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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Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Welcome to blog sponsor Explorental!

Have you ever considered a LEGO Mindstorms kit for your kids? Maybe you’ve seen them, but are unsure whether the investment is a good one for your family. For less than the cost of a popular game console system, you can have a tool for teaching endless concepts and a source of engineering challenge for your kids.

Reasons to Use LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Working with the Mindstorms kit requires a lot of different skills from students even when you are just starting out. Take a look at some of the subject areas accessed by work with the Mindstorms.

  • Math– Although not always a student favorite, math is applied to the robot building when it comes to programming it. Geometry, particularly circle geometry is necessary to accurately get the robot to rotate the wheels the requested distance.
  • Robotics– Who doesn’t want to build a robot and take over the world? Or at least the LEGO world!
  • Mechanics– Part of the robot building has to do with putting the robot together with the technic pieces. How those fit together and work efficiently is a big part of the task.
  • Physics– Along with efficiency, you need a stable structure. We spend a lot of time learning about which designs are the most stable.
  • Fun– There is no shortage of fun when it comes to exploring with a LEGO Mindstorms kit.

Blog, She Wrote: Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Using Technology in Your Homeschool

Our kids use a lot of technology in our home- whether it’s a Kindle eReader, tablet or computers for programming and playing. One thing we really try to keep in check is how much our children are producers vs consumers when using technology. In other words, are they watching a lot and engaging in passive participation or are they being makers and creators?

LEGO Mindstorms uses software that is drag and drop so you only need to know some basics about how to get the robot to follow your commands. It takes time to master, but it’s worth the end result. I don’t mind my kids toiling for a few hours at a computer if they are actively problem solving. 

Enjoy a look at Ethan (and our basement!), our 15yo 10th grader, explaining one task he and his fellow FIRST LEGO League team members completed for their FLL regional competition in December. Our teams spend 7 hours a week pouring into this particular piece of technology and it earned them Grand Champion at their qualifying tournament.

Teaching with Technology G+ Hangout

Last week the iHN hosted an informative G+ Hangout on Teaching with Technology. I was excited to be one of the participants. Click and view at your leisure to hear how others are using technology in their homes.

Using Explorental to Experience LEGO Mindstorms

LEGO Mindstorms is a wonderful resource for homeschools, but it may not be the right time financially to invest in your own. How do you get a chance to work with the kit without making that big financial investment?

Take advantage of Explorental’s wonderful inventory of technology gadgets and other kits. They offer a LEGO Mindstorms rental for $43.99 for two weeks.

Blog, She Wrote: Explorental

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Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Day 3 of iHN’s Winter Hopscotch is all about science. Today I’m sharing our strategies and resources for homeschooling middle & high school science. Science is my favorite. If you’ve been a reader for awhile, then you may know that my background is science. My BS is in biological sciences and I have a MS degree in Curriculum & Instruction Secondary Education. I am certified to teach biology to 7th-12th graders. I taught science for five years prior to starting a family. My husband is a chemical engineer with a graduate degree also in chemical engineering. This means several important things relevant to today’s post:

  • We are science people. We do science everyday.
  • We talk about science at every turn.
  • People with masters degrees focused on writing science curriculum & science instruction for secondary aged kids don’t buy science curriculum. It’s a rule. They might revoke my degree.
  • When our kids ask a science question, we drop what we’re doing and help them investigate an answer. It’s how we have fun.
  • We are great at doing science all the time. We aren’t great at following a science curriculum.

I think it’s important to be real with you all on this point because it affects how we approach science in our middle and high school homeschool. I’d like to encourage you to try something similar…be inquistive! Help your students to explore the scientific world.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Strategies for Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

One of the best ways to do science is to go and investigate. Learn with your students the process for conducting scientific investigations and then go out and explore the world! Below are some of the ways we do this in our homeschool:

  • Unit Studies– Through middle school we do a lot of science through our unit studies. Either we are studying a book and doing the science that goes with it or the unit study is based around the science. For example, we enjoyed a unit on catapults after watching Punkin’ Chunkin’ one Thanksgiving.
  • Units can be built around a child’s interest– many of you know our daughter is very talented with a sewing machine. There’s a lot of physical science to be taught about sewing machines, so I wrote a unit study on just that.
  • Science as Investigation– I actually speak on this topic quite a bit. The thing to remember is not to get bogged down in the process. You don’t have to have fancy equipment to do science. So many people want to make sure all their ducks are in a row and it paralyzes them when it comes to doing experiments. Don’t be afraid to look things up with your kids and try things out. We once did a huge experiment on popcorn– which variety popped the biggest. We talked with the kids about how to do a fair test and we walked them through setting up the experiment. Then we popped a lot of corn and measured the volume by calculating the amount of space the popped volume took up in a cylinder!
  • Project Based Homeschooling– We are prime candidates for homeschooling science with student driven projects. It’s comes naturally to mentor our kids into finding their own way on something they are interested in. This year our 8th grader is studying biology through the life of snakes– she has one she caught and has been taking care of since June.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Our Favorite Resources for Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

In lieu of recommending curriculum for science, I’m going to give you a list of our favorite resources. These are things we pull from or have the kids reference and enjoy during their studies.

  • Janice VanCleave Books– These books are an excellent source for science experiments and longer term science investigations. Easy to understand and follow and Ms. VanCleave does a great job of explaining the results.
  • Beyond Five in a Row– Excellent literature unit studies which have robust science studies in them including more than a few books about famous scientists.
  • Usborne Science Encyclopedia– Great science reference with links to follow on the internet.
  • Field Guides– A thorough guide for mammals, flowers, trees, reptiles, amphibians and other major animal and plants groups are a valuable tool for nature studies and biology.
  • The Handbook of Nature Study– A lovely text sharing a lot of science for the natural world. A popular book for homeschoolers, if you’ve never read it I encourage you to do so. Mrs. Comstock has a dry sense of humor that is not obvious from the appearance of the book.
  • Glassware– We buy ours from Home Science Tools (and locally at our backyard university’s supply rooms). I used to use our kitchenware, but I much prefer the designated scienceware.
  • cK-12 Open Source Textbook– It’s what we use for high school biology & chemistry. They have a text, workbooks, and some subjects have lab workbooks too.
  • Top 10 Tools for the Home Scientist– You might be interested in our favorite picks from this list I wrote for Uzinggo.
  • Life of Fred: Physics & Biology– R13 is going through Physics now followed by Biology both of which are pre-Algebra books.
  • Science Biographies– We study the lives of scientists which gives you a whole picture of a time, place, and event. This is a very Charlotte Mason approach and it yields big results. MoonShot and Skunkworks are among the books our 6th grader has read in his quest to learn more about flight and rocketry.

Giveaway for Polymer Science Unit from Elmer’s Glue

Since I’m all into doing investigations, I’m happy to offer you a bonus opportunity today. Elmer’s is giving away one box set pictured below. You’ll get a signed copy of Too Much Glue along with a unit on adhesives to go with the book and some glues for the activity. Leave a comment and tell me your favorite topic in science to enter!

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Join other bloggers from the iHN for their tips on teaching science. See you tomorrow for a look at history.

HopscotchiHNJanuary2013

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