LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

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What homeschooling family wouldn’t want a LEGO Mindstorms Kit? Even if you aren’t hardcore into engineering and robotics, this set of materials can do a lot of really cool stuff. When families get serious about buying a kit, one of the questions we get is which one? The robotics kits are packaged and sold in two main ways- the retail home kit and the education kit sold through LEGO Education. Let’s learn more about these kits with LEGO® Mindstorms: Home Kit vs Education Kit.

Features of the LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit

LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

The home kit is available through both the LEGO.com site and places like Amazon. You won’t need to go through LEGO Education to get this kit. Here are some of the features of the home kit:

  • Comes with an infrared sensor- measure the distances of reflected objects and can read signals from the infrared beacon
  • Includes an infrared beacon or controller- think remote control
  • Color sensor- shines a light on a surface and measures the reflected light back to measure the color or brightness of a surface. It can also detect how much light is coming its way.
  • Touch sensor- a loose button that can be pushed. It helps the robot to move away from an obstacle or to perform certain tasks.
  • There is no ultrasonic sensor
  • Has some fun pieces which are purely for cool design purposes

Sensors are hooked up to the Mindstorm computer to perform tasks. The touch sensor can help a robot escape an obstacle while an ultrasonic sensor can help the robot to avoid an obstacle. The sensors allow the robot to interact with the world around it. Your student will do the programming so the sensors can maximize the robot’s abilities.

The cool thing about the infrared sensor and its beacon is that you can remotely control your robot. How is that not fun? The Education kit lacks this sensor and beacon because it’s not allowed in FIRST LEGO League competitions.

Benefits of the LEGO® Mindstorms Education Kit

LEGO® Mindstorms Home Kit vs. Education Kit

So, what does the education kit have that the home kit does not? Here’s a brief list we’ve come up with:

  • Ultrasonic sensor- sends out ultrasonic waves to bounce off objects
  • Gyroscope sensor- measures the robot’s rotational motion and changes its orientation
  • Turntable type gear- this is a large gear which anchors a part to another so that one can move and the other stays still
  • Large rubber tires for the robot
  • More parts- the education kit comes with a larger volume of technic pieces which are the pieces LEGO developed for more articulation among parts. There aren’t really bricks in these kits. Your kids have worked with Technic pieces if they’ve built things with moving parts.
  • Kit is limited by FLL rules- the base education kit doesn’t come with anything not allowed in FLL competition.

The Best LEGO® Mindstorms Kit for Your Homeschool

So, what is the verdict? Which kit is best for homeschoolers? Our vote is the home kit! Here are some reasons why we like this kit:

  • Availability of Books– most of the books you find on Amazon and other retail outlets are written for the home kit. Is that a big deal? It can be. Since the parts lists are not the same, you may find yourself without essential items for a build.
  • Price of Accompanying Resources– the books sold in the retail world are at a price point most families can afford. Especially if you are new to Mindstorms, you want to get resources to go with it that you can easily get through the library or bookstore which give you a head start on working the Mindstorms kit.
  • Education Curriculum– curriculum written for the education kit is much more expensive and it’s classroom oriented with its pieces and directions. You may find it’s not as easy to implement in a homeschool setting. Plus, the cost is prohibitive in many cases.

Our recommendation is to purchase the home kit and add pieces from the education kit as you need them or would want them. You can buy the sensors separately and you can even buy a parts kit from LEGO Education which is what we’ve done. This way, you get the best of both worlds and your base kit is one that will allow you to use books rather than a strict curriculum.

You want the the kit to work for your family for many years of discovery at any age. These kits are a fantastic investment and they grow with your kids well into high school.

Other LEGO Mindstorms Posts at Blog, She Wrote

Resources for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms

We get a lot of mileage out of our Mindstorms kits. We have an education NXT kit and an EV3 home kit. Plus, our kids are deeply involved with FIRST LEGO League which my husband coaches. We have a lot of experience with Mindstorms. Here are some other posts you might enjoy.

Resources for Teaching with LEGO Mindstorms– Books and websites devoted to working with the Mindstorms kits.

Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool– So, what’s the big deal? What can your family gain from using Mindstorms? Find out here!

FIRST LEGO League Science, Technology, & Teamwork– A look at an FLL competition team and some of the missions the team worked on that season.

Next up in the Mindstorm series will be lessons and ideas for using the kits in your homeschool. I’ll be sharing lessons about gears, using sensors, and even characterizing a robot. I hope you’ll join me!

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Resources for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms

Resources for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

We are a big LEGO® Mindstorms family and I often get questions about how we teach our kids using the Mindstorms. They are a significant investment for homeschoolers and it’s important to know what’s available to help you along. Questions like:

  • Do you use curriculum?
  • How do you manage what your kids are learning?
  • What resources are out there to help?
  • Do I have to invest in LEGO Mindstorms curriculum?
  • Which kit do I buy- the home kit or the education kit?

