Resources for Teaching with LEGO® Mindstorms
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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.
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.
This post is part of iHN’s Resources for Homeschool Moms link up. Visit the link to learn about more resources from other bloggers.
Wow! I have not heard of this lego stuff yet, but my kids LOVE Legos (they’re 6, 5, 3). Sounds like we’ve got some fun new stuff to start trying out here in the near future. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be revisiting often to figure out what I need!
Thanks Katie! Mindstorms are a ton of fun. The next post on the topic will be about which set to buy. That’s a good for getting started.
If you have a moment, what are your thoughts on the WeDo system? Would you just skip it? I have an almost-eight-year-old that we wanted to get started on this stuff. He’s good with lego, but neither he nor I have any robotics or programming background at all. Is going straight to Mindstorms just too much? Or is doing WeDo a waste of money?
I would go right for the Mindstorms because WeDo is basically preprogrammed to run basic motors to give you moving parts. He’ll out grow those quickly. Mindstorms are easy to learn and they grow with your kids. He will be challenged for many years with Mindstorms. There are a lot of materials for beginners especially for the home kit.
Heather this makes me wish so badly that we had embarked on the Lego mindtorms with my boys when they were younger. Sadly I have crates of Legos in my garage that need a good home :-/ Love this post, great stuff!!
Thanks Meredith! Your 10yo is not too old!
Heather — thank you for all of these helpful resources. I just ordered the first book you mentioned. We’re starting our LEGO robotics club next week and I’m trying to be very prepared!! Do you have any tips for me?? Happy New Year!
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