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I’ll have to admit LEGO EV3 DNA Scanner could have sufficed but despite the title being quite a mouthful this project me and my son developed over the last two months has been a long and fruitful experience for the both of us. The title possibly reflect the effort! Certainly that were Fun with Physical Computing came from.

What we did

Starting from the will to produce something original for this year science project we put our heads together and came up with this reviewed design of an existing LEGO EV3 Mindstorms robot called MR.B3AM. Unlike that design though our LEGO EV3 DNA Scanner does a lot more than “chewing” a monochrome brick to say it’s length, ours scans a sequence of 8 2×2 bricks which can be red, green, blue and yellow, compare that sequence to an internal database and report back if the sequence matches that of a mythical creature. How’s that for a project!

We had to compromise with the length of the DNA not being in the millions of elements and we decided to represent the four combinations of AT, TA, GC and CG with four different colours but for the rest this could be a professional DNA scanner 🙂 Also we didn’t quite know which animals to chose so my son decided mythical beasts was a good idea.


Getting the existing design of MR.B3AM to adapt to our needs proved not to be straight forward and meant we had to go to a bit of trial and error to get it right but eventually we managed to obtain a fairly robust mod of the original.

The coding was certainly one part we both enjoyed and … not so much at times. The visual environment from LEGO is quite powerful and intuitive but fairly limited as you try to move a step forward into doing more complex things. This is to be expected as visual languages are intended as the first step to ease into more traditional IDE and languages.

Main program part 1
Main program part 2

Final considerations

I’m not a Teacher so those of you who are will forgive me for my limited experience and understanding of the matter.

Teaching for me has always been an important target of my adult life, the need to be able maybe to feel really useful and share some of the experience I have accrued in the period of time I’ve been given so far. I have always been very aware that teaching is an art some of which you can learn, the rest you have to be born with. Then really, what is teaching? Is it merely a copy/paste into someone else’s brain? The best learning experiences I ever had weren’t just a brain dump but certainly a more entertaining process which, don’t get me wrong, you could call fun but mere fun isn’t quite what’s needed in my opinion. Children nowadays pretend the fun aspect which often ends up in superficiality and that’s not good for their education, it’s not good for their adult self which won’t be able to cope with the real world. Become passionate about something, falling in love with a subject, that’s what makes the difference, that’s the virus I hope my children will be infected with.

During this project with my son Giacomo I’ve been able to have a go at the theory I’ve just described and learned a lot myself and so did he. I guess that’s what teaching is about. Learning together!

The most important consideration here is certainly about the educational value of a project like this. I reckon it has different at different levels. For me the most important aspect has to do with confidence. Confidence is what removes all the obstacles in life, knowing that something can be done and that You can do it is by far the most important “lesson” when achieving a goal. Then clearly learning that not all, in fact almost nothing comes for free or can be done in 5 minutes. The most rewarding things always take time as taking the time is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself when doing anything. Finally there are all the academical aspects to do not just with coding or building with brick but also maths and logic, biology, literacy, time management, be able to explain to others and make a more formal presentation.

What a journey!

If you wish to find more information about this project please head to my personal blog