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Damien works with students and teacher from around the world, bringing the effective use of technology to the classroom.  

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Wednesday
Jan092013

EV3 vs NXT (The Educators Dilemma) 

           

 

With the release of the new EV3 Mindstorms system (more info), I've had a few emails from teachers asking me what they should do; Stick with the NXT or go with the EV3? I've been very lucky to have had the EV3 for a few months to check it out and my answer is - 'it depends'

I'm going to preface all of this by pointing out that I have seen some AMAZING teaching being done all all types of robotics kits. It is far more important what you do, rather than what you do it with. I still see teacher effectively teaching and engaging kids with the RCX units. The new EV3 units in no way make the NXT (or RCX) obsolete.

“Children learn best when they are actively engaged in constructing something that has a personal meaning to them – be it a poem, a robot, a sandcastle, or a computer program.” — Seymour Papert

Just quickly, the differences. Hardware wise, there is a new intelligent brick (the EV3 unit) and new sensors (Gyro). There are a different arrangement of LEGO parts but as with all LEGO, it all fits together so NXT beams and pins will fit the EV3 beams and pins. In my opinion, the EV3 is more 'evolutionary' rather than 'revolutionary'. We lose the Sound sensor, which in my opinion was the best sensor of all in a classroom.

Software wise, the new software is very nice. All the parameters for each block are visible on the block itself (no configuration panels anymore). This great as it means you can do a 'print screen' and see all the parameters of each block at once. You can zoom in and out which is handy and the inbuilt documentation tool is fantastic. Datalogging has received a boost, with a return to the old RoboLab idea of additionally processing the data rather than just viewing it. There are a bunch of other bells and whistles and they have taken on a lot of feedback to make some of the niggly things in NXT a bit easier to do (ie, multiple switch cases). The new software is backwards compatible with the NXT (although the EV3 brick is not compatible with the NXT-G software)

A few extra points of note

  • Once again there will be a Retail (Home) version as well as an Education version. As with the NXT I am predicting this will cause a huge amount of confusion. The Edu version will come with the rechargable battery, something that is invaluable in a classroom situation.
  • I have heard unofficially that NXT's will continue to be supported until 2015. What 'supported' means exactly I'm not too sure, hopefully it means you can continue to buy sets and spare parts although I'm sure they will become increasingly difficult to find as time wears on.
  • The EV3 will not be available for purchase until the second half of 2013. This means at best July / August and at worst you may not actually have them in your hands until late in the year.
  • The price is a little more expensive. A single set is currently slated at US$339 (vs the current US$295 for the NXT) Multiple kits will get you a slight discount.
  • There is Curriculum available and is touted as being 40+ hours and linking with curriculum standards. I'm not sure if this will be an additional purchase or which countries curriculum it is referring to (I am assuming US)

So where does that leave teachers / educators / schools? I think that will depend on what your current situation is. New to robotics or have existing NXTs (or even RCXs!)

No current robotics investment:
For those schools with no robotics at all and are looking to jump in, if you can hang on until the end of the year, then I highly recommend getting the EV3. It is a fantastic product and will stand you in good stead for many years to come. The RCX was around for around 8 years before the NXT came along and the NXT has been out for a similar amount of time.

Have had your NXT kits for a number of years and staff / students are comfortable with them:
Again I would recommend the EV3 when you budget rolls arounf to getting more robots. The concepts are the same and your students and staff should transition easily to the new setup (students usually quicker than the staff!). You can switch over to the new software and still program all your original NXTs. If you've had NXTs for a while you probably find that you have a few teachers that are keen to push the boundaries and try something new.

Just started out with NXTs in the last year or so:
This is probably the trickiest situation to be in. It's a hard call, but I would suggest you stay with the NXTs. Try and stock up on a few in case they become rare in the coming year. You'll want to consolidate your program an trying to run 2 systems at the same time will confuse novice teachers. It is far better to have a confident teacher on older hardware, than a clueless teacher on the latest technology. The NXTs will easily last you another 4-5 years and in that time you can then look to do a swap over.

