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May 1, 2002

2 Min Read
Parting Shots: Building plastic's future one Lego at a time

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Benjamin Ciummo (left) and Thomas Gerhardt proudly display their handiwork from the NPCM's National Engineers Week program. Using one of the NPCM's computers, they were able to program their Lego Mindstorm kit.

Long seen as a catalyst for children's creative energies, officials at the National Plastics Center & Museum (NPCM), Leominster, MA, hope Lego toys and robot systems can ignite a lifelong passion in kids, prompting careers in engineering and design with plastics. "The aim of our robotics program was to help young people make two discoveries of importance to the future of the plastics industry and manufacturing in general," says Anne-Marie Arnold, the museum's education director. "The kids who took part learned that engineering can be a challenging and satisfying career and that plastics are essential materials of design." These lessons were learned at the NPCM's program for National Engineers Week. Drawing 315 students from sixth through 10th grade, the NPCM had participants construct robots and program their movements using Lego's Mindstorm robotics systems. Working collaboratively in teams of twos and threes, the children picked a design for their robot, specified a range of movements over set dimensions, and allowed the self-directed robots to complete their given tasks. For NPCM President David P. Hahn, the investment of time and money in the museum's outreach program should pay handsome dividends for the plastics industry in the future. "By helping young people discover the promise of engineering as a career," Hahn explains, "we are contributing to the future of the plastics industry."

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From the American Northeast to the southern tip of Singapore, Lego toys' reach and capacity for invention extend to all corners of the globe. At the Mt. Faber cable car station in this south Asia city resides a full-size, functional Lego cable car. Proclaimed as the world's only Lego cable car, it is no doubt the byproduct of adults who never outgrew their childhood affinity for the small, molded building blocks.



Submissions to Parting Shots are welcome. If you have a favorite sign, saying, quote, or part that is used in this section, we'll send you a check for $25. For our What Is It? series, be sure to identify the part, material, manufacturer, and function. We're also looking for stories about molding ingenuity. Send your submission ideas to Amie Chitwood, managing editor, fax (303) 321-3552, or e-mail [email protected]

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