The LEGO Mindstorms kits are one of the best lines LEGO has released in the last couple years. With the blend of basic computer science and simple building techniques, Mindstorms gives inexperienced kids a chance to make their own robots very easily.
(A guest post from GeekTeen and longtime LEGO robot builder John Ceceri.)
LEGO Education recently sent us a sample of the Mindstorms Education kit, a version of Mindstorms designed for classroom use, to play around with. I brought the kit over to the home of GeekMom Judy Berna and asked her sons, ages 9, 14 and 17, to try it out. It was interesting how they quickly got into making the robots — it only took about a half-hour. Even the nine-year-old was able to make a simple robot by himself. At first, they didn’t even get into the programming with the software that much — they were able to make the robots go with just the basic software included on the NXT Brick.
The Education kit doesn’t differ much from the retail version, but there are some big incentives to getting this kit. The first is that this set has a much more in-depth tutorial for using the Mindstorms software and parts. While the retail kit is pretty easy to start programming, the Education kit goes into detail about the more advanced techniques which can be helpful for making more complex robots. There are also some rare components such as the three cables that are backwards-compatible with the older Mindstorms, which older builders might appreciate.
There is also a second program with this kit that goes into data-logging, though I didn’t get much of a chance to look through and see what it was about. There is a tutorial included in this program as well, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to start working with it.
Overall, I thought that the Mindstorms Education kit is good for its main purpose: teaching kids about robotics. For serious collectors or builders, this is a good kit to add onto either version of the retail kit, including the most recent LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0. There really isn’t much difference besides the LEGO parts and small changes to the program. For those kids with a serious interest in robotics, this is a great place to start.
NOTE: The kit which the GeekTeen got to try out was the LEGO Mindstorms Education NXT Homeschool Pack, available from www.legoeducation.us for $345.95. It includes the LEGO Mindstorms Education NXT Base Set ($279.95) and the LEGO Mindstorms Education NXT Software 2.1 package ($79.95).