Still looking for a Christmas present for your child? Do you want to get an educational toy? Something that can help them develop the love of programming, technology and/or creative design? You should consider getting the Lego Mindstorm Ev3!
Yes! It’s expensive and cost almost as much as a PS4 or Xbox One (It runs for $399.86 on Amazon.ca) BUT before you close your door on this idea, read the rest of this blog first.
Here are a few reasons why you should get the Lego Mindstorm Ev3.
1. Promotes Engineering Through Play
After having a child of my own, I recognized the importance of learning through play. Lego has always been a great toy to “build” things. The Mindstorm edition is no exception – it’s basically Legos on steroid! It promotes the concept of engineering where you can take various pieces of individual plastic blocks to construct a robot, a truck or a machine to solve a problem.
The set comes with a couple starter robot models that you can learn to build with the step-by-step instructions. While building the first starter robot, it taught me how to use gears to increase torque, how to build a lever and simply how a few pieces of lego can build a powerful tool.
2. Learn Programming Concepts
You probably heard a lot of talks about the importance of kids learning to code. Celebrities such as Chris Bosh, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have been promoting an ambitious coding program via Code.org.
Mindstorm provides a graphical programming environment; basically you build a program via dragging-and-dropping components. Some may argue that it’s not real programming because you’re not actually writing any code. However, you do learn a lot of programming concepts such as loops, switches, states, concurrency etc. Lego also provided a very comprehensive set of documentations to explain how to use the various components. I have to say, I was pretty impressed because it’s basically java docs that are easy enough for kids to understand.
3. Discover Cool Technology
You may have heard about Apple disrupting the shopping experience in retail stores with it’s iBeacon technology. Well, you can discover and learn how to leverage this cool technology via Mindstorm. The following are a couple of sensors that comes with the kit:
- Infrared Sensor Beacon Mode: It can detect the approx position and distance of the IR Beacon. For example, you can program the robot to seek, detect and drive towards the IR Beacon
- Infrared Sensor Remote Mode: It can detect infrared signals to determine which button you pressed on the remote control. For example, you can make a robot move forward by pressing a specific button on the remote control
- Color: Detect the color of an object near by.
You can leverage these sensors to build an artificial intelligent robot. One other cool factor I wanted to point out is, Mindstorm created a complementary mobile app. Basically you can use a smart phone (iOS or Android) to command your robot via bluetooth connectivity. How awesome is that?!
4. Importance of Creativity
As much as I loved Legos while growing up as a kid. The one pet peeve that I had was how it comes with instructions and just enough pieces to build one only “thing”. It’s like a puzzle. The box comes with a limited amount of pieces, just enough to build the “model” displayed on the box. Once you’re done building it, the novelty of the toy wears off. Considering how expensive Legos are, sometimes it doesn’t seem to be worth your money.
Mindstorm, is a little different in this case. It does come with a set number of blocks and sensors (601 pieces in total), but it is enough to allow you to explore your creative side. The kit have instructions for 5 starter robots and 12 bonus robots. It took me one weekend to go through one starter robot – basically to learn to build and program it. Mind you, they provide a couple evolutions or twists to each robot. Once you’ve learned the basics by building the starter robots, you can leverage those learnings to design, build and program your own. Creativity is so important because it inspires us to be innovative, to look at a problem with a different perspective and to come up with a solution to solve a problem.
One other feature that I have to praise about Lego is coming up with a Mindstorm Developer Community. It is almost like a Github meets Google Developer Community for kids! Members can post questions on the message board, upload and share their latest Mindstorm project. It promotes knowledge sharing – the possibilities are endless!
5. Great Parent-Child Bonding Time
Even though Lego marketed Mindstorm for kids ages 10+, some of the more advanced programming is too much for a 30-something year old let only a 10 year old. Reading the documentations can be a little overwhelming as well. Though, I have to say, the step-by-step instructions for the starter robots are very well put together and straight-forward for a 10 year old to understand. None-the-less, this is a great opportunity for parents to create and work on a “project” with their children.
Lego did an awesome job creating this product. It is a really good way to get into programming, engineering or robotics. Yes, the price tag on this toy is on the steep end. However, once you think about the potentials you can do with this kit, it is a sure keeper!