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

LEGO MINDSTORMS
Damien is a member of the MCP (Mindstorms Community Program), a small group of experts who collaborate with LEGO to make the MINDSTORM product better.

VEX IQ Robotics
Damien is a member of the VEX IQ Super User group, a small group of experts who collaborate with VEX to make the VEX IQ platform a better product 

 

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Friday
Oct172014

LEGO EV3 vs VEX IQ

I get asked all the time, “which is the better system?”, so I thought I would put together my thoughts.

       

Disclaimer

I am very lucky to have had both LEGO and VEX send me complimentary kits.  I have also been a guest of LEGO at the 2010 LEGO World Expo in Zwolle and a guest of VEX at the 2014 VEX World Championships in California.  Both companies have been very generous to me for which I’m extremely grateful!

 

What this review is / isn’t

This is not a review about which is best as a birthday present or which would be most competitive at a robot competition.  This review is aimed squarely at the use of robotics in an educational setting to teach STEM concepts.  This is a review based around the use of these systems in a Classroom.  My focus has always been an educational one, and while both sets do have a strong retail presence, I prefer to look at them through the eyes of a Teacher.  In this review, I’ll also be taking the view of a fairly novice teacher, new to the area of Robotics in Education.  While there is an already huge community of experienced teachers in this field, these people typically have the resources and knowledge required to use whatever resources they have available to them.

 


Hardware

Both kits come with a controller, motors, sensors and building pieces.  They both employ the same building philosophy of being a modular, toolless construction system.  You use pins and specialty connectors to assemble together various beams and plates to make your robot designs.

The EV3 system ‘feels’ a bit stiffer and things generally tend to click together firmly without too much thought.  The VEX IQ plastic beams are a little thinner than the EV3 ones, and as such have a bit more flex to them.  This requires a little more bracing to make sturdy robots, but it also allows you to bend the longer beams without damage, allowing for some ‘interesting’ shapes that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.  The VEX IQ system however has a greater assortment of larger plates and beams which makes building larger contraptions a lot easier.  The EV3 has more ‘pretty’ pieces, that functionally don’t do a huge amount, but do allow nicer looking robots.  VEX have recently created a large array of coloured beams and connectors and the VEX Hexbug line has some cool looking ‘pretty’ parts that are compatible if you want to go down that path.

The EV3 is compatible with every other LEGO kit and the VEX IQ is compatible with all the other VEX EDR Metal products.  Both kits have a great assortment of parts and come in a sturdy plastic box with a divider tray to keep things organised.  

Winner:  It’s a Tie.  

In a classroom environment I’m most interested in a quick build of a simple robot base so that I can get stuck into programming.  Even after we explore simple programming, I’m looking for a system that can then expand to simple mechanical extensions eg. grippers, levers etc.

Both systems provide enough basic parts to build a simple robot and some additional attachments for a STEM based classroom course.  While the additional LEGO connector types would allow more complex and intricate building, in my classes (which sometimes number 30+ kids), I prefer to do the simple things really well, rather than try anything fancy.


Electronics

LEGO EV3

The standard LEGO EV3 Core set (45544) comes with the following

EV3 Brick (the brain), 2 Large Motors, 1 Medium motor, Gyroscope Sensor, Ultrasonic Sensor, 2 Touch Sensors and a Colour Sensor

The EV3 brain allows 4 inputs (sensors) and 4 outputs (motors) and you can use the on-brick buttons as additional sensors.  The EV3 Core set comes with a rechargeable battery that can be charged while it is stil in the controller (providing you don’t build over the charging port.  The EV3 can also be run with 6xAA batteries should you need to.

 

VEX IQ

The VEX IQ Starter Kit comes with the following;

VEX IQ Robot Brain, 4 Smart Motors, 2 Touch LED Sensors, 2 Bumper Switches, Distance Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Colour Sensor.

The VEX IQ Brain can take up to 12 inputs / outputs which you configure in the software.  This means that it doesn’t matter what type of thing you plug in (sensor or motor) as long as you don’t do more than 12.  The VEX IQ is powered by a rechargeable battery only.  Unfortunately this means that if someone forgets to put it on charge, you’re out of luck for the lesson.

