We have discussed the new #17101 LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox already (see: LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox Review), however there is one question that we haven’t addressed in detail; LEGO BOOST’s compatibility with the #31313 LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robotics system, the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 system, and the standard LEGO Power Functions system. So let’s take a look at how these different systems compare, and how compatible they are. 🙂
LEGO Power Functions is the simplest way to power LEGO sets. They include different size motors, a standard battery or rechargeable battery box, lights, and various control modules to operate the system. There is no robotics component to LEGO Power Functions, it’s just a simple system to motorize LEGO sets like trains and LEGO Technic vehicles. Using LEGO Power Functions is very easy and intuitive, so even a child can motorize their set. On the negative side, the pieces and connectors are fairly large, so it’s difficult to fit them into smaller creations. You can find all the components under the LEGO Power Functions section of the Online LEGO Shop.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 system is LEGO’s most advanced robotics kit used by both schools and individuals. At the heart of the product is the Intelligent EV3 Brick with a powerful ARM9 processor, a USB port for WiFi and Internet connectivity, a Micro SD card reader, back-lit buttons and four motor ports. LEGO MINDSTORMS is based on the LEGO Technic system, and includes various motors, sensors, and connectors that can be added to the EV3 Brick. LEGO MINDSTORMS is recommended for teens and adults for building a pretty much unlimited variety of sophisticated robots. However, due to the large components and LEGO Technic parts the robots are quite dated and ugly looking (sorry, EV3!). The official LEGO MINDSTORMS website is an excellent resource for learning how to use the system, and you can find all the components under the LEGO MINDSTORMS section of the Online LEGO Shop.
The LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 system is used in schools with a full curriculum to teach science skills, and is not as well-known or talked about in the LEGO fan community. The core set comes in a storage bin along with sorting trays, a SmartHub, a motor, various sensors, and standard LEGO building pieces. The accompanying desktop and tablet supported software provides an easy-to-use programming environment and includes the WeDo 2.0 Curriculum Pack, which covers life, physical, earth, and space sciences, as well as engineering. It is interesting that LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 is based on the LEGO Power Functions system, and is compatible with both standard LEGO and LEGO Technic pieces, but the electric connectors are different. You can learn more about LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 at the LEGO Education website, and you can also check out the different components at the LEGO Education Shop.
The LEGO Power Functions, LEGO MINDSTORMS and LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 systems are not compatible with each other (or at least not without some wire-cutting and other hacks), and now we have LEGO BOOST to add to this confusing mix!
You will see right away that LEGO BOOST is similar to LEGO Power Functions and LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 because of its compatibility with standard LEGO elements. This makes it much more versatile and much friendlier than LEGO MINDSTORMS. It is also similar to the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 system as it has a central hub (called the Move Hub), which contains two motors with tachometers, Bluetooth connection with your tablet, input and output ports, a six-axis tilt sensor, a multicolored light, and a battery compartment.
LEGO BOOST is not compatible with LEGO MINDSTORMS or LEGO Power Functions, however it has the same six-pin connector as the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 system. In regards to this connector, it is interesting to note that on the Frequently Asked Questions section of the LEGO Education website it says that “this is the new LEGO Power Functions plug that has been optimized to meet potential future needs”. To the question of what does this mean for the existing plug system on LEGO Power Functions and LEGO MINDSTORMS products, and if they will also be changed, LEGO responds that “they will eventually be converted to the new plug system after a transition period”. However, the exact timing of this transition has not been determined as of yet.
So, while the different electronics and robotics systems offered by LEGO are not readily compatible at this point, LEGO does have the intention to bring them to the same standard, and this standard is the one currently used in the LEGO BOOST and the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 kits. LEGO BOOST is basically the consumer version of the LEGO Education system, and it looks like this is what LEGO plans to support in the future. You can learn more at the LEGO BOOST website, and buy the set at the LEGO BOOST section of the Online LEGO Shop.
The next part of the question is if the software used for the different robotics systems would be standardized as well, as without them none of the robotics systems can work. The LEGO MINDSTORMS software only operates on Windows and Mac computers. The LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 software works on Windows, Mac, Chromebook, and Apple and Android tablets. The LEGO BOOST app currently only works on a limited selection of Apple and Android tablets. You can read more about the requirements and capabilities of each system at LEGO’s website: LEGO ELECTRONICS & ROBOTICS HELP TOPICS
If you would like to get into LEGO robotics, I would suggest investing into the LEGO BOOST system, as this is the direction LEGO is going, and the product was specifically developed to make robotics and programming easier for beginners and younger children. Keep in mind that right now, it can only work with a limited number of tablets, so make sure you check the compatibility list, or perhaps wait a bit later until more operating systems are added. LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 is also a great option, especially if you would like to add more of the educational component for children. I wouldn’t recommend investing in LEGO MINDSTORMS right now, as it was released back in 2013 (thus somewhat dated), and it is clear that changes are coming. And, if you just want to motorize your LEGO sets without the robotics component, LEGO Power Functions is still the simplest, cheapest and best option. Keep in mind though, that this system is also going to be updated in the foreseeable future.
What do you think? Do you own any of the electronics and robotics systems by LEGO? Which one is your favorite so far? And how do you use them? Have you gotten the new #17101 LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox yet? How do you like it? And how do you think it will develop in the future? Feel free to share your thoughts and own review in the comment section below! 😉
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