Don't get sucked into what I often hear called the 'shiny shiny' effect. Technology is only as good as the person using it, and just because you have something fancy, doesn't mean your students are going to learn any better by just having it.

I said it earlier and will say it again - The new EV3 units do not in any way make the NXTs obsolete.  Take the time to evaluate what you are doing, and make a decision on what you are trying to achieve, and then decide the best way to implement that.

If anyone ever has any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

**these views are completely mine, and are in no way connected to the LEGO group**

 

***UPDATE 17/1/13***

A few teachers have chimed in with some really good advice.  One option I didn't think about was keeping the NXT hardware and purchasing the software.  This keeps all the kids in the same development environment and when the time / budget does arrive to purchase EV3, you don't have to worry about 2 programming languages.

The physical building technique stays the same between NXT and EV3 (pins and beams as opposed to the RCX studs and plates) so there is less of a learning curve to transfer in this respect.

Additionally, there will be some schools doing a wholesale upgrade to EV3 so will have plenty of second hand NXT's on offer

The other major point was that there is already a huge amount of teacher resources / books / support already in existance for the NXT.  No doubt the curriculum put out by LEGO Education will be good and authors will be quick to release their own material, but these things do take time.

(thanks to Craig, Martijn, Paul, Gina and Ian for their feedback)

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Reader Comments (24)

Hi Damien.
I agree on that dilemma and I was expecting something like this, that why I've created my own educational robot, to be cheap and far away from this regular kit options. From what i know of EV3, it seems interesting in different levels (universities?) to explore the ARM9, but again, it would be more interesting if it comes with better sensors (camera?).
Anyway, thanks for this review about the educators side.

January 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTiago Caldeira

Damian, I fully agree with the three different situations that teachers/schools may be faced with. One other option that I would personally add is the possibility of acquiring 2nd hand NXTs from those ready to do the 'swap'. I am sure that as time will pass, the advantages of EV3 will push for swaps, especially if a market will be created by those seeking a cheap way to get hold of NXTs.

January 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Paul I like your idea of an exchange market place for those looking to move on. In my own district, this is the way I've enticed my administration to purchase me EV3s - by telling them they'll have lots of my NXTs left over to push the Robotics' program down to elementary.

Damien - I think you've laid out a very logical framework for looking at the issue. To bolster your arguments, FLL has just announced (http://firstlegoleague.org/productEV3) that EV3 will be allowed next year but so will NXT and even RCX - with no plans to stop either of those in the near future (at least no stated plans).
And we've both seen amazing things done in the competition arena by students using different platforms, so there's no advantage there for EV3.

That having been said, I agree that new purchasers will want to go EV3 if they can afford it, recent NXT purchasers will want to stick with NXT for a few years, and those considering replacing older NXTs will probably want to go EV3.

January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIan Chow-Miller

ok my nxt is in samba mode and will not start but theres a clicking thing (wont give the start up sound and wont display any thing) I hade this app that had (BOOT SAMBA MODE) so I clicked it now it lead to this it will only stay on for like a second and ya um Ive been lookin and people say it has no firmware but my computer cant detect the nxt (also when on ((for the second)) actally after on so off I guess ...after the computer says that it disconnected if I hold the orange button then it keeps on the clicking so I think its on but the computer gives A beep saying it disconnected but the cord wasn't touched so ya ....the program was nxtscreen I think please help me

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchristopher

Chris, you have 'clicking-brick-syndrome'

Hopefully these instructions will get you back on track.

http://www.damienkee.com/storage/nxt_resources/NXT%20Malfunction%20Walkthrough.pdf

Regards
Damien Kee

March 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

So from prior comments I am getting the impression that the NXT will be able to run the EV3 software? With the huge upgrades in memory and such on the EV3 how is this possible? Is it really practical and will it actually work as fluidly as it should?

