Purchasing an EV3 robot: Retail vs Education Sets


A lot of parents, teachers, and administrators have asked about which set to purchase. Perhaps you have a budding roboticist; maybe you are interested in starting a club at your school; or maybe you want to teach your child the fundamentals of computer coding. This post hopes to shed light on why there is a difference of about $100-$200 between these two sets.

This is the 3rd generation of program-able robot bricks that Lego has launched. (Hence the name, EV3).

Lego robotic sets are not only super-cool, but also super-expensive. If you were a Lego maniac like me, and scrounged to save all of your birthday gift-cards and money to buy that super-awesome, ultra-cool Lego set that cost a ba-jillion dollars, you know what I am talking about… No matter how hard my brothers and I saved, or how long I pleaded with my parents, some Lego sets were quite beyond our financial reach – despite being a middle class family with two working parents. The same thing is true for budget - strapped school districts.

The EV3 robotics set # 31313 has an off-the-shelf retail version that is about $350 - $375. Half of that price tag comes from the intelligent programmable brick. It is like a robot brain: connecting motors, sensors, saving and running computer code. You can build at least 12 different robotic models straight out of the box… with detailed, step – by – step instructions for how to write code using the Lego programming interface. This software is freely downloadable, and works better for computers than it does on tablets and cell phones.

The EV3 Educational set # 45544 has a market value of $450 - $550 in America. (We are lucky because, in other countries, it is a lot more expensive!) The EV3 educational model has the same intelligent brick but comes with several more sophisticated sensors & pieces. Most importantly, it comes with a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack and charger. Without this, the brick takes six 1.5V batteries.

Set #45544 comes with a gyro sensor that can convey position and change in angles (like 90 degree right-triangle angles). There are more pieces for the chassis, larger tractor treads, and bigger wheels. The Infra-red (IR) sensor and remote control – which is available in the retail set – is replaced by an ultrasonic sensor that can detect objects as close as 1 centimeter away.

Both the Educational & Retail EV3 Mindstorm sets come with color sensors, touch sensors, 2 large and 1 medium sized motors. But the final distinction that parents & teachers will love is the software suite. The Educational package comes with lesson plans, tutorials, out – of the – box basics that can be studied, reviewed, and even mastered.

For a teacher, working with unfamiliar content is difficult. And, it becomes twice as hard if the project is hands-on fun like science or Lego robot code writing. That is why purchasing a Lego Educational set is a much smarter decision for schools, and students that want to participate in extra-curricular clubs, building events, and competitions.

With very few exceptions, only EV3 Mindstorm and Lego pieces can be used in official WRO (World Robotic Olympiad) competitions throughout middle, high school, and even college level tournaments. Regardless of which set you purchase, all Lego pieces can be used in regional, state, national, and WRO tournaments.

Generally, Dragomanns would suggest going with a retail set for beginners that are in elementary school. The IR sensor makes it easy to control motors, and develop a sense of why we program. For older students, school programs, and kids who want to code, we recommend the Education set # 45544.

Lego Mindstorms are well worth the investment, resilient standing the test of time. EV3 sets came out around 2013. Before that, the NXT sets (a grey-orange robotics kit with very similar pieces was used.) For the most part, there is complete reverse compatibility between pieces - which is to be expected with Lego.

EV3 is versatile, with at least 15 completely unique robot builds, step by step programming instructions, a large body of 3rd party literature, a genre of art, and an international tournament well into its second decade of fun social gatherings, conferences, and fun! Drop us a line for more details.


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