Building robots from scratch has always been a popular hands-on activity for educators to introduce students to engineering and programming. But while early introductions to these fields is essential in motivating future graduates of STEM programs, the biggest difficulty has been in finding robot kits which can be built by students without any previous technical background. One of the most popular solutions to this dilemma has been Lego Robotics.
Let the Learning Begin
Lego Robotics is a robotics class for beginners where students learn using robotics and programming software such as Lego WeDo™ and Lego WeDo™ 2.0. These kits allow students to build robots from scratch using on-screen, step-by-step instructions. The students are then guided in writing simple programs suggested in the materials to begin making their robots functional. Once the robots have basic functions, students can begin working on more complicated programming for advanced functionality. This programming can incorporate tilt and motion sensors and other advanced components.
This beginner robot kit features simplified programming software, direct computer controls, and only a handful of sensor types (which simplifies programming) compared to more complex kits for intermediate robotics students. Once students have mastered programming using this beginners’ software, there is another level with more advanced components and more complicated programming. The nice thing about Lego Robotics is there are kits available for multiple difficulty levels so the students can follow a progression of learning which spans several years.
Putting all the technical capabilities which usually require significant engineering and programming knowledge into these well-loved building blocks that anyone can use has been a popular and successful endeavor for a number of years, and with the latest Lego Mindstorms EV3, you have a flexible, functional robotics kit with an electronic brain, sensors, and motors, all for about a $350 dollar price tag. The Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit is a step up in difficulty from the Lego WeDo™ kits mentioned earlier and is powerful and flexible enough to use for a variety of sophisticated creations!
The Intelligent Brick of this kit has multiple connection options. In addition to the eight connection cable ports, you connect it to the computer through a mini-USB port, expand the memory using a microSD card, attach a WiFi dongle with the full-size USB port, and use BlueTooth 4.0 to control your robot with a mobile device. You can even daisy-chain a total of four of these Intelligent Bricks together to create even more complicated and impressive creations using multiple kits and/or additional accessories. This “robot brain” also features a monochrome LCD display on top along with four directions buttons, a back button, and a confirmation button, while there is a speaker for playing sound files located on the right-hand side.
Read more about Lego WeDo/2.0 Lego Robotics
Engaging students in a robotics program can be a great way to secure the early interest in engineering and programming needed to inspire those STEM graduates of the future. The products discussed here take a highly successful children’s toy and harness it as a teaching tool to make some difficult concepts approachable and fun for children at a young age. These products continue to improve and become even more flexible and powerful with each successive generation, ensuring educators and children will continue to integrate these innovative products into their curriculum.