April 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterM. Beck

Hi M.Beck,

Yes you can use the EV3 software on the NXT. The program sizes using the EV3 software are not that much bigger than the NXT, but with the EV3 you can store more programs.

I've had a bit of a play, and it does feel pretty fluid to me :)

I think the EV3 software will be a nice transition point for some school, especially those that already have a significant investment in the NXT. It is easy to work with, very user friendly and the content editor will be incredible for documenting and assessment.

April 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

I've gotten to look at a beta version of the EV-3 Software. Having no hardware yet, I'm trying to get it to see my NXT bricks. No success so far. How do I get the NXT to hook up to the software?

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Decker

Steve, you should just be able to plug the NXT in. In the bottom right hand corner where the Hardware Panel is, you should see that change from EV3 to NXT to indicate that there is an NXT connected.

Hope this helps!

May 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Hi,
we have NXTs in our school and I'm still wondering what advantages the EV3 would bring beside faster processing and more storage for programs. The new software can be used with NXT. So what are the distinct advantages to switch to EV3?
Richard

May 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Richard,

From an Educational point of view, the EV3 Hardware doesn't offer revolutionary better performance. The NXT however is being phased out over the next few years, so for those schools looking to upgrade broken equipment or expand their robotics program, the EV3 is the natural upgrade.

The software however is really nice and I see the content editor playing a huge part in an educational setting. Luckily the new software also will talk the the NXT's so it is a good transitional step to make.

May 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Hi Damien, need your advice: based on inputs above, I have decided to buy NXT base + EV3 sw. I'll have to wait till Aug or later for EV3 sw. But I need to be operational in Jun with some basic training capability. I am very price sensitive.

Two options with me now:
a) order NXT base + NXT sw now and then again EV3 sw later. (Waste of money: I'm on a tight budget)
b) order NXT base now and EV3 sw later, and manage with free downloadable NXT sw 2.0 in the interim.

Questions:

1. Will the 2.0 sw be sufficient for the interim, given that the students have not had any exposure to any Mindstorm kit yet? They should be able to have a lot of fun with 2.0 itself?. I read (http://www.nxtprograms.com/help/software.html) that "the LEGO Education NXT-G 2.1 software is required to use any programs that use the color sensor or the Pack-and-Go (.rbtx) format, otherwise the LEGO Education NXT-G 2.0 software will work with most 2.0 programs" Moreover, I am not going to get a color sensor with NXT base anyway.

2. This way I realize that the Robot Educator's 46 tutorials will not be part of this 2.0 free download since it is retail, but can I make do with the ton of online tutorials available in the interim?

Thanks.

May 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMohan

Hi,
With RCX and NXT there was a possibility to program with NXC / Bricxcc. I.e. Textual programming
Does anyone know if there already are devolopments in that?

Merijn

June 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMerijn

The problem for the moment with the EV3, I had mine delivered last week and 'played' with a trial version a few months back, is that the software does not appear to provide access to 3rd Party sensors and actuators as did the NXT-G. In science education, the field I work in, being able to make use of the vast array of Vernier sensors (via their adaptor), a good range of LogIT sensors (via their adaptor), HiTechnic, Mindsensors and Dexter Industries sensors, are pretty much essential as the LEGO range is very limited. Similarly, as a LabVIEW enthusiast for science education, I'd have liked to have seen a new version of it released alongside. Curently I have not learned of a release date for it to cater for the EV3, LEGO and 3rd Party sensors and actuators. So, for the present, I see the NXT as continuing its place in science education until the updates/upgrades in ithe EV3's software are made available. A pity, as the EV3's faster sampling rate, and other new features, makes it even more useful in physics education.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris Butlin

Chris you are in luck! Mindsensor and Hitechnic have announced that the majority of their sensors will work with the EV3. I have no doubt that other manufacturers will soon follow.

