LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Career Guidance

Published on November 23, 2016

LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Career Guidance

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    A well-known parable says that when a young mother approached a sage with a child in her arms and asked how old she should start raising her offspring, the elder replied that she was too late for how many years the child was already. With a choice of future calling, the situation is quite similar. It is difficult to demand awareness of your inclinations and interests from the baby, but now in high school all kinds of specializations begin, and by this time it would be nice to know which way the grown child is going. But one thing we already know almost certainly - in the coming decades from 30 to 80% of professions will be fully automated.

    Robotics, cybernetics, understanding of algorithms - that set of skills with which, most likely, people will not face so vague prospects. Of course, most likely, in parallel with the replacement of labor with robots, the concept of unconditional basic income will also develop, but it is unlikely that you want a similar future for your child.

    There are many ways to quickly show young and interested audiences the basics of programming and robotics. All of them are inexpensive, fairly easy to learn, and after a few hours give an understanding of the basics of algorithms and concepts of cybernetic devices. But in classrooms, it’s easy to encounter the disadvantages of these platforms - limited wear resistance (and to be honest - “idiocy resistance” too) of breadboards, software interfaces that are not very friendly for children aged 11-12, a relatively small element of the “game”.

    For more than twenty years, they have been struggling with all these shortcomings in the most famous LEGO Education development kit company. This is, of course, the MINDSTORMS Education EV3 platform. Starting from the Mindstorms RCX produced in the early 90s and ending with the most advanced MINDSTORMS Education EV3 complex, the principle of platform formation remains the same. It is based on an “intelligent brick”, a microcomputer with a screen and I / O ports, to which all other components are connected. As in any robotic system, peripheral devices are divided into sensors and effectors. Using sensors, the robot perceives the surrounding world, and thanks to the effectors, it reacts to it in accordance with the program laid down. The components of the platform are connected together with simple cables without soldering,

    In the previous post, we examined the possibilities of such solutions in general, now we want to dwell in more detail on LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3.


    LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 is made compatible with Lego Technic parts. This means that the platform can be used to create the most diverse and even incredible designs, from simple “cars” and “roboruk” to complex conveyors or even “solvers” of the Rubik's Cube. In fact, any Lego Technic kit can become a source of parts for projects, and there will also be no problems replacing damaged spare parts. Yes, they do not look so brutal as the old Soviet aluminum designer, but in practice they are even stronger than metal products. At least in my collection, which started in 1993, not a single broken part has yet been discovered.

    Included with the MINDSTORMS Education EV3 basic educational kit are 541 Lego Technic parts. You can buy either a specialized resource kit like 45560 (or an older 9648, which was also produced for NXT), or just a big designer like 42043 (2800 parts) or 42055 (almost 4000 parts), and, having played enough with the main model, put it on "Bricks" for cybernetic experiments. In terms of one part, Lego here is very much superior to other sets - only 3-5 rubles per piece.

    Well, if someone has preserved the old collection, which includes tens of thousands of parts, then you don’t have to worry about resources at all.

    A screenshot from the Brickset service (an interactive database for owners of Lego constructors that allows you to collect various statistics) of the author

    However, this only applies to “passive” elements like beams, wheels or connecting pins. Sensors and effectors, of course, are much more expensive, but they are more than enough in the basic set. Mindstorms EV3 comes complete with three motors (two larger and more powerful and one compact servo), a pair of touch sensors (a kind of “smart” buttons), ultrasonic, gyroscopic and color sensors (it can also work in the light sensor mode). Plus, compatibility with sensors from the previous generation of Lego Education robots - Mindstorms NXT (they include, for example, a noise level sensor) is preserved.

    But back to the smart brick, the heart of the system. This is really quite a weighty and voluminous “brick” equipped with a 178x128 monochrome LCD screen (not only the menu is displayed on it, but also all kinds of custom pictures in the process) with a variable backlight color. Using wires with a standard RJ-12 connector, sensors and effectors (up to four devices of each type) are connected to it, there is a microSDHC slot and a USB port.

    The latter can be used both to download the programs themselves, and to update the firmware. However, the microcontroller and wireless interfaces are not deprived, if you wish, you can download programs via Wi-Fi (you need an external module) or Bluetooth (built-in). Also, if we assemble a robot with remote control, you can “steer” it using wireless communication from a smartphone or tablet.

