LEGO Education Robots are popular educational tools. They not only develop the capabilities of designing mechanical structure and solving engineering or scientific problems, but also provide programming tools to cultivate computational thinking skills. In this post, I will compare the programming tools each set supports and the functionality each tool provides.
LEGO WEDO 2.0
First, let’s talk about LEGO WEDO 2.0. LEGO claims that “it is developed to engage and motivate elementary students’ interest in learning science- and engineering-related subjects.” Generally, it is targeted to lower primary or preschoolers. It might be due to this reason that its programming tool provides very limited functionality.
The following is the WEDO 2.0 programming tool interface. It has friendly interface. The young explorers could drag those blocks to the blank area and snap them together. The meaning of those blocks are intuitive and easy to be explained to the students.
LEGO WEDO 2.0 Programming Interface
if you want to program some fun things, you might get frustrated by this tool. There are not so many functionality blocks to choose from, and is lack of many basic functions such as conditional judgement, variable creation, or control structure, etc.
Connect LEGO WEDO 2.0 to Scratch 3.0
After connecting WEDO 2.0 to Scratch 3.0, its programming capability is enhanced greatly. You could use the embedded blocks of Scratch 3.0 to add conditional judgement, create and use variable, customize music and realize better control of your LEGO model.
LEGO SPIKE PRIME
LEGO SPIKE PRIME Programming Interface
LEGO Spike Prime is just released to the market in early 2020. Its tool provides a programming environment similar to Scratch 3.0. All the functions are categorized clearly. There are categories specific to the motors, sensors, lights and sounds of SPIKE. Other categories keep the same as that in Scratch 3.0, such as Operators, Variables, Control and My Blocks tabs.
LEGO defines SPIKE as a product targeting to middle school students. In my view, it is also suitable for the middle and higher primary school students. I really like its block-based language which is based on Scratch.
LEGO MindStorms EV3
LEGO MindStorms EV3 Programming Tool Interface
LEGO MindStorms EV3 tool uses the block language to program the robot. Those blocks control not only the motors, sensors, brick sounds, lights and brick buttons, but also contains some common controlling structures such as conditional judgement, loops, data operation, etc. Like Scratch, player does not need to face syntax problems of mature programming languages, so it is easy for young players to master it.
Please note that students still need time to warm up and get familiar with each block. Many blocks have multiple inputs and some have outputs. When those blocks work together, their workout becomes more complicated. So students need practice to master those blocks and design more advanced programs.
Connect LEGO MindStorms EV3 to Scratch 3.0
Although LEGO claims that MindStorms EV3 could work together with Scratch, unfortunately, the functionalities supported in Scratch 3.0 environment is very limited. Unless you would like to do some very basic actions, such as moving forward for a few seconds, I really do not recommend Scratch as an option for LEGO MindStorms EV3.
MicroPython for LEGO MindStorms EV3
Use MicroPython as an extension module in Visual Studio Code and you could write Python code for your robot. It could realize almost all the functions done by LEGO MindStorms EV3 tool.
Students should understand the basic concepts and language syntax of Python before using MicroPython. It is a great way for the young engineers to learn Python language and LEGO robots at the same time.
In sum, both LEGO WEDO 2.0 and LEGO MindStorms EV3 provide two languages as options. LEGO WEDO 2.0 built-in tool is suitable for preschooler and lower primary students. It is also a good idea to learn both robot and Scratch programming at the same time.
For LEGO MindStorms EV3, a general suggestion is to begin by using its built-in tool. It requires a bit learning curve for students in higher primary to get familiar with this block language. MicroPython is an excellent tool and strongly recommended for middle school students.
SPIKE PRIME could be seen as an intermediate version between LEGO WEDO 2.0 and MindStorms EV3. Its software tool is based on Scratch. It is an excellent choice for primary school students to learn programming.
You could choose the proper robot sets based on your kids’ age and their interest.
Enjoy the creation and coding at the same time!