However you are perfectly correct in noting that the NXT is still an excellent tool for Science education. The hardware is mature and there are plenty of resources out there to support them. As I keep telling teachers, just because the EV3 has been released, does in no way mean that the NXT is now obsolete :)

August 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Does anyone know the minimum software and hardware specs and requirements for the EV3 software for both PC and MAC?

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Jay, these are the specs for the Home edition, so I'm assuming the EDU version will be the same

Microsoft Windows:
Windows XP (32 bit only) and Vista (32/64 bit) excluding Starter Edition - with the latest Service Packs
Windows 7 (32/64 bit) and Windows 8 desktop mode including Starter Edition - with the latest Service packs
Dual core processor 2.0 GHz or better
2GB of RAM or more
2GB of available hard-disk space
XGA display (1024 x 768)
1 available USB port
Apple Macintosh:
Mac OS 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8 with the latest Service packs
Dual core processor 2.0 GHz or better
2GB of RAM or more
2GB of available hard-disk space
XGA display (1024 x 768)
1 available USB port

September 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Thank you very much.

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

RCX Sensor on EV3 with genuine Lego parts ???

Hi !
Can anyone post a method to get a RCX cable (sensor) to the EV3 that would be First Lego League compliant, i.e. genuine Lego parts?
My lads have used RCX sensors last year in their robot designs and got used to them and good at it.

The old adaptor cable (that gave out Pin 1 and Pin 2 on the two poles of the PowerFunctions / RCX 2x2 Lego plate style connector) does not work any more, because EV3 has no GND on Pin2 any more, rather it uses Pin2 as an INPUT to check for Logic Level. Only below 0,86V "LOW" is detected (just use a resistor well below 4,2kOhm from Pin 2 to 3) and then and ONLY then a raw value from the EV3 raw value block is displayed.

(Else the ominous "undefinded" signal is given, which is no number and I don't now how to trap (in IR reciever: distance, e.g....).)

To make the old adaptor work, Lego would have to program a block "Raw value of RCX blocks" where the input would have to be re-programmed as an output and set to LOW, as the Adaptor has no bridge from pin2 to pin3 inside the black box in the middle of the cable.

(I quickly re-wired the connection in the black box of the adaptor cable to have Pin 3, red, to go to the RCX side and soldered in a 1kOhm Resistor from Pin 2 to Pin 3 (yes, Pin 3 is sitting unconnected, the red cable), which totally does the job, but I'm not allowed to do this in / for the FLL. Or am I, if this behavior is considered a bug on behalf of LEGO?)
You can just bridge Pin2 and Pin3, but NEVER plug this in the wrong side, i.e. a motor output, it does a shortage there between one Motor pole on Pin2 and GND on Pin3.

I have used my multimeter to get facts on the table. Time consuming.
Isn't there some "hardware developers kit for EV3" out there? Would mean some guys could work straight forward and would not have to guess so much.

Thanks for some help.

Yours

Andi

September 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndiSH

I try to highlight the differences between NXT and EV3 sensors in this article http://www.intorobotics.com/sensors-lego-mindstorms-ev3-features-comparison/ and I have to recognize that there is place for improvements

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

Isn't the Home Edition of the EV3 software different from the Educational Version? Does anyone have a table/chart comparing THE SOFTWARE?

Thanks.

October 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rabourn

Mike,

I have finally gotten around to do a comparison.

http://www.damienkee.com/home/2013/10/2/ev3-education-vs-ev3-home-software.html

Not a whole heap that is different between the two.

October 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Damien,

I have had these kits in my classroom for a couple months now. Up until this year, I was teaching PLCs using the old RCX system. For me, this was a big upgrade. I was actually able to use the old Control Lab builds (conveyor belt and robotic arm) and retrofit them to the EV3 motors and sensors with very little issues.

The one thing I do not like about the software was the lack of jumps and forks. Otherwise, it is very nice.

October 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris Miller

Thanks for posting this. Very nice recap of some of the key points in my talk. I hope you and your readers find it useful! Thanks again

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteracademiccollegiate

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