To answer these questions, I’m going to do a series of posts on how we use LEGO Mindstorms. I’ll be sharing Resources for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms, which to buy- the home kit or the education kit, activities to do with the kits, and some general strategies for building and using the robots.

Book Resources for LEGO Mindstorms

There are a lot of books available in bookstores and on Amazon which focus on the robot kits. The first thing to distinguish is whether you have an NXT model or the newer EV3. I’m going to list a few ideas for the EV3 because that is the current model and it’s what’s supported by LEGO. If you have an NXT, most of these authors have a book very similar for that software and they are still available at Amazon. I’ve listed one below.

LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book– This is a great book for beginners to get to know the EV3.

Exploring LEGO Mindstorms EV3– Some ideas and tools for building and programming EV3 robots for beginner through advanced users.

Maximum LEGO EV3 (Building Robots with Java Brains)– A book for users who want to go beyond the basics of programming using the LEGO software. Our 5th grader has been using this book to use a different firmware along with leJOS to “hack” the Linux OS on the EV3. Our engineer needs a challenge and I thought this book would do the trick. It has!

MAKE: Lego & Arduino Projects– This book is all about extending the Mindstorms NXT with open source electronics. Joshua has a “shield” for his NXT brick which allows him to program the brick using the Arduino.

There are books of all kinds for Mindstorms. They are written by talented people who want to share projects with kids. Some books have specific robots to build and others teach basic strategies with some robot directions mixed in. Choose your child’s skill level and work from there.

 

Resources for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms

 

Websites for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms

We’ve found and used a number of websites over the years. LEGO.com has a lot of content on their site to go with the Home Kit. There are others as well. If you have a kit and you are looking for more help, check these out.

Build a Robot– a section of the LEGO website which has about 17 or so robot building directions.

Community Build Challenges– Offered by LEGO, these are challenges to build a robot which can do something specific. This link also has previous challenges which can provide ideas for your robotics engineer.

Learn to Program– This is a set of tutorials from lego.com which helps students to get the basics down.

Dr. Graeme– A website devoted to EV3 and NXT tutorials. You can also find challenges here which are a great tool for getting to know the kit.

Tutorials for EV3– from Dr. Graeme, a list of tutorials with choices for whether or not you have the home vs the education kit. You can learn about how to use sensors and how to build specific robots with challenges included. This site also gives tips on how to best use the information he provides.

NXT Programs– This is a great site full of robots to build using the NXT kits along with the programs to go with them.

LEGO Education Community– A place to find lessons and ideas for using Mindstorms and other LEGO education products. The challenges are valuable for use with your students.

FIRST– For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Get to know the organization behind FIRST LEGO League and the robotics competitions it supports.

Other Mindstorms Posts on Blog, She Wrote

Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool– This is an overview of what your students gain if you use the robot kits.

FIRST LEGO League: Science, Technology, & Teamwork– Our family has been deeply involved with Junior FLL and FLL for 8 years. Learn more about what FLL is and what it means to be on a team. Below is a video from that post where Ethan (then 15) shows off the team robot and the missions they’ve programmed.

 

5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn’t Do Without– This list includes the LEGO® Mindstorms among other things you might find an interest in.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to engaging with the Mindstorms kits. You don’t need a formal curriculum to get a lot out of your investment. In my next post in the series, I’m going to address the question of which kit is best- the home kit or the education kit.

 

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5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn’t Do Without

5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn't Do Without

I suppose that’s a little strong. I mean we could  live without these items in our homeschool. But, for sure, it would be missing some exceptional opportunities. This post is all about the 5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn’t Do Without. I hope it encourages you to consider how you might make better use of some of the everyday technology in your home.

Kindles & Tablets

How to Homeschool with a Kindle

We use our Kindles every day! These have probably been the single best addition to our techy homeschool in the last two years. All the kids have them and use them in a variety of ways. Of course, other tablets such as iPads and Android tablets work well with Kindle apps, but if you are looking for an economical way to enter the world of tablets, you can’t beat the Kindle Fire. The Paperwhite is a great tool as well if you just want the reader. I’ve written a lot about how we use Kindle tablets, but here are a few ideas:

  • Read Books– Nothing like a good old fashioned read from a tablet! There are a lot of ways to highlight and take notes while you read. Get to know your tool and it won’t let you down.
  • Listen to Audio Books– This is especially dreamy with an Audible account which allows you to download the files wirelessly.
  • Do Research– Having a portable portal to the internet means being able to keep working and look something up at the same time and a small device works well in small work spaces.
  • Watch Video Content– Either from a YouTube playlist, embedded text links, or other sources. You can watch anywhere at any time. Dare I admit that we can even access our satellite dish remotely on the go?
  • Follow Tutorials– This is great for art projects and hands on moments. My artist daughter uses it for her Craftsy classes. It’s so easy to have the tablet right there and to work as she watches.

