Now more than ever, robotics educators are faced with the important question of which kit they should purchase and use. This key question has been made even more intricate in the 2013-2014 school year due to the addition of the new robotics kit, LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3. This article will help break down LEGO’s kits, their capabilities and target audiences, and allow you, the educator, to make an informed decision on which kit is best for your particular classroom.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 is the all-new robotics kit from LEGO Education (creators of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system). It is fully compatible with previous NXT hardware (except for the battery), including all plastic structural pieces and sensors.
- Compatibility with the MATRIX and TETRIX metal systems is expected in fall 2014.
- Those starting a classroom from scratch need not worry; the EV3 comes with a total of 541 elements, including a multitude of structural parts (beams, connectors, wheels, gears, etc), 4 different sensor types (color sensor, gyroscopic sensor, ultrasonic sensor, and touch sensor), 3 motors, and the EV3 micocontroller or ‘brain’.
- The EV3 microcontroller sports 4 sensor ports, 4 motor ports, a internal Bluetooth adapter, and a USB slot which can be used with a WiFi adapter for wireless connectivity (as well as microSDHC card slot which supports cards up to 32GB in size).
- It utilizes a Linux-based firmware which allows for on-brick programming and datalogging.
- The EV3 is already legal in First Lego League (ages 9-14), but we are still waiting on information on when it will be legal for First Tech Challenge (High School) competitions.
- Recommended use: Middle School (EV3) or High School (with MATRIX or TETRIX kit).
Now, let’s take a look at the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT V2.0. Released in 2009, the NXT platform utilizes a plastic snap-fit hardware structure system, with 431 elements included in the base kit.
- These elements consist of both structural pieces (beams, connectors, and axles, to name a few), three interactive servo motors, the NXT microcontroller, and ultrasonic, light, sound, and two touch sensors included.
- There are also many third-party sensors available from sites such as Hitechnic, Dexter Industries, and Mindsensors.
- The NXT is also fully compatible with the MATRIX and TETRIX metal systems.
- Wireless capabilities include built-in Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity (provided by an external Samantha Module adapter).
- The NXT is currently a legal microcontroller for both the First Lego League (FLL, ages 9-14) and First Tech Challenge (High School) challenges.
- Recommended use: Middle School or High School (with MATRIX or TETRIX metal kit).
We understand that choosing a robotics kit is a tough decision. The number one factor in determining which kit is right for you will come down to the students; depending on the skill level of the students, it may be better to challenge them with a more advanced kit (MATRIX or TETRIX kits) or they made need to start with a simpler kit (LEGO NXT or EV3 kits). No matter which kit you decide to use, though, you can rest easy knowing ROBOTC will fully support all of these platforms.