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EV3 Robotic sets: Retail vs. Educational

A lot of parents, teachers, and administrators have asked us about which robot set to purchase. Perhaps there is a child interested in programming, or maybe a school district would like to start a club.

There are two main Lego MINDSTORMS EV3 sets: one is sold in most "retail" outlets like Target, Amazon, or the Lego Store.

The second is officially available at the Lego Education USA website.

Each comes with its own free software, complete instructions for 6 unique robot builds, and step-by-step code writing prompts.

Both robotic sets with about 80% exactly the same pieces. But depending on why, and for whom you buy, there are some critical differences. We hope this post is able to clarify why there is about $100 - $200 dollar difference in pricing.

Lego robotic sets are not only super-cool, but are 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 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 six different robotic models straight out of the box… with detailed, step–by–step instructions for how to write code using the Lego programming interface. I love the missions; they are fun to do. And you can complete each one in less than an hour or two. The 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. (It is a lot more expensive in other countries!) The EV3 educational model has the same intelligent brick but comes with several more sophisticated sensors & pieces. Most importantly, there is a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack and charger.

There is 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.

The exact same EV3 Educational set # 45544 is used in official WRO (World Robotic Olympiad) competitions throughout middle, high school, and even college level tournaments. Lego Mindstorms are well worth the investment, resilient standing the test of time, and 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!


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