 

Both kits have Touch/Bumper sensors, Ultrasonic/Distance Sensors and a Colour Sensor.  Both also come with a rechargeable battery which is crucial in a classroom environment.  The EV3 has 2 larger power motors and a medium motor which allows for some flexibility, whereas the VEX IQ has 4 of their Smart Motors.  All motors have enough torque to perform the tasks you’d expect from classroom activities.  All sensors work as you’d expect in a classroom, and while there may be some subtle discrepancies in range / accuracy, you won’t see it when doing your typical education based activities.

Winner: VEX IQ.  

The 12 input/outputs are a big plus for me and a total of 4 motors in the standard kit allows for things like grab-and-lift mechanical attachments to be added with ease.  While I know it’s possible to do that with just a single motor, that’s not a challenge I’d give to novice students.  The Touch LED sensors are pretty cool as well and the ability to switch it’s output colour is a useful tool for students to help debug.  Special mention to the EV3 Display which allows things like images, but the lack of a backlight and small text makes it difficult to read (especially amongst some ‘older’ teachers without the visual sharpness of vision their younger colleagues have).  

 

Software

Both systems can be programmed with RobotC, an excellent text based programming language from Robomatter that is also exploring graphical interfaces.  However, they both have their own Graphical Programming Interface that they recommend.  

LEGO EV3

EV3-G. This graphical software is extremely easy to use and is very intuitive.  Robot commands are easy to find and the on-block configuration makes it easy to modify and experiment with.  Constructing simple programs is a breeze and as a teacher it is easy to read the programs to help kids debug and problem solve.  The education version of the software has a powerful Datalogging component that allows the EV3 kit to branch well beyond robotics and into some fantastic Science and Math opportunities.  EV3-G has a full-featured content editor which allows students to document their projects as they go.  The LEGO software has also be translated / localised into 15 different languages, making it a truly global product.

 

VEX IQ

Modkit for VEX.  This graphical language is built on the SCRATCH framework and uses a similar idea of dragging and snapping together blocks.  MODKIT runs in the browser which means there is no need to install software.  There is an offline version of the software in the works for those schools with bandwidth / firewall issues.    The software is split into two sections;

Robot Setup:  This is where you define which Ports the various motors and sensors are plugged into as well as the dimensions of your robot, wheelbase length, wheel sizes etc.

Programming:  This is where the instructions are assembled. Each electronic component of the kit has it’s own processor, which means that you can have say a motor running it’s own set of instructions at the same time as a sensor or the main brain itself.  If your students have used Scratch before, they pick this language up immediately.

 

Winner: LEGO EV3.  

The EV3-G software is very easy to use and very intuitive.  I spend very little time showing the students what to do as they figure it out very quickly.  The Content Editor is extremely useful for students as they can document their projects as they go.  While this could be done in another program, having it right in front of the students eyes is very valuable.  Modkit is certainly making improvements with their software and their latest release improves on the block click-and-drag experience from previous versions.  Modkit requires a little more reading than EV3-G, and as such younger kids without as well developed literacy skills struggle to put together programs.  While the parallel processing of the VEX IQ system can be extremely powerful, in a classroom situation, it would not be used to its full potential.

 

Supporting Hardware

The LEGO MINDSTORMS system is a very mature system with plenty of 3rd parties making sensors that can plug directly into the EV3 brain.  HiTechnic and Mindsensors have a dizzying array of sensors you can plug straight in.  The VEX IQ Controller is a nice addition to the IQ kit, as it allows you to remotely control your robot.  Handy if you’re looking at a more mechanically based challenge and don’t want to fiddle around with the programming too much.  I can’t find any 3rd party sensors for the VEX IQ, however, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist!

Winner: LEGO EV3.  

