Schoolboy with laptop in robotics class

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What We Don’t Like

  • Requires the Mindstorms system, which must be purchased.

  • Some product cross-sells embedded.

Another approach to learning to program is to look at robotics. Many kids respond to the idea of programming things that work in the real world. There are a wide variety of robotics kits and languages you can use to program them, but the LEGO Mindstorms system enjoys one of the largest user communities and a kid-friendly visual programming app.

Download the programming environment for free, but you need access to a LEGO Mindstorms kit to make the program run. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy one. Some schools and public libraries offer kits for student use, or you may want to find a First LEGO League near you. 

LEGO EV3 programming software can be run on tablets and computers, and it uses a building-block—in this case, a LEGO block—metaphor, just like Scratch and Blockly do, although LEGO’s version tends to build the program horizontally and looks more like a flowchart. Students combine actions, variables, and events to manipulate their LEGO Mindstorms creations. The programming language is simple enough for young kids while still being challenging for older ones and adults.

In addition to the LEGO Mindstorms programming environment, LEGO uses an open-source Linux kernel that can be modified and programmed by traditional programming languages like Python and C++. 

Suggested Age: 10+ (Younger kids can use this with supervision)

Requirements: EVA3 requires a computer running macOS or Windows or a tablet running Android or iOS. Running the programs rather than debugging them, requires one or more LEGO EV3 robots.

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