Letters – Toys not just fun and games

I read the article (“Techies build up their imagination”, Jan 25, 2002 page 31, by Scott Gardner) with fascination – just two months ago Lego crossed my path, after a 20 year lapse.

The article contrasts Meccano and Lego and the skills each teach. I played with both as a child as a prelude to my 20 years in IT.

I’m a professor of computer science at Mohawk College. Part of our final software engineering course contains a project-oriented course where each group of third-year students choose a topic for research. One group choose to answer the question: how do we measure an aptitude for computers?

The group looked at all kinds of tests and academic indicators in addition to doing a myriad of straw poles with their classmates. When I first heard them talking about Lego I thought that they had regressed to their happy place. But the discussion progressed to included topics not usually associated with Lego – modularity, creativity and predefined constructs.

It was a delight to read Scott Gardner’s article about the building blocks of application development. Certainly Lego Mindstorm exemplifies the Lego-computer relationship. Perhaps the world needs a Lego University?

The group did conclude that playing with Lego is a good indicator of computer aptitude. I think their findings were best summed up by Jamie Olmsted, who said, “Play with Lego as a child? Heck, I still play with it.”

Dennis Angle

Professor, computer science and information technology

Mohawk College, Hamilton, Ont.