LAS VEGAS — Lego is using its colorful bricks to teach students the power of coding. Lego Education, a wing of the Danish toy company, at the 2016 Consumers Electronics Show released WeDo 2.0, a learning kit that lets users build robots and give them commands using coding.

The kit is intended to teach students about science and technology and comes with 280 pieces of Lego bricks. Those pieces including a smart hub, a motor, and various sensors that elementary-age students can use to create robots capable of roaming around, detecting motion, moving their limbs or playing fun sound effects. WeDo 2.0 also includes an app that children can use to create code that tells their gizmos what to do. 

Using an iPad, an Android device or a computer, students use Lego's colorful icon-based coding tool to build commands that are then relayed to their projects. The coding tool is much simpler than the language-based programming professional software engineers use, but just as with Lego bricks, this coding language can lead to complex and imaginative creations that let students flex their creativity while teaching them the potential of learning to code.

Lego Education Lego Education's WeDo 2.0 learning kit introduces elementary-school students to coding by letting them program their Lego brick robots to perform various actions. Photo: Lego Education

Lego Education uses icons to make sure the coding tool is approachable for young children, but the hope is that after using WeDo 2.0 students "could then go into the more language-based programming," said Hanne Ravn, Lego Education's senior marketing manager.

This initiaitive by Lego Education comes at a time when coding is becoming a highly-prized skill. More and more top-paying jobs around the world are going to those who can program, and in Silicon Valley, the tech industry is desperately trying to get more women and minorities interested in coding and into the tech talent pipeline.

"The beauty of this is that it builds on the natural curiosity that every kid is born with, no matter if it is boys or girls," Ravn said. "That natural curiosity is so powerful to build on." 

WeDo 2.0 is aimed specifically at teachers and schools but is also available for purchase to anyone, such as parents who want to introduce their kids to coding. The kit, which includes enough parts for two children to play with, went on sale online Tuesday starting at $160. Lego Education also sells kits in bundles at reduced prices per unit. Teachers and schools can pay an additional $290 for the accompanying curriculum pack, which can be installed on an unlimited number of devices.