Intelligent Lego robots have existed among us for years thanks to Lego Mindstorms. At long last, they’ve just released Mindstorm EV3. EV3 is everything you could imagine for 2014 robotics: motors, sensors, Bluetooth, WiFi, and more. The EV3 has unlimited capability and will appeal to users of all ages. At it’s most basic level, the robots can be controlled with the included remote or smartphone app. To truly unleash EV3’s capabilities, you can program it yourself, and put its brain and sensors to use. You’re only limited by your own imagination.
The brain of Mindstorms is the EV3 brick, which rocks an ARM9 processor, Bluetooth, Wifi, USB port, Micro SD card reader, input and output ports, and a monochrome LCD screen. The EV3 is extremely programmable; you can load your programs straight from the computer or from the SD card. Lego Mindstorms EV3 is built with Lego Technic pieces, not the classic Lego bricks. There’s over 550 pieces included, and building instructions for five very different robots. There’s even more robot designs available online.
Let your imagination run wild. There’s a lot you can do with the included 3 interactive servo motors, color sensor, touch sensor, infrared sensor, and included remote control. Also if that’s not enough, you can always buy more motors and sensors.
Building one of the five EV3 robots is much like constructing any other Lego set (even though it’s Lego Technics and not classic Lego bricks). The main difference is that there’s a few checkpoints, or missions, along the way. The missions require you to load a program onto the EV3 brick and test out the functionality of your newly built features. This helps you familiarize yourself with the Mindstorms software. When loading these programs, you’ll see how they’re programmed with the visual drag and drop icon interface. One of these missions is an obstacle course made out of the Mindstorms packaging. Looking at the programs, you’ll immediately realize how much your robot can do. Each icon you drag into the programming interface has a function, whether it’s doing something, sensing something, playing a sound, or drawing a picture on the screen. You can write programs in a linear path, or a conditional path that branches out depending on different responses. You can start with any of the included programs and tweak the settings bit by bit until you get a feel for it. The more advanced users (or programmers)
The Lego Mindstorms is especially awesome because it’s only as advanced as you want it to be. Kids will love building the different robots and controlling it with the smart phone app or included IR remote. Teens and adults might be able to put the more advanced capabilities to use. It’s a great way to get your feet wet with programming and robotics. Using the EV3 platform, a 12 year old boy built a low-cost robotic braille printer, and a small team built the fastest Rubik’s cube solving robot. Pricing in at $349.95, it’s pricey, but not outrageous. Most of the big Lego sets are hundreds anyway, and there’s no other Lego set you can get as much use out of.
The Good: Fun to build and program. Tons of designs. Unlimited capability. Smartphone controlled and includes remote.
The Bad: 6 AA and 2 AAA batteries not included. The software could be a little more user friendly and a bit pricey.