A New Kid (Kit) in Town – LEGO Mindstorms EV3

LEGO has just introduced a new Mindstorms EV3 for 2013. The exact shipping date is unknown till around March 2013. Some are speculating this summer, other sources are stating Fall 2013. Teams who are registering for FIRST LEGO League (FLL) starting in May 2013 can pre-order the new EV3 kit and plan accordingly.

To anticipate questions from FLL teams, LEGO Education has published a detailed Q&A. In short, EV3 is allowed for the 2013-2014 FLL season, while the current Mindstorms NXT will be supported by LEGO till 2015.

More reviews and information can be found online.  These video1, video2, recorded at the LEGO EV3 unveiling on Jan. 7, 2013, give a quick overview of the new product.

Basically, LEGO will once again introduce a EV3 Retail kit ($350) and an EV3 Education kit ($435 with software) as it has previously done, where the software for the Education core set ($340) is sold separately.

The EV3 Education software will include many multimedia, user-friendly, short classroom curriculum, which is more suitable for formal instructional use, or for someone who has no prior Mindstorms experience. In-depth Mindstorms instructions was previously supplemented by Carnegie Mellon, now LEGO Education is recapturing that market in its new EV3 product line.

EV3 has a new programming language and is compatible with the NXT sensors, but NXT cannot program the EV3’s sensors or use the newly developed EV3 programming language. The rechargeable battery packs are not interchangeable between the NXT and EV3 bricks, but the charger is. All other LEGO Technic pieces can be used in both sets.

The Retail and Education core sets come with different components as well:

Education Set: 2 large motors, 1 small motor, 2 touch sensors, 1 color sensor, 1 ultrasonic sensor with red LED, 1 gyro sensor, 1 rechargeable battery. Software with multimedia instructional curriculum is not included.

Retail Set: 2 large motors, 1 small motor, 1 touch sensors, 1 color sensor, 1 IR proximity sensor, 1 remote IR beacon. Software is included.

There are definitely many long-awaited new features in EV3, such as the remote control capability using the remote IR beacon or iPhone/iPad/Android interface; the expanded memory with a USB port and a SD memory card reader; 4 motor ports (although FLL still only allows 3 motors for now); Wi-Fi data logging directly to the EV3 brick, and direct simple programming on the EV3 brick, etc.

The new EV3 brick is Linux-based, open source will sure pleased the hacker enthusiasts. It can be still programmed in NXT-G, LabView, RobotC as used in the middle school and high school robotics competitions.

FLL teams who are new in the 2013-14 season are advised to budget for the EV3 product line for fall 2013, but can do pre-season training using Mindstorms NXT if available. Veteran FLL teams has the option of continuing with Mindstorms NXT (since most teams are very familiar with the programming environment, and most bugs have been resolved by now), then phase into EV3 in 2014 or beyond.

As of now, EV3 is not yet part of the 2013-14 FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) season.

Happy New Year!

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