Braille printers retail for about $2,000 online.

“This is so easy, even my little sister can do it,” Shubham says in a YouTube video.

When his family received an appeal to help the blind, Banerjee decided to get creative. He plans to be an engineer, scientist or surgeon.

Build your own female LEGO scientists

Terry McGlynn’s 10-year-old son, Bruce, thinks it’s “weird that people think it’s a big deal there there’s a female scientist” as aLEGO minifigure.  “I mean, so many scientists are women, you know?” Father and son built their own female LEGO scientists, writes Terry on Small Pond Science.

He had a male painter with a bucket, a wildlife dude with a snake and a frog, a guy who looks like he was ice fishing, and a some big scorpions from a mummy-themed set. And we found a bunch of guys who had occupations that involved field-work like clothes, and we scrounged around for faces and hair that looked female. (We managed to not use the hair of Legolas).

Although few of Bruce’s minifigs are female, they were able to assemble a “formidable bunch of professional scientists.”

The Female Field Biologist series, by Terry and Bruce McGlynn

The Female Field Biologist series, by Terry and Bruce McGlynn

LEGO introduces female lab scientist

LEGO’s new female scientist “minifigure” helps break stereotypes that discourage girls from considering STEM careers, writes Maia Weinstock, a Scientific American guest blogger.

Originally, LEGO people wore very simple clothing and had “two dots and a curved smile for a face,” writes Weinstock. Minifigures were introduced in 1978.

The first female minifig in LEGO’s Space series was an
Cover edit 3
astronaut in the Ice Planet 2002 series, which depicted scientists working on the fictional planet Krysto.

LEGO’s Town (now City) series, which features minifigs in everyday life, includes doctors, EMTs, engineers, astronauts and space scientists. A Town doctor was the first female minifig in the series.

Most STEM professionals issued recently have been male, including the Computer Programmer, which debuted last year. He’s a cringe-worthy stereotype, writes Weinstock. Cover edit 3 “His nerdy attire, including bow tie and broken glasses, harkens back to an era and style that rendered programmers completely uncool.” (Are they cool now?)

LEGO also has a thing for mad scientists. The first one “wore a lab coat, a stethoscope, and a patently diabolical face.” Now there’s a wild-gray-haired Crazy Scientist, though he doesn’t look quite so evil.

Here are some examples of male and female minifigures in STEM-related professions.

Examples of male and female minifigures in STEM-related professions

 

Young inventors

Inspired by the FIRST robotics contest, teens — and pre-teens — are patenting their inventions, reports Popular Mechanics.

The Londonderry, N.H., Inventioneers had already filed three provisional patent applications by the time they created the SMARTwheel in response to a FIRST Lego League Challenge. “We found out car crashes were the No. 1 cause of death for teens, and texting was the main distraction,” says 11-year-old Bryeton Evarts. “We wanted to do something to stop that.” Their solution is a steering wheel cover that detects when a driver removes a hand for more than 3 seconds and emits visual and audio alerts. A data logger communicates unsafe driving behavior in real time. Writing the utility patent application was 16-year-old Tristan Evarts’s favorite part: “You can conceptualize your idea, but until you have to list all its features on paper, you don’t fully understand what it is.”

A team in Rockledge, Florida built a custom robot for the local police department.

 It can climb rugged terrain, deliver a negotiation phone, launch smoke grenades, and conduct surveillance. “We were searching other police robots and were shocked by how much they cost for what they could do,” says Jason Schuler, a contract engineer for NASA, a team mentor, and a FIRST alum. So the team filed a provisional patent for its PDBot and optimized the design for a kit that other teams can use to fundraise. “Instead of washing cars to raise money, they’ll be building robots,” Schuler says.

Very cool.

Nearly 300,000 students participate in FIRST programs, which start with Junior Lego for grades K-3.

Lego goes girly: Is it sexist?

Lego Friends — pitched to pastel-loving, beauty shop-visiting, fashion-designing, cafe-chilling girls — has annoyed feminists, who say it urges girls to obsess about appearance, reports the LA Times.

The new line, whose characters sport slim figures and stylish clothes, will contribute to gender stereotyping that promotes body dissatisfaction in girls, said Carolyn Costin, an eating disorders specialist and founder of the Monte Nido Treatment Center in Malibu.

. . . The toys send girls a message “that being pretty is more important than who you are or what you can do,” Costin said in a statement.

“We heard very clear requests from moms and girls for more details and interior building, a brighter color palette, a more realistic figure, role play opportunities and a story line that they would find interesting,” said Mads Nipper, executive vice president of  the Danish-owned Lego in a statement. Lego Friends isn’t the company’s only girl-friendly product, Nipper said.