This page would look a lot spiffier if you downloaded a standards compliant web browser.
Construction kits--toys designed for the building or assembly of physical models often play an important educational role in children's lives. While such kits have tremendous strengths (e.g., they permit children to build three-dimensional models and to learn through tactile experience), they also have interesting limitations. Traditional construction kits offer little in the way of direct communication with their users--for example, a traditional kit cannot offer a student information or advice about how to proceed in building a model. More generally, traditional constructions, i.e., the models produced tend to be aesthetically and behaviorally limited. This paper argues that through the use of embedded computation, pieces within a construction kit may communicate with each other, with desktop machines, and with their users; and overall, by integrating construction kits with computation, the educational power and expressiveness of these kits can be greatly increased. As an example of many of the ideas presented here, we describe a prototype of a computationally-enhanced construction kit: a set of speech-enabled alphabet blocks. We conclude by discussing a variety of related research efforts and directions for future work.