Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A Robot with Pom-Poms

The Media Lab toy makes programming children’s play.

The decades-long partnership between the Media Lab and Lego has spawned a new company and an innovative robotic toy that blends craft activities with engineering. This fall, the Montreal-based Playful Invention Company (Pico) will launch Cricket, a programmable computer about the size of a candy bar.

Cricket, which comes with kid-friendly software, is part of a craft kit that contains familiar art-class materials. In addition to pipe cleaners, fuzzy pom-poms, felt, and popsicle sticks, there are Lego bricks and electronic components such as motors, lights, and sensors. With Cricket, kids can, say, build a xylophone out of pieces of fruit, programming it to play different notes when fruit chunks are touched with a metal wire to complete an electric circuit. “It’s a balance between traditional craft activities and engineering,” says Media Lab professor Mitchel Resnick, SM ‘88, PhD ‘92, whose team invented Cricket.

The Pico Blocks software that accompanies Cricket gives kids an easy introduction to programming. Instead of struggling with a complicated computer language, kids click, drag, and snap together blocks of commands, controlling how and when a motor should start or a light should go off. The on-screen command blocks look more like puzzle pieces than code.

Already, a number of science museums across the United States have test-driven Cricket during creative-invention workshops. Karen Wilkinson, a science educator at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, says that she is especially pleased to see that Cricket appeals to a more diverse group of kids than do straight robotics or programming classes. – By Tracy Staedter

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.