    Inside the “smart brick” lives a 300-MHz ARM processor, 16 megabytes of read-only memory (and this is why the card comes in handy) and 64 megabytes of RAM. No matter how modest these numbers may seem, there is more than enough power to execute even the most branched algorithms that you or a child can write in the learning process. And if you compare it with the 48-MHz processor of the previous generation NXT, which recently turned ten years old, then the progress is quite noticeable. However, it cannot be said that the NXT would slow down any noticeably in the process of solving typical problems.

    Plus, a fourth port for motors appeared, in itself this is a significant extension of the functionality that justifies the upgrade.

    The USB port now supports host mode, this allows you to not only connect a Wi-Fi adapter, but also connect several EV3 units into one complex robot. True, the level of tasks at the same time becomes completely "not childish."

    Finally, MINDSTORMS Education EV3 got support for battery power. Instead of six AA batteries, you can install the included lithium-ion battery for two with an ampere-hour tail. Of course, no one forbids using finger-type batteries like eneloop, but the need to remove them for charging makes usability below average. And at the price a couple of eneloop kits with a charger are quite comparable to a branded battery.

    Oh yes, there was a large and loud speaker, which now can not only squeak retro tunes from the 8-bit era, but also play more pleasant sounds.

    Now let's look at the effectors from the basic set. Two of them are powerful motors, similar to those already used in the NXT, elongated devices that develop serious torque thanks to an internal reduction gear.

    In case of blocking the motor, a mechanical friction clutch is provided, which begins to slip if the friction is greater than the calculated one, so the motor is quite difficult to burn.
    There is a rotation angle sensor with a resolution of one degree (the motor tells the controller what angle its axis is now turned to) and the ability to precisely synchronize the rotation of all connected motors.

    The third, the so-called M-servo drive (medium-sized motor) produces three times less torque, but its rotation speed is almost two times higher.

    As for the sensors, in fact it is not at all necessary to be limited to those that LEGO Education offers (although they are higher than the roof for any educational project), a number of third-party companies produce compatible and sometimes quite exotic sensors. The firmware source code and hardware specifications are completely open .


    We talked a lot about the hardware base, but in fact, not only it determines the effectiveness of classes in robotics. It is the presence of truly intuitive software on a variety of platforms (Mac, PC, mobile devices) and ready-made curricula that makes LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 the platform of choice for learning, and especially at the turn of primary and secondary schools, for children of about ten.

    IPad Welcome Screen

    The visualization of the algorithms in the native LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 software is simply at the highest level - it’s enough just in a few minutes to learn the main types of interaction of logical blocks (transition conditions, cycle, etc.) and gradually increase the complexity of programs in the future. Of course, there are also ready-made training projects for dozens of different models of robots, and if desired, thousands of interesting programs can be found in online communities.

    An example program in an application for iPad

    Advanced users can install LabVIEW or RobotC - the "brains" of LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 are fully compatible with these packages. Here, exporting old projects for NXT without additional conversion, alas, will not work.

    From the educational point of view, of much greater interest isdesktop software version . It allows you to keep electronic notebooks of students, thanks to which the teacher can, from his version of the application, evaluate the success of a particular student and monitor his progress. Plus, you can use not only the training materials available on board the software (of which there are many), but you can also create your own using the built-in content editor.

    Training videos on working with the EV3 content editor

    And in the desktop version there is a data logging utility with the ability to program areas of the graph depending on threshold values. That is, now the teacher can easily demonstrate the work of modern technologies in the framework of a smart home, for example.

    The EV3 microcomputer will collect data from sensors in real time and, depending on the temperature background, will launch one or another model program. At high temperature, the fan turns on, at low - the heater. And students will be able to capture and analyze data, finalizing the model.

    Data logging The

    openness of smart brick firmware has already played a role: there are alternative options that support most popular programming languages ​​(dozens of them). By and large, the use of EV3 can be “screwed” to any educational project related to programming, since little is as happy as the opportunity to see the work of your own algorithms “in hardware”.

    Many expect the price to be a stumbling block in this story. Indeed, for the Basic Set you will have to pay 29,900 rubles, plus another 2,500 to pay for charging. However, this amount includes parts and electronics for the comfortable work of two students, as well as full-fledged basic software with 48 ready-made classes (which since January 2016 is completely free for both individuals and organizations). Of course, additional equipment and sets of tasks can increase the cost, but within reason. So a set for 8 students, including basic and resource sets LME EV3, chargers, software and an additional set of assignments “Engineering Projects” , will cost 174,900. It is quite acceptable to equip, for example, a mug at school.