Video Conferencing

How to Collaborate As an Illustrator

Whether it’s Skype or a Google + Hangout, we can meet long distance for a variety of reasons. For example:

  • Playing Chess Virtually– with a relative or a friend. Our kids have played regularly with their grandfather over Skype.
  • Conducting G+ Hangouts– I appear regularly with Bright Ideas Press
  • Project Collaborations– with homeschoolers far away. There are so many things you could work on together even while far apart.
  • Book Clubs– A fun way to get like minded kids and teens together to discuss books
  • Writer’s Workshops– Long distance sharing of writing is a great option for a video conference format.

The nice thing about using video conferences that it brings people together if they are far apart and it’s an easier way to convene if you live local to one another as well. Sometimes it’s easier to set aside time if you don’t include drive time.

LEGO Mindstorms

Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

LEGO Mindstorms have been a mainstay of our homeschool for many years. We got our first kit ages ago and we’ve been exploring the world of robotics ever since:

  • Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool– This is a great list of why we use Mindstorms and it tells some of the cool things we’ve done with the kits.
  • FIRST LEGO League– Dan has been an FLL World Congress judge and a coach for 8 years. He had the opportunity to judge the World Congress in 2005 when the challenge was a Nanotechnology theme. Since then, he’s been coaching teams and running a JrFLL event. Our teams meet 7 hours a week in preparation for competition days. That’s a lot of Mindstorm time for our kids!
  • Assigned Challenges– For example, when our 16yo was 10 he was challenged to make a speed trap for a marble on a marble roller coaster.
  • Programming Challenge– Our 10yo is a new EV3 owner and he’s been working to program the brick with Java instead of the Mindstorms software. He’s always looking to push the edge!

Digital Microscope

Tips for Using a Digital Microscope

Do you have a microscope in your homeschool? You can use digital microscopes to:

  • Allow all of your kids to see the image under the scope at once- huddling around one expensive microscope it highly overrated.
  • Let’s younger kids use a microscope successfully without damaging the slide.
  • Fantastic tool for taking a quick look at a specimen- whether it is living or not.
  • Record live video of a pond critter on your slide.
  • Take still photos of magnified specimens.

Visit Tips for Using a Digital Microscope to read more about how we use this technology.

Computers/Laptops

We have three desktop computers and three laptops. Two of them belong to Dan and I and the others are shared by the kids. Several of them are hand-me-down machines that aren’t the top of the line, but they are hard workers and allow our kids to work simultaneously when it’s necessary. It’s a lot of work to support and maintain a computer network, but it’s worth the effort.

Computers are used at some point daily to:

  • Participate in Online Classes– both long term and short term
  • Attend Conferences
  • Listen to Podcasts & Other Audio
  • Play Music– We have a Rhapsody account and we listen to music with an online interface or app
  • Access Video Content– whether it’s YouTube or hyperlinks within text
  • Word Processing– writing and editing papers, stories, etc
  • Spreadsheet
  • Computer Programming– Our 10yo is an avid programmer and is always into creating new code for an idea he has.
  • Interfacing with LEGO Mindstorms
  • Arduino Work– Joshua works with his Arduino board and programs it using the software.

More Technology Posts from Blog, She Wrote

How to Make a YouTube Playlist

Managing the Internet in Your Home– This is a three part series written by my husband, Dan on how to use your router and Open DNS to filter content and to implement access control. You’ll be given the tools and instructions for limiting time on devices and turning internet on and off at various times- down to the machine or device you want off or to have access.

How to Homeschool with a Kindle– Kindle eReaders and tablets are essential to our homeschool these days. How do we use them? What’s the big deal? Read on to find all the ways we enjoy them.

How to Make a YouTube Playlist– Did you know you can make a preset playlist of YouTube videos for your children to view? You can! And you can make as many categories as you’d like to sort them.

Best Educational YouTube Channels for Homeschoolers– Now that you know how to make a playlist in YouTube, it’s time to visit the best educational channels around and add to them!

How to Use Google Earth– What’s not to love about this virtual globe? Learn how to use this tool to its fullest potential and see all the resources out there to help you use it in your homeschool.

While technology doesn’t make up our whole homeschool experience, it certainly does enhance it in extraordinary ways.

How do you use technology in your homeschool? What’s your family’s favorite?

 

Other iHN bloggers are sharing their lists of things their homeschool can’t do without. Visit and enjoy!

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