The range of add-ons is pretty impressive, but I will caveat this with a few points.  The MINDSTORMS system has been around for quite a while, allowing 3rd party suppliers time to develop these sensors.  I’m under the impression that VEX are keen for the same thing to happen, and will be encouraging and supporting anyone who wants to make compatible sensors.  The sensors that come in a standard kit for both the EV3 and IQ however are more than enough for a classroom application, and as I’ve mentioned previously, in a novice classroom,I prefer to do the simple things well and thoroughly, rather than trying anything fancy.

 

Supporting Resources

(disclaimer, I have a very popular teacher resource book for the EV3 and will shortly have one for the IQ)

LEGO EV3:

There is a huge range of educationally specific material that is available for the EV3.  The EV3 Design Engineering Projects (US$299) is an official product from LEGO with a full curriculum laid out in an easy to access manner.  LEGO also have an EV3 Space Challenge (US$329) and EV3 Science pack (US$199) which are filled with excellent and relevant activities.  All these resources are translated into 12 different languages.

Robomatter also has an extremely good curriculum guide and there are a number of excellent free online courses you can take as well.

There are quite a few books based around EV3, and while the majority are focussed on the Retail version of the kit, there are a few good ones for the Educational version.

 

VEX IQ:

The official VEX education offerings are a little on the lean side.  They have a nice Curriculum set out, but it is fairly broad and instead highlights a lot of the overarching principles of STEM.  This is all provided free on their website.  It would have been nice to have seen exactly how to solve at least some of the activities from a specific Modkit or RobotC point of view, especially for novice teachers who need some hand-holding to get started.  Robomatter have an equivalent VEX IQ curriculum set which looks really nice.  

 

Winner:  LEGO EV3.  

There are currently far more resources out there for the EV3 than the VEX IQ.  They are extremely high quality and very comprehensive.  Many of the LEGO offerings are complete classroom solutions meaning teachers just need to follow the instructions for a very thorough, educational rigorous, unit of work.  While you don’t have to purchase additional materials in order to use either of these kits in class, I know that a novice teacher certainly appreciates a little guidance when starting out.  

 

Cost

Prices are taken from the US sites of each company.  Prices may vary in your region!

EV3 Core Set: $339.95

EV3-G Software Site Licence:  $399.95   (N.B. The retail version which does not have tutorials / datalogging is free, although it use in classrooms on multiple machines is questionable)

 

VEX IQ Starter Kit: $249.99

Modkit for VEX:  Free

 

Winner:  VEX IQ.  

The Starter Kit has more motors and sensors and is about 30% cheaper than the EV3.  In addition, you don’t need to purchase any software to get started.  LEGO offer a 12 robot deal, (good for a class of between 24 and 36 kids) and so I’ve made a comparison with an equivalent number of VEX IQ sets.  VEX have a deal with 12 of their Super Kits (Starter Kit + Controller) but do not have an equivalent deal with the Starter Kit on their website

 

Prices are again taken from the US websites:

VEX IQ:  12 x Starter Kits = $2999.88

LEGO EV3: 12 x Core Sets + Site Licence = $4366.95

 

Overall winner

I know you’re going to hate me for this, but I can’t pick a standout winner.  

The EV3 software is fantastic to use, especially at younger age groups and the robots certainly can be made to look really nice.  This is not to be underestimated when engagement of a class of students is at stake.  The supporting curriculum material is excellent and there are plenty of classroom ideas and activities readily available.  

The VEX IQ’s cheaper price as well as its ability to take 12 inputs / outputs is very appealing, especially for the budget conscious school.  Cheaper robots mean I can work with more students.  The Modkit team are really receptive with feedback about their software, and given it is browser based, they are rapidly improving the stability and features of the software.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Reader Comments (28)

Hi Damien,

Nice article. I agree with most of your points and while I have a very limited interaction with my one Vex IQ kit so far, I will comment on a few of the points that have stuck out. The 12 ports on the VEX IQ that can be configured as either input or output are great. Makes builds easier and allows greater flexibility in attaching motor and sensors. The EV3 screen is horrible. When I train older adults, many of them have to squint to see the screen; it can become quite frustrating. And the "recent programs" tab on EV3 really confuses my students.

