In the vast ocean of toys of different shapes, sizes, and complexity, one name has always stood out- LEGO. The brick-based construction plaything has won over both personal imaginations and school curriculums. Riding the chariot of fame, LEGO did much to improve on the original formula, and is now leading the race in developing educational, builder robots. LEGO robot toy sets are the company’s answer to the current and upcoming challenges of the STEM age. So what is the best LEGO robot toy set for schools and homes?
Changing with the times: STEM education and robot toys
The times they are a-changing. Computers have replaced hammer and anvil. The jobs of yesterday are almost forgotten nowadays, just as those of tomorrow are sure to eclipse what we consider modern. The problem goes as deep as you want it to go. But as educators and as parents we have a sacred duty to at least think on these things. Acting on them wouldn’t be too bad either.
That’s why LEGO, and robotic toys, are key for the future. In a nutshell, they offer a unique strategy to teach kids coding whilst also keeping the experience fun. The LEGO selection of three STEM toy sets is perhaps the most rounded lineup on the market. As such, it is worth paying it a closer look.
LEGO robot toys have a unique advantage when compared around, and that is – being LEGO. There’s just too many options out there to get kids interested in programming and most come with ready-made shapes.
LEGO on the other hand, removes all limits when it comes to shape. And this has been the trademark of LEGO’s success. Kids can make or break their robots into whatever form they want , however they want. This adds a touch of personality and competition among the robots. There’s little to curb kids’ imaginations when it comes to LEGO – if you want a yellow frog turned upside down and walking on front legs then sure, go for it!
What’s the Best LEGO Robot Toy Set for Schools and Homes?
OK, don’t run that wild, we haven’t yet told you about the sets of LEGO STEM toys available. They come in three different sets in fact, each bringing something new, and designed for children of different age.
There’s the ‘classic’ WeDo set for younger kids perfect to get them into blockly-like coding. Then there’s the LEGO Boost whose phenomenal app is the star of the show and is aimed at children 7+. And finally there’s the Mindstorms set. All the chips are on the table with this one. In addition to entry-level coding, the set primarily focuses on some advanced high-tech programming and is designed for kids of 10+. Each set has a detailed curriculum to go along. We’ll present each of the three variants in some detail here, so you can decide which works best for your home or school environment.
LEGO WeDo 2.0
WeDo robotics set is almost past its intended audience in age. Designed for kids 7-9 years old, the original set has been on the market for soon to be 10 years. It went through multiple improvements and one overhaul (2.0 version), thanks to open collaboration with schools. The end product is the most comprehensive child-friendly LEGO robot toy for educational purposes on the market.
Bricks are what stands out with LEGO, and the company didn’t want to impose too much robotics to it. Just enough. In addition to a set of bricks, WeDo packs sensors with a hub computer, and a motor to power the robots. The setup is then controlled by an intuitive drag-and-drop visual command software, which is where all the fun begins.
WeDo software is a fantastic base language for STEM learning. It is specially designed with young users in mind, as it is one of the easiest software to navigate through. Based on well-known block coding systems, the commands work by dragging & dropping color-coded blocks into a designated bar. The association of colors is the first language a child can learn to implement into coding. There is something magical in seeing their faces glow when robots act out their quirky commands in real life. The easy-to-use software works with all major platforms like Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS.
Besides the LEGO toy robot’s immense versatility, the curriculum is perhaps the biggest selling point for WeDo 2.0. Teachers will appreciate the association with real-life and relatable topics dealing with living things to simple (enough) machines. The syllabus program has multiple different phases, helping teachers navigate and lead the learning process:
- Explore phase is focused on bringing a problem closer and students reaching possible solutions
- Create phase puts the emphasis on building their own robot
- Test phase is different with each project and aims to encourage the students to improve their LEGO toy robots through testing.
- Share phase has students presenting their models and explain the idea or solutions behind it.
WeDo 2.0 is a well-oiled machine. Its previous iteration has been with us all throughout the STEM-focused education. The LEGO Core set 2.0 version is a great starting point to get your child into coding, or help them explore their potential in STEM.
