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What is Yellow Brick Logo?

Yellow Brick Logo is a text based programming language created by Fred Martin and Brian Silverman at the MIT Media Lab. It is based on the Logo programming language used in the LCSI (Logo Computer Systems Incorporated) program "MicroWorlds." This programming language was originally conceived by Seymour Papert in the late 1970's while at MIT.

Fred Martin and a team of researchers developed a Programmable Brick which could accept commands though an infrared sensor. The brick had it's own power and did not require connected wires to control it. In 1998 Lego arranged to market the brick with a kit of Lego parts under the name of "Mindstorms". In 1999 it was named by Fortune Magazine as one of the "Products of the Century". Originally marketed towards the youth market, Mindstorms became a huge success through sales to adults, who were interested in robots. Mindstorms was sold with a graphical programming language named Robotics Invention System. It has now been issued in three different editions 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0. This is how most Mindstorms robots are programmed.

At The Lakeview School I became aware of Mindstorms in 2000 and with two kits started working with the 5th grade gifted and talented students. I also became aware though the Logo Users Ring that Yellow Brick Logo existed. Since we had already been working with Logo, through LogoWriter and MicroWorlds, we downloaded the software, built some robots and made some basic programs.

The following year, having "tested" the curriculm on the G & T class, Gerry Telmosse, science specialist, and I collaborated with the robots being built in science class and the programming being done in the computer lab. Since the G&T students were able to handle the level of difficulty we figured we might as well do the project with all the fifth graders at The Lakeview School. The emphasis in science was gears, ratios, speed, distance traveled and Lego construction. In computers the class worked with the Yellow Brick Logo language in creating programs that made the robots perform.

Although the programming is difficult at this stage of development the excitement of creating a working robot and the desire to make it work overcomes the challenge. Students worked in cooperative groups of 4 or 5 and the complimentary skills of construction, programming and common sense gave the teams a synergy of effort.

In our third year (2002 - 2003) we streamlined the curriculum in an attempt to have all five fifth grades be able to participate. Limited by our 45 minute once a week classes, we worked with each class a total of 4 - 5 weeks. While not enough time to work into advanced construction or programming, all students received an opportunity to work with the project and the problems it created.

We also became aware of a contest for middle school students while at a course on Mindstorms sponsored by the ETTC. We indicated an interest and accomodation was given to our fifth grade students. The Morris County Robotics Challenge is the brainstorm of Edward H. Brzezowski, P.E. who created the challenge from his love of problems solving and technology. After urging the organizers to allow our 5th grade to participate, Gerry and I then had to figure out how to get a group of 5th graders to work on the challenge.

The main problem was time. Each of us teach 29 classes per week and there was no time available to have both of us together during a lunch period. We finally figured out that by splitting our lunch time with the students lunch time our "team" would be able to work from 12:15 to 12:35 on Monday in the computer lab and the same time on Wednesday in the Science lab for a total of 40 minutes a week. We selected 6 students based on ability to construct with Legos, programming skills, raw brain power and common sense. The team named themselves the "Lego Lions" and we were off and running!

At the contest which was attended by 26 teams the "Lego Lions" did a remarkable job and received a honorable mention award for their accomplishment. The robot and program didn't perform as expected but the students saw the huge amount of robotic designs represented with the possibilties of future problems solving and challenges to overcome.