    Yes, it is noticeably more expensive than simple Arduino-like platforms. But the opportunities as well as the level of involvement are much higher. The EV3-based curriculum can be easily planned for the entire high school and beyond. In addition, with adequate use of LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3, it will be trivial to “survive” several simple kits due to mechanical qualities, easy interchangeability and accessibility of parts (in my practice, only one RJ-12 cable required replacement in a 10-year-old NXT).

    As a result, we see an almost open source project supported by a giant company with all the bonuses laid down in this situation - a large life cycle, the availability of spare parts and extensions, official and amateur guides, and a developed community. Mindstorms has become practically the standard of Western educational classes in robotics for children, and it would be really great to see its widespread distribution in Russia.

    Path selection

    And now to the main thing. Unlike the WeDo 2.0 kits, EV3 is aimed at high school, respectively, for older children, for whom the question of choosing a future profession is already more serious.

    Using EV3, each of the students will be able to more actively reveal the abilities that were inherent in him by nature, upbringing and the educational process.

    A born mathematician will closely monitor the telemetry of sensors, how exactly the distance traveled by the robot is recorded, how the angle by which it is deflected is recorded, and so on.

    The future IT specialist, by itself, will plunge into the programming of the robot, analyzing the algorithms along which it moves. And it will certainly create its own, not provided for by the regular instruction.

    A child who is keen on physics will be able to conduct visual experiments with the help of a robot, since the sets have no problems with sensors, as well as a child with imagination.

    In general, no matter what the child’s interests and favorite subjects are at school, learning with the MINDSTORMS EV3 kits will allow them to be more clearly distinguished and focus on their future development.

    In life

    At the moment, the company’s solutions are already being used by students to create interesting projects, both within the framework of various competitions and for overall development. This year, the media wrote about a number of them.

    Astrakhan schoolchildren Ruslan Kazimov and Mikhail Gladyshev based on the regional technopark have developed a robot simulator for the rehabilitation of hand joints.

    photo - Eighth-

    graders spent a little less than two months developing the simulator. They presented their project at the regional stage of the IX All-Russian competition of scientific and innovative projects in the Southern Federal District, where they took second place. In the future, they plan to create an industrial design - while the developers offer only a prototype made from the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 educational robotic kit.

    The device duplicates the movements performed by the doctor - the joints begin to work, thereby restoring the mobility of not only them, but also muscle groups. While the devices are connected via Bluetooth, in the future they will communicate via the Internet or Wi-Fi.

    Analogues of such a device are on the market, however, the Astrakhan device can work simultaneously with the shoulder, wrist and elbow joints. In addition, it is portable and runs on battery power. There is also the possibility of remote control, that is, the patient can train without leaving home.

    At the 2015 World Robotics Olympiad (WRO 2015), the Russian DRL team from St. Petersburg was awarded a special creativity prize from LEGO Education (LEGO EDUCATION CREATIVITY AWARD).

    The Russian DRL team introduced the CaveBot project. The guys from St. Petersburg, led by trainer Sergei Filippov, created a unique research robot to discover uncharted areas in caves. Development affects various scientific fields, since a unique robot makes it possible to perform tasks of various complexity.

    The team built a climbing robot equipped with various sensors to detect objects with a view to their subsequent research. The obtained data can be turned into 3D models on a computer.

    And 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee created a Braille printer from LEGO parts as part of a school science project. Later, with the participation of his family, a startup was launched to launch the invention, which received financial support from the technical corporation Intel.

    (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

    The idea to create a printer came to Shubham after researching Braille on the Internet. Realizing that printers for touch printing cost from $ 2,000 and higher, the student decided to make a cheaper version.

    Soon after the invention, blind children and their parents began to contact Shubham with the only request - to make an inexpensive Braille printer, promising to "buy it directly from the shelf."

    As you can see, the use of MINDSTORMS Education EV3 in the learning process allows students to maximize the inclusion of fantasy, creating more and more new mechanisms that not only help to implement ideas or visualize any experiments, but also begin to determine their future profession.

    If you have questions about the use of these solutions in the educational process (or about the products themselves) - write them in the comments.