The latest iteration of the Lego Mindstorms Robotics kit is here and it is simply fantastic. Released in September 2013, the EV3 series boasts improvements and additions over its NXT predecessor that are too numerous to list here. Suffice to say that the complexity level has also been ratcheted up a notch and may appear daunting to those whose first experience is the EV3 set. Being new to robotics in general and the Lego series of robotics kits in particular, I finally pulled the trigger earlier this year and purchased the EV3 Home set (kit # 31313). Here are some helpful hints I learned on my first day of unboxing this powerful system:
Keep the Box
Part of the box packaging of the Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit unfolds into a full color ‘Mission Pad’ that you can use to complete challenges or to give your programming lessons some focus. Once you get a few robot builds under your belt and get familiar with how to program you’ll be glad you didn’t act like it was Christmas morning and tear open the box. Downloadable programs that make use of the ‘Mission Pad’ are also available online.
Organize Your Pieces
With right around 600 pieces, this kit has a lot to keep track of. Well over 100 of those pieces are little more than half an inch long and I quickly realized that the cellophane packaging that they all came in wasn’t going to be much use. I resorted to using resealable sandwich bags for the smaller pieces and a couple of resealable freezer bags for the larger parts. Also, I’d recommend getting familiar with each sensor and motor to ensure you are installing the correct piece. To someone new to this space, the sensors and motors can look very similar.
Build the TRACK3R
Included in the EV3 kit are the printed instructions on how to build one of the basic robots featured on the box cover. Building TRACK3R provides a great tutorial on how to build robots using the Lego pieces, how to get some of the sensors and motors hooked up and how to get some basic understanding of how to work the ‘Intelligent Brick’. My kids and I built the TRACK3R in less than two hours and that was with us being very slow and deliberate in our steps.
Within two hours of first opening the box, my kids and I had a robot that we could instantly play with and had gained a high-level understanding of what was involved in designing our own future robots. More importantly, the first experience was a good one. That has kept the motivation and excitement high for future projects. Following the above tips will give you and those you may be mentoring a positive start to the world of robotics. You can head over to the official Mindstorms page to learn more about the Lego Mindstorms EV3 system.