In most other ways (pieces, programming, resources, color) I think EV3 wins hands down.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIan Chow-Miller

Thank you very much for this great article... i was looking for the differences :)

October 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Thank you for this comparison. I teach at an alternative high school. I am very new to all of this, but introducing robots is so exciting. I am leaning toward vex IQ for the cost and scratch style programming.

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Many good comparisons. However, the primary difference is the driver control option. In Vex IQ there is normally a driver, but also an autonomous option. In EV3 it's only auton.

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJerry P

Jerry, in terms of competitions, the VEX-IQ challenge certainly does utilize the driver control really well, however in a classroom situation, where you're focussing more on the STEM side of things, I think the driver control is less of a determinin gfactor. I can also make a pretty simple EV3 controller with two Push Buttons and some long cables :)

The driver control leads to more engineering activities, whereas autonomous functions lead to more software based activities.

As with all tools, it'll depend on what you are trying to teach! :)

November 11, 2014 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

What is the difference between the free EV3 Home Edition and the Education EV3?

If it is logging and you're comparing a free non-logging ModKit wouldn't the free EV3 Home Edition programming software be a better comparison point?

If you need to log data, then as you say the Education EV3 may be the only option and in a comparison class of it's own.

November 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJacob A

Excellent point Jacob. I do highlight that the Retail version is free but it's use in classroom is a grey area. The EV3 Education software also has all the tutorials and build instructions that are specific to the Edu kit.

If you were looking at going down the science path where data logging is essential, then ModKit certainly would not be very helpful. I'd be then looking at a comparison between EV3-G and RobotC..... but that is a comparison for another day :)

November 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Thanks Damien for the comparison,Since you mention This review is aimed squarely at the use of robotics in an educational setting to teach STEM concepts in your post the Most important feature of Datalogging which is very much useful to the teacher in Science and STEM labs are not discussed, EV3 has an excellent Data logging software included hence with the EV3 compatibility with 3 party sensors teachers can use it in the classroom teaching , EV3 software is more than just robot controller it also has datalogging,Teacher content developer and editor, Can you please clarify whether VEXIQ mod kit has the Datalogging feature with the teacher content editors tools.

February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSenthil

lol
u r serous?

February 25, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterlol

Thanks Damian for you comparation, I am a novel teacher a, you can clearme some questions, thank a lot from Bolivia-Santa Cruz

August 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Hi Daniel,

Feel free to drop me a message with any questions you may have.

August 17, 2015 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Hi Damien Kee,

Thanks a lot for this detailed comparison - I have one question which will be a better option of software to buy after buying Ev3 core set (Education) the lego's own software Ev3-g or a license of Robotc ??

I want this for my 10 year old son to start learning programming so which is a better option considering future growth and free online tutorials.

Thanks,
Abhi

August 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAbhi

Hi Abhi, that is a tough question. Both software are very good at getting kids into programming. I would suggest that EV3-G is probably just a little easier to get started, but it is a little more cumbersome when you start doing very advanced programming.

Either would be a good choice!

September 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Damien - Great write up! Thanks for putting this together. It is really helpful, especially for people like me who are new to robotics. I have been looking around for the differences and basically another option to Lego EV3/NX4/Wedo.

My kids are big into Lego but I would rather them work with something more "real".

I am interested in getting my sons into programing. They had a blast at LegoLand with the NXT and Wedo. We only have Linux laptops and desktops at home (and a couple of Chromebooks). I know that Wedo works with Scratch on Ubuntu 15.04. Am considering the Arduino as an option as well.

Not sure I want something as proprietary as Lego. Although with 4 boys 5 thru 10, we have thousands of Legos around the house.

Would appreciate any advice/direction

October 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKevin C

Thanks damien! This has helped a lot as i am attempting to review the VEX IQ system for a college task and i have been able to extract both pros and cons for the system thanks to the detailed report you have written up.

