Several entrants to NCE's Lego robotics competition suggested sending their inventions into hazardous environments - confined areas, nuclear stores and the like.
But, from the perspective of the winners Eleanor and Cleo Taylor, few places could be as dangerous as their hamster Romi's cage at cleaning time. Romi bites.
The young inventors won a set of Lego's new Mindstorms robotics kit (NCE 10/31 December 1998). Their entry suggested building a robot that would 'amuse my hamster while I'm at school and clean out his cage because he bites'.
Eleanor (13) and Cleo (10) spent an engrossed Christmas holiday building and programming robots for a variety of tasks, according to their uncle, civil engineer Charles Taylor - though Romi did initially try to chew the wires.
The diversity of entries yielded by a full postbag meant the winner was chosen in a draw from the shortlist. Other imaginative entries included John Porter's succinct idea, to build a robot that would build a robot. Charles Murray's plan for one that would turn the pages of NCE was also well received. Many wanted help tidying up their ordinary Lego bricks, and the numerous suggestions for domestic slaves were encapsulated by Richard Field's wish for a robot to 'put the lid on the toothpaste, tidy the house and bring me a cold beer from the fridge'.