10 Reasons Why LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 is the right choice for young programmers
By Nick Acton
Ever since the addition of Programming to the Primary and Secondary Curriculum, products have appeared in all shapes and sizes. The Bee Bots have got a lot of company now. All sorts of real-life physical systems can be utilised by a class now. Children can programme flying things, driving things, light up things, noisy things as well as a whole host of digital things. The opportunities out there are pretty endless and really exciting for a group of ‘first-time-programmers'. However, the amount of choice is a bit of a double-edged sword. With so much more out there, how do you choose the right resource for your school? Which product best fits your needs? What programmable piece of technology are you going to get the most out of?
Thankfully, the answer is simple. Out of all the options, LEGO® Education have created the best resources available. Both the WeDo 2.0 sets and the MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 kits are exceptional. WeDo 2.0 offers a great platform for new programmers to progress from, whereas MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 provides a more involved and multifaceted computing experience. To find out more about WeDo 2.0, please read our blog ’10 Top Classroom Management Tips for WeDo 2.0’. I’m going to concentrate on the EV3 kit in this blog. We’ll explore why it’s such a good choice and how it can be used to enhance the Programming Curriculum. Ultimately, here are 10 reasons why it is the right choice for any school…
Everybody loves LEGO®. The fact is, even the youngest school children will have had some interaction with the lightly coloured building bricks prior to entering education. This factor is important. It means that children often feel comfortable with the product. They approach the resource with a certain amount of positivity. However, more importantly, they approach LEGO® with confidence. This confidence will ultimately affect how the children react and learn from a MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 kit. In other words, what the children bring to a task, will massively impact on what they take away from it.
It’s important to point out the obvious. This is a LEGO® product. Therefore, there is a large amount of building involved when it comes to using a MINDSTORMS® EV3 kit. Many other programmable products available are pre-built. There is no element of Engineering at all. The MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 kit takes a different approach. Children can follow the instructions and built a number of different programmable machines like roaming vehicles, robotic arms, animals, light-up devices, alarm systems and so on and so on. The secondary benefit of Programming with EV3 is that you get to Engineer your physical machine beforehand.
Because of the Engineering aspect, children can get very creative. Following the instructions is one way of building a programmable product, but it isn’t the only way. Learners can create their own devices. They can follow their own paths. This flexibility means that every child can take ownership over their own learning. It also means that they can stretch their imaginations. The creativity works nicely alongside ‘self-efficacy’ and ‘engineering’ to create a meaningful learning experience that can well and truly rival any over programming platform out there.
Programming is all about problem-solving. Traffic Lights are programmed to solve the problem of traffic. Production Lines are programmed to solve the problem of demand and speed. Automatic Doors are programmed to solve the problem of laziness. The flexible nature of a MINDSTORMS Education EV3 kit means that children can really explore this. The children can build and programme a machine of their own creation that solves a problem set by the teacher.
This not only enhances the experience for the children but it also increases the relevance of programming. Creating an Algorithm to send a roaming Robot from A to B has a few ‘real-life’ applications. However, being able to create robots that can sort through things or using a proximity sensor to react to distances is far more relevant to modern-day programming. All of this is possible with a MINDSTORMS® EV3 kit.
The flexibility and the number of sensors are also useful from the perspective of varying confidence levels. It’s very easy for children to self-differentiate when using the MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 kit. Some children may feel comfortable creating their own devices, whereas others can follow instructions. On top of this, LEGO® Education have created a huge number of Programming tasks at varying levels. This makes it simple for a teacher to designate levelled projects in their own classrooms. However, the addition of the aforementioned sensors can really provide some scope for a class of programmers. Some children might be able to move on to the complexities of Gyro Sensors or Colour Sensors. Others may combine two or more Sensors to create more involved operations. The sky’s the limit.
6) Cross-curricular implications
Whilst the app and the kit is primarily built for the Computing and Programming Curriculum, the MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 can have a baring across many different subjects. Its impact on Design and Technology is obvious and I will explore the Mathematical/Scientific implications within the next two pointers. However, the set up can be applied to other less obvious areas of the curriculum. Children can interact with History and Geography objectives, by building Morse Coding devices or creating Natural Disaster detectors. Social Studies can be enhanced by manufacturing a Recycling Sorting machine. An art objective can be easily attached to the use of MINDSTORMS® Education EV3. Children could potentially bring their art to life by programming some movement within a sculpture or enabling a piece of art to react to people in some way. With all of the resources available from LEGO® Education, teachers can easily plan meaningful cross-curricular lessons with MINDSTORMS® Education EV3.
Mathematics and science often begin to intermingle. However, Science objectives can be clearly engaged with when programming a MINDSTROMS® Education EV3 machine. Firstly, speed and friction can be explored through the creation of roaming robots. The effect of gravity and weight can be played with as well. The learners could even create a program on their own Mars Rover. However, even more, involved science can be studied alongside the use of the EV3. Some of the sensors are built on complex scientific knowhow. For example, the colour sensor uses a spectrum to detect different colours. The proximity sensor uses infrared to detect distances. Therefore, children can learn about some of these scientific aspects before seeing them in action. Again, activities like this increase the relevance of a subject that can seem quite abstract for children.
Another string to MINDSTORMS® Education EV3’s bow is the fact that the accompanying application can be accessed on a number of different devices. The app can be downloaded onto Apple, Android and Chrome devices (and desktops) for example. There is absolutely no difference in capabilities and the software itself looks very similar. However, for a learner and for a school this can make a big difference. Firstly, young programmers can learn all sorts of ICT skills if they hop from one device to the next. Interacting with a touch screen as a pose to a keyboard is a different experience. In this multi-platform age that we live in, it is important that children learn to use a number of different devices. On top of this, a school can decide to invest in new technology with the security of knowing that their MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 kits will work with it. This is not just important from an investment point of view. It can also mean that learners can continue to progress their programming skills despite the fact that the school has changed the technology it uses.
10) Play-based learning
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, learning with LEGO® is fun. It is a fact that young children learn through play. We all know it and we all try to use this fact to our advantage. If we can make an activity fun, we can hold the attention of learners and provide positive learning experiences. Teachers can use this factor to their advantage. The Play-Based Learning has an impact on all nine of my previous points and is undeniably the number one reason for investing in LEGO® MINDSTORMS Education EV3 kits.
I’m sure there are more than 10 reasons why this programming resource is so ahead of any other out there. In my opinion it stands miles ahead. On top of all of the reasons I have listed, it is worth noting that LEGO® Education have provided pages and pages of free programming resources (see www.LEGOEducation.com/downloads). These include specific tasks and more open-ended projects. This makes it easy for Teachers to map lessons into their planning across the curriculum. Going even further than that, LEGO® collaborate with FIRST® to run an international league “FIRST® LEGO® League” where pupils can enter to compete. This is an opportunity for the best and brightest programmers to showcase their talents on a huge scale. The competition asks children to build and programme their own devices to complete tasks. There really is an enormous scope for Young Programmers to progress and develop their understanding of computing.