democratizing science

LEGO Wayfinder

The LEGO Wayfinder project combines LEGO, robotics, and seawater into a playground of project-based learning and citizen science for budding engineers and explorers. As part of this outreach program, our team is developing a prototype of a buildable LEGO marine exploration vehicle kit—addressing some of the design challenges of building for the underwater context.

media.mit.edu/projects/lego-wayfinder

A LEGO Wayfinder in action.

Doing some test dives in a tank at MIT Sea Grant.

Using this kit, we will run a series of workshops with young people who will build on top of it, making the marine explorer more sophisticated and customized in order to execute marine science experiments of their design.

Our workshop participants in the shop, designing customization of their bots.

Customizing the LEGO Wayfinder software, using Scratch Extensions for LEGO Mindstorms.

Testing the LEGO Wayfinder for water-tightness in a tank at MIT Sea Grant.

Our aim is to build an awareness of the state of the aquatic environment and instill a greater responsibility in shaping our interactions with the environment. To do so, young people will view underwater wonders of the world with their robots and get outside to explore their local waterway. Our approach embraces Seymour Papert’s model of “low floors” (where getting started is easy), and “high ceilings,” where students can pour their time and collaborative work efforts into creative engineering solutions to carry out a marine science experiment of their own design in the field.

One workshop team gathered together piloting their underwater robot in the Boston harbor, and observing the video it was sending back!

A view of the LEGO Wayfinder interface displaying the underwater video feed – this team rigged a squid-baited lure onto their bot, and even managed to pull up two crabs!

Making new friends ;)

This program kicked off in summer 2018 with the National Geographic Student Expeditions at MIT, where we hosted 40-50 high school students for two days of workshops at the MIT Sea Grant and New England Aquarium. Going forward, we aim to adapt this programming for wider student audiences in after-school programs, classrooms, libraries, and community-based mentor clubs for youth.

A special thanks to the amazing team who worked on this project with us: MIT Sea Grant, the Incredible Machine, ML Learning Initiative, UROPs Rachel Hwang & John Paris, and the New England Aquarium.

Learn more at media.mit.edu/projects/lego-wayfinder

Some workshop participants hanging out on the docks at the New England Aquarium, getting ready to launch their underwater robot.

A LEGO Wayfinder in the wild.