Next-gen LEGO Mindstorms + Autodesk = Huge educational potential

Next-gen LEGO Mindstorms + Autodesk = Huge educational potential

Summary: It's Valentine's Day. It's LEGO World. And I'm in love with the new Mindstorms EV3.

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TOPICS: Education
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I thought about getting my wife the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set for Valentine's Day, but it won't be available until this fall. And she'd divorce me.

In all seriousness, though, the LEGO World exposition opens in Copenhagen today and the company is announcing its next-generation Mindstorms robotics set, called the EV3. LEGO has already made some really significant contributions to STEM education through their Mindstorms program with countless robotics teams, competitions, collaborative class activities, and even adventurous kids who have created thousands of robots and learned to program, all while building with LEGOs (actually sophisticated TECHNIC elements, but they're LEGOs at heart). EV3, though, is a quantum leap forward in functionality from both a hardware and software perspective and a partnership with Autodesk lets users view in 3D how the primary models are constructed.

The third-generation set focuses on combining ease of use with far greater creative flexibility and new means for programming and controlling the robots. As with a growing number of educational tools, the point is creativity and critical thought rather than trying to figure out how to stick LEGOs together (hence, the Autodesk partnership, which provides a very useful means of illustrating building skills so that students can get down to the robotics. For the first time, LEGO is also including non-verbal, illustrated paper instructions for all of the suggested robots for learners who respond better to visual cues.

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Aside from more sensitive sensors, embedded Linux in the much faster control module, and additional power capabilities, the robots can be controlled via mobile apps. Both Android and iOS are supported and they can be given either voice or touch-based commands.

Users of previous generation systems will find a similar programming interface; new users will see an object-oriented interface that looks a lot like Scratch (Scratch and the original Mindstorms software were both developed by Mitch Resnick at the MIT Media Lab). New and old users alike, though, will find a lot to like about the latest Mindstorms set. There are few products on the market today that can match the creative and educational potential of some very serious LEGOs.

Topic: Education

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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6 comments
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  • Shame About Autodesk

    That's one company that has seen better days.

    Any interesting open-source tools to take advantage of the new hardware? That would be more useful...
    ldo17
    • Programming Tools

      All previous generations of Mindstorms were accessible through C-based languages - including their NXC ('Not eXactly C' - I love that!) on the BricxCC, LabVIEW, MATLAB and a host of other ways I've since forgotten..
      So I'd imagine they wont lose compatibility, but I found BricxCC the most intuitive if you're looking for one to start with.
      AoifeZD
    • Already Free Lego CAD apps Available

      I'm not sure if they are technically open source or not, but there are a couple free LEGO CAD programs out there. MLCad and LeoCad come to mind. They are pretty cool in that they have pretty comprehensive libraries of Lego bricks and allow you to drag and drop them onto the screen to build your Lego models in a true CAD environment. Even builds you a prts list so you can go shopping for hte parts you need
      davidwgilmore
  • E - Learning is the best and cheapest way to empower masses

    Tools like -
    CourseEra
    Edx
    Open Video Tutorial

    are a boon for poor and passionate Students like me
    Alina Smith
    • Education

      http://www.openvideotutorial.com
      Alina Smith
  • Muhasebe Dersleri

    www.muhasebeders.com
    Muhasebe Dersleri