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These Lego Robots Solve Real-World Problems

With a dancing robot that dispenses medication, Nordstrom beat out six other Seattle companies at yesterday’s Lego Build 4 Good Challenge, which asked teams to build life-improving robots out of Lego Mindstorms kits.

Earlier this year, California seventh grader Shubham Banerjee unveiled Braigo, a Braille printer he invented and made out of a Lego Mindstorms EV3 set after learning that retail Braille printers are unaffordable to many people who need them. Yesterday at Seattle’s EMP Museum, Lego challenged seven local companies to follow suit at the Build 4 Good Robo Challenge and use the sets to build a robot that would solve everyday problems.

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In a coup against tech giants, Nordstrom beat out Amazon, Egencia, Expedia, HTC, Xbox, and zulily for the top prize. Nordstrom’s creation was the NORD1, a robot with a party dance mode that makes it easier and more fun to dispense medication to kids.

Banerjee served as one of the competition’s judges, reviewing creations that served as everything from a zookeeper’s assistant (Xbox) to a house-sitter (Egencia). The prize for Nordstrom’s team was five Mindstorms kits to donate to the children’s charity of their choosing.

As part of their marketing of the Mindstorms kits as an invention tool for both robotics enthusiasts and younger children, Lego and Harris Poll recently conducted an online survey that found that 64% of parents report asking their children under 18 for technical support on household electronics and devices.

Brian Duimstra, a senior interactive developer for Nordstrom who helped build the winning team’s project, said the pill-pushing robot could actually be used in the real world.

“Initially, we started building a different robot altogether. However, after learning how Shubham Banerjee solved a real-world problem using Lego Mindstorms, we changed gears to create a robot that could be easily replicated by parents and kids to solve a problem that affects them every day,” Duimstra told Fast Company. “We understand that it’s no fun having to take medicine, especially as a child. There’s no better way to make that task at least a little more tolerable than with a robot that the whole family worked on together. And for extra entertainment value, we knew it was a necessary to add a ‘dance party’ mode to celebrate!”

About the author

Evie Nagy is a former staff writer at FastCompany.com, where she wrote features and news with a focus on culture and creativity. She was previously an editor at Billboard and Rolling Stone, and has written about music, business and culture for a variety of publications.

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