Building a robot from programmable robot kits is a great way to learn robotics. The most well-known programmable robot kits are LEGO Mindstorms and VEX IQ. We put them side-by-side here to discover their common features and differences. And at the bottom of the page is a comparison table.
This review is for their home editions. Both VEX IQ and LEGO EV3 education editions have somewhat different packages, which contain trays for parts, and rechargeable batteries. The education editions are more designed for classroom use and cost more than home editions.
The quintessential platform of programmable robot kits: LEGO Mindstorms EV3
LEGO Mindstorms EV3 31313 features:
- Originally developed at MIT, the third incarnation of LEGO robotics comes with a full curriculum dedicated to teaching programming
- A kid can progressively learn about the various areas of robotics and build several kinds of robots
- Intuitive icon-based drag-and-drop programming interface and step-by-step instructions provide a fun learning experience for young kids
- Intelligent EV3 Brick, 3 interactive servo motors, remote control, color sensor, touch sensor, infrared sensor, and 550+ LEGO Technic elements
- Recommended age: 10+. Although LEGO Mindstorms can easily be used at the elementary level, because of its versatility and capability it is even used at the university level. It is probably the perfect imagination tool for all ages.
Original developed at MIT, the third incarnation of LEGO robotics, LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, is launched worldwide in September, 2013. It comes with a full curriculum dedicated to teaching programming via EV3. With its step-by-step instructions and intuitive programming interface, a kid can progressively learn about the various areas of robotics and build several kinds of robots. Besides you can control the robot with the enclosed remote control, you can also command your robot with smart phone or tablet with the free Robot Commander app. There are five hero robots you can start to build, including EV3RSTORM, GRIPP3R, TRACK3R, R3PTAR and SPIK3R. You then proceed to other 12 bots with building instructions or programming missions. With LEGO Mindstorms EV3, one of the most flexible programmable robot kits, you can design and create your own robot. Your creativity is the only limit. LEGO Mindstorms has a great community. You get inspired by the creativity of other fans and share your own creations.
What’s in the box
Besides LEGO bricks and a print building instruction for TRACK3R (to find all PDF building instructions online), the followings are included:
The EV3 Brick serves as the control center and power station for your robot.
- 4 Input ports: 1, 2, 3, 4 (to connect sensors to EV3 Brick)
- 4 Output ports: A, B, C, D (to connect motors to EV3 Brick)
- 1 Mini USB PC port (to connect EV3 brick to computer)
- USB host port (to add Wi-Fi dongle and do “Daisy chaining”)
- Micro SD Card port (to increase available memory for EV3 Brick)
- Built-in speaker
Color sensor: Recognizes seven different colors and measures light intensity.
Touch sensor: Makes your robot respond to touch, recognizes three conditions: touched, bumped and released.
Remote Infrared Beacon: Remote controls your robot from a distance, and can also be used as a tracking device for your robots.
Large motor (x2): Lets you program precise and powerful robotic action!
Medium Motor: Maintains precision, while trading some power for compact size and faster responses.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 home edition does not include a software CD in the box. Instead, you will need to download the software for free from the LEGO MINDSTORMS website. The software includes a programming environment, and building and programming instructions for the robots you can build with the set.
Check the price and customer reviews for Lego Mindstroms EV3.
The STEM education platform of programmable robot kits: VEX IQ
VEX Robotics offers VEX IQ for elementary and middle school kids, and VEX EDR for middle, high school and beyond. We review VEX IQ kit here.
HEXBUG VEX IQ features:
- Take advantage of the versatile, modular, tool-less construction system to build and program robots
- Follow step-by-step instructions to learn the basics, and then use that knowledge to build anything you can imagine.
- Robot Brain with 12 self-configuring input/output ports, four smart motors, 750+ pieces, one color sensor, one bumper switch sensor, one touch LED sensor, built in rotational sensors on the motors, and video game style remote control
- Includes free VEX IQ curriculum
- Recommended age: 8+
VEX IQ kit, like LEGO Mindstorms EV3, is another modular, toolless construction system. Although VEX IQ hasn’t been around as long as LEGO Mindstorms, it is another powerful robotics platform capable of producing highly functional robots, while simple enough for kids without robotics experience to assemble and program. This versatile kit provides a broad range of challenges, and can be used to teach everything from basic to advanced concepts. Its electronics system is especially superb, offering more flexibility and building options than LEGO Mindstorms EV3, although its supporting resources are relatively lean. Comparing with LEGO Mindstorms’ extremely intuitive software, VEX IQ’s software requires more reading and is harder for younger kids to learn programming. Please refer to the detailed comparison below.
What’s in the box
- Robot Brain with 12 self-configuring input/output ports
- 750+ pieces
- Four Smart Motors
- One Color Sensor, one Bumper Switch sensor, one Touch LED sensor, and built in rotational sensors on the motors
- Video game style remote control with a rechargeable lithiumion battery
- Two programming software options – Modkit for VEX (free online version) or ROBOTC
- Free VEX IQ Curriculum
Check the price and customer reviews for VEX IQ.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Vs. VEX IQ
“Which is the better system, LEGO Mindstorms EV3 or VEX IQ?” This question has been asked a lot. We compare these two vastly popular programmable robot kits side by side for you to have a better picture.
|LEGO Mindstorms EV3||VEX IQ Kit|
|Supporting Hardware||A very mature system with plenty of third party sensors to plug in||Not much third party sensors|
|Supporting Resources||A huge range of educationally specific materials and books available, filled with excellent and relevant activities. They are high quality and very comprehensive.||Official education offerings are relatively lean. The curriculum is fairly broad.|
Programmable Robot Kits, Construction Kits vs Normal Robot Kits
To help you select the right robot kit, we would like to talk about programmable robot kits comparing with normal robot kits before we finish this review.
A normal robot kit is more like puzzles. It is assembled together to be a particular robot to complete a predetermined task. Although it is valuable to learn mechanics and acquire assembling skills, there is no room for original design or programming in these robots. A good programmable robot kit can be distinguished from a normal robot kit. Programmable robot kits allow you to program robots to perform various tasks. Because the programmable “brain” is there, the built robot can do a job without being giving a direction at every step. The “brain” sets a programmable robot apart from a remote controlled robot. Let’s compare how they response before bumping into a wall on the left. There is a typical if/then clause programmed in the programmable robot. “If my left sensor detect something , I will turn right.” On the other hand, a remote controlled robot will need a person to press a button to direct the bot to turn right once the person sees the bot is going to bump into a wall on the left. Creativity and critical thinking is required during the process of design and coding programmable robot kits.
Robot construction kits are also different from normal robot kits. They use modular parts and allow you to assemble different robots with the same kits. You can experiment with different configurations and types of robots. You will start with small sections of the system, progressing to combine them together to a more complex system.