LEGO Mindstorms vs LEGO WeDo

This post was originally part of a discussion I was having with other Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) club parents. I am sharing it here as a reminder to myself and perhaps to help other parents in deciding between these two terrific educational platforms.

Of course my 6 year old son is very excited by the idea of the Lego Mindstorms robotics kit. Who wouldn’t want to build a walking robot and carries out a series of commands on its own! I know his mom and I were very tempted to buy a set.

Mindstorms are what the older Riverview Robos team are using. They used Mindstorms to create and program a robot to accomplish a series of tasks at a First Lego League (FLL) competition recently.

Our kids are at the Jr. First Lego League (Jr.FLL) age level. Beginning Jr.FLL teams are advised to use a kit of Lego Technic parts that including a motor, gears, belts, rods, etc. Optionally Jr.FLL teams can add Lego WeDo programing functionality to their projects.

After some research, we discovered that WeDo is the lesser known sibling of Mindstorms designed for younger kids. While Mindstorms are available at many stores, WeDo is only available at the website.

For the last two weeks my son has spent his time after school building (and rebuilding) the various WeDo projects. After his first 2 or 3 projects he decided he didn’t want to copy the software instructions out of the book anymore, he wanted to create the instructions on his own!

I am of the opinion that the WeDo system has advantages over Mindstorms for our kids, at least until they are almost 10 years old. Here is a list of the advantages of WeDo over Mindstorms:

  1. Slightly less expensive.
  2. Programming software is simplified.
  3. Build options are simplified because there are less sensor types.
  4. The software instructions do not need to be transferred to a separate “mini computer box” before you can see what effect your changes make.

Mindstorms has a “mini computer box” that runs the software that controls your project, while WeDo sensors and motors are ran directly from the computer. At first glance the requirement that the WeDo to being tethered to a computer seems like a hinderance. But this actually simplifies things a bit more since it removes the Mindstorms step of transferring the software to the “mini computer box” before you can test your changes. And besides, WeDo projects generally involve building things like Ferris Wheels and other things that don’t need to move away the computer.

If you have any other questions about Lego WeDo or Mindstorms ask away. I have some WeDo links to my Jr. RV Robos page which includes all of the links I have personally saved.

P.S. If you think your 3rd grader might be about ready for Mindstorms, you might consider waiting until the next version of Mindstorms (EV3) is available this Fall in August. Although, I will say the prices of the current Mindstorms NXT 2.0 are really good right now. 🙂

Lego Mindstorms EV3