This master thesis is a culmination of two experiments performed with children. The children got to play with Lego Mindstorms, build and program their custom made Lego robots. The first of the experiments was performed with 11 year olds that used Lego Robolab when programming their Lego robots. This was a pilot experiment prior to the second experiment where 14 year olds programmed the same Lego Mindstorms robot, but this time using a custom made Java API called Lejos (LEJOS. Java for the RCX n.d.).
This experiment was the last of many experiments performed by people from the Comprehensive Object Oriented Learning - project (COOL). Oneof the aims of COOL is exploring the complex area of learning and teaching object oriented concepts. The point of the study described in this thesis was to see in what way the control technology Lego Mindstorms could be used to teach children object oriented concepts. Control technology enables devices to be programmed to achieve goals. It can be something as simple as a tape recorder.
In addition to the results from the experiments performed, this thesisdescribes the tools used to program the Lego Mindstorms robots and gives an indication of how good these tools were both for learning programming in general and learning object oriented concepts.
The results from these experiments show that children from 11 to 15years Lego Mindstorms fun, but it is very difficult to use and takes a lot of energy, so they get tired after three days. Girls is less fascinated by Lego Mindstorms than boys, but is still able to learn just as much as the boys.
Lego Robolab cannot be used as a tool for teaching object oriented concepts. But the Java API Lejos enabled the children to learn a lot about the object oriented concept of encapsulation. The children got a good sense of the program flow of their programs when programming physical Lego robots that did or did not do what they were told to do. Using control technology is still very time consuming, and there are some problems involved with using physical Lego robots compared to virtual robots on the computer screen.