Ok, now Boost. As opposed to WeDo, Boost is a fairly new addition to the LEGO robot toy family. It is in many ways the sublimation of the knowledge the company has earned throughout all these years. Boost packs more bricks, has a light sensor, phenomenal app, and five robots.
To start with, Boost has boosted the recommended age limit. It’s 7-12 now, thanks to the array of options that slightly older kids can enjoy and be challenged by. The original set comes with 847 bricks (yes, that many) to go with a vast array of technical elements. There are more than 200 different element kinds in all. Elements like pins or cogwheels add a touch of complexity that WeDo replaces with versatility. While this is certainly impressive, expect a few hiccups finding just the one your kid needs.
The biggest standpoint from WeDo is that Boost LEGO robot toy rather than having kids build their models from scratch, gives children five full-fledged buildable bots to begin with. Kids can still go beyond the five prescribed models, but it’s here where the fun is. There are:
- Vernie the Robot
- Frankie the Cat
- Guitar 4000
- M.T.R.4 (it’s a rover of sorts)
The app is the true star of LEGO Boost .Though not without some compatibility issues, it’s easy to navigate, and is visually compelling, despite being fairly complex. Similar to WeDo, commands respond inside a block-based palette system that adds progressive complexity. Namely, each of the five robots now has its own programming palette that expands the more children play with them. Vernie is the only one with the power of beatboxing for instance.
What the level-based system does is to encourage the kids to get better at coding and unlock ever more commands. Some of them are rather quirky (cowboy talk)! The system rewards playing and discovering things. The app is visually very likable and very helpful; there are ghost hand instructions for every step of programming.
Where WeDo has a great curriculum with tasks getting more complex, Boost is made with progressiveness built into it. And there are five roads to take, meaning five different robots, so it’s only a matter of preference between the two LEGO robot toy sets. The price point is also very similar.
Speaking of price, Mindstorms LEGO robot toy set is twice the price of either WeDo or Boost. But it’s just as much value for a buck and a hell of lot more complex.
Whereas the first two sets are designed for small children, Mindstorms Core set bears the label 10+. It is coding at its finest, with no limits as to the complexity of creations.
Not unlike Boost, Mindstorms features a lineup of five buildable robots (Track3r, Spik3r, R3ptor, Gripp3r, and Ev3storm). They’re endlessly more intricate that their LEGO Boost counterparts, being able to control some of their constituent parts.
Mindstorms packs more sensors (light, 7-color, touch, or remote control), more intricate mechanical parts (spinning arm for instance) and three motors that can be used as a child sees fit. There’s even a Mindstorms Expansion set that adds to the original offering.
EV3 Brick is the brain behind Mindstorms and this is what powers the range of possibilities behind it. The battery-powered control center has 5 input ports, 4 for sensors and one connecting the EV3 Brick to motors. LEGO improved the sensors and there is even Smartphone Bluetooth support.
Once built, kids will have to program their robots. This is where Mindstorms shines. Working through Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android, The LabVew software is similar, yet also different enough from the simple drag & drop system. It looks more like mathematical modeling software. Adding to the initial software, you can download the Mindstorms Commander app featuring 3D build panels. But where the app truly sets the stage for complexity is with the manual panels. With these, children can control the switches, buttons, or displays however they want. There’s also a remote control to issue commands to robots.
It’s advanced coding for sure, but the initial instructions are pretty clear. The Mindstorms LEGO robot toy is for children who know a thing or two about coding and are willing to put effort in improving their knowledge. Kids in school will surely benefit from the excellent Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book testing the limits of their imagination and skill.
Which is the Best LEGO Coding Robot Toy Set for Schools and Homes?
When it comes to the crunch, deciding on the best LEGO robot toy set for schools and homes will have to be decided by your individual needs and preferences. Rather than us. LEGO has really gone to great lengths to cover all stages of the STEM education process. The LEGO robot toy sets overlap at many points, and all of them are expandable through upgrades. But bottom line goes something like this:
LEGO WeDo is best used in stimulating unbridled imagination in children to create their unique robots. Boost extends the age group to 12 years and stimulates level progression. And with Mindstorms children get the real deal coding robot, that has multiple levels of complexity.
Though the flavour of each may be a bit different, each serves its initial purpose to help children get a handle on, learn, appreciate, improve, or even master their coding skills.