November 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNathan C

Hi Damien, first of all thank you for all that you do. I have used your material and books extensively when preparing our students for FLL and other competitions. Now we are exploring about Vex and this sight truly helps us make our decisions. If you have new curriculum to purchase for (1) EV3 Education (2) Scratch (3) Vex or any other awesome material from you, we are very interested. Thanks again

Jay from Japan

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Damien- Thank you for this article. It has been very helpful. I am an educator, but now I'm venturing into opening a STEM center for kids. I want to incorporate a program such as Lego Mindstorm or VEX IQ.
With the new updates to the programs since 2014 (when you wrote this article) which would you recommend for someone who has no clue on this? I would love to hear feedback from you or anyone who can help.

April 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJeannetteScipio

I think the vex was amazing and started the whole mindtorms line even if the programming software looks like scratch

September 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commentertaylor steer

Hi Damien

Just saw your post. I agree, I wouldn't be able to choose. I work with both.

Just wondering if you have any suggestiion about the best type of computer

to use for both. My computer seem old and I'm not quite a tecky kinda of person.

Any help would be apprediated.

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterQKS

I use fairly basic laptops for all my workshops. The HP Stream11 is enough for my needs at the moment :)

September 27, 2016 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

This was a fantastic post! At one school I used EV3 and due to no computer lab, I was using ipads only. It was a bit frustrating with the connectivity issues via bluetooth, but all in all it was fine once it was working.

I currently am at a school that uses VEX EDR. I want to buy some EV3 or IQ to supplement, and my dilemma is deciding what to purchase. EV3 is as solid as it gets. Lego pieces and are virtually indestructable, i've never had to and the brain seems quite solid as well.

The VEX EDR model explains why VEX as a company is doing so well. Constantly have to buy replacement parts, motors burn out, the frame pieces that need to be cut for competition need to be replaced. My question to you is, how is the durability of the IQ system? You mentioned in your article that pieces are thinner. Do they break? How often do they need to be replaced?

Thanks!

October 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Hi Mike,

I find the IQ parts very durable. Yes they are a little thinner, but they are wider than standard LEGO which gives them plenty of strength. The motors and brain have also been really reliable for me as well. Sorry, it probably doesn't help you make a decision!

October 20, 2016 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

thx i got both but my dad say i had to get rid of my vex and i now realise he is rite

December 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterme

Your information is very informative. Yet I have a question:
We are exploring options for an after school STEAM program with robotics.
We have used VEX products for district wide competitions, so we have motors and components, etc.
Our school is diverse: many ELL students. Do you think the Lego edu system would be "easier" to use or
should we just stay with VEX? We are hoping to include more students in our robotics program this year.
Thanks,
Martha
Buffalo

January 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterM Eadie

Hi Martha, thanks for the message,

That is a tough question to answer. It will depend very much on your students and teachers. More people have had experience with the LEGO system, so are familiar with how things go together in general, but the VEX system is just as strong / flexible etc.

The challenge here is not so much the platform you use, but what activities you plan to use with them. If your challenges are beyond the capability of your students and teachers, then both platforms will struggle to engage them.

Given you already have VEX IQ parts, I would recommend staying with them and adding more. It will be far cheaper than switching to LEGO which means that you can engage more students.

Hope this helps!

January 4, 2017 | Registered CommenterDamien Kee

Great comparison! Here is my 5 cents:
LEGO EV3 allows just 4 motors and it is frustrating but if you use something like this you can easily increase this number !!
http://www.mindsensors.com/ev3-and-nxt/21-multiplexer-for-nxtev3-motors?search_query=Multiplexer+for+NXT+Motors&results=2
So it means we can have more motors and more sensors and it means Lego EV3 is a bit preferable :)

March 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSerg

Another 5 cents - Also I've found more info on Ev3
"Additionally, the USB port can be used to link up to four EV3 bricks so that you can control up to 16 motors and 16 sensors on one robot."
Taken from this article : http://robotsquare.com/2013/07/16/ev3-nxt-compatibility/
Looks like ev3 allows to use more than 4 motors and senors if needed!

March 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSerg

@ Serg, each of those bricks will cost and additional $189.99, plus tax where applicable https://shop.lego.com/en-US/EV3-Intelligent-Brick-45500. That means an additional $380 dollars to have a comparable number of outputs.

September 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterkylearn

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