Inspired by: Seymour Papert

Jun 03, 2016

Seymour Papert is a mathematician and computer scientist best known for his contributions to the understanding of children’s learning processes and to the ways in which technology can support learning.

In the 1960s, people laughed at Papert when he talked about children using computers as instruments for learning and for enhancing creativity. The idea of an inexpensive personal computer was then science fiction. But as FIRST Founder Dean Kamen says, “The only thing separating science fiction and science is timing.”Seymour Papert

Despite his detractors, Papert continued research on this topic in his capacity as a professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). His efforts led to many firsts. In fact, it was in his laboratory that children first had the chance to use the computer to write and to make graphics. The Logo programming language was created there, as were the first children's toys with built-in computation.

At 88, Papert still helps to develop cutting-edge opportunities for children to participate in the digital world, serving on the advisory boards for MaMaMedia Inc. and for the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® product line (which was named after Papert's seminal book, “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas”).

Papert’s influential relationship with LEGO dates back to 1984 when Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen – then the CEO of LEGO (and grandson of its founder) – saw him on television, demonstrating how children could use Logo to control robots. Kristiansen was struck by the similarities between constructionism (Papert’s theory of learning) and his own company’s philosophy about building. The possibilities of expanding LEGO’s capabilities for learning and play, inspired Kristiansen to visit the MIT Media Lab where Papert worked, where their long-standing partnership was born.

Today, Papert is considered the world's foremost expert on how technology can provide new ways to learn. He has carried out educational projects on every continent, some of them in remote villages in developing countries.

Look for more “Inspired by” on the Inspire Blog, as we highlight the men and women who have influenced us on our journey to teach, nurture and inspire the next generation of creative problem solvers.

If you have an inspiring story or piece of wisdom that you’ve picked up through your experiences in the FIRST community, please reach out to us at and inquire about becoming a guest contributor for Inspire.

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