Why teach kids programming?
Programming is taking schools all over the world by storm. Why teach it? Does everyone need to know how to code? What are the benefits of teaching programming? And finally, how to introduce programming during the very first years of primary school? Read this article and find out for yourself. Challenges standing before contemporary education were never as huge as they are today. The modern world develops and changes so fast that traditional teaching methods, mostly based on direct knowledge acquisition, become more obsolete day by day. In this rapidly changing reality, we are no longer able to foresee what knowledge our students may need in the future. Civilizational milestones used to emerge every few generations. Nowadays, they appear much more often and all evidence suggests it’s going to stay this way. The omnipresence of internet and availability of smartphones is also significant, as the knowledge buried inside handbooks can be accessed all around the world at a moment’s notice. Therefore, remembering a lot of information makes little sense. Dynamic times have produced new trends in education. For years now, schools have been trying to put greater emphasis on developing creativity, logical thinking, problem solving and cooperation. Despite the ever-changing reality, these skills do not outdate and allow people to easily adapt to new environments. One of the promising tools often mentioned in the context of developing these competencies is learning how to code. PROGRAMMING – WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Programming, also known as coding, has a wide variety of applications. Programs manage our personal computers, bank servers, websites, tablets, smartphones, even washing machines and elevators. Programming is simply creating instructions for computers. The very first programs were written in machine code – a sequence of numbers in binary form (made out of digits 0 and 1), readable for processors. A sample program fragment adding one to the stored number looked like this: 0000 0010 0000 0000 0001 0000 0011 0100. Machine could easily execute this program, but for a human, even a qualified specialist, deciphering a code fragment written this way was challenging, or impossible at times. In order to make coding more efficient, it was necessary to create programming languages: sets of commands based on words, not numbers, equipped with specific syntax unambiguously translatable into machine code. Since the first computers appeared, numerous (over 1000) languages were created and even more are invented every year. There is no “perfect,” or universal language, which could be applied everywhere, but the constantly developing technology compels us to research new, more efficient programming methods. Despite their multitude, these various languages have a lot in common – you can see it on the website 99 bottles of beer, where the same program was written in a variety of programming languages. EVEN A CHILD CAN CODE Computers have and continue to change the world around us, and programmers continue to be essential. But I know firsthand from studying FORTRAN that many of us get intimidated by it and we shouldn’t be. Computer programming has become far more accessible to teach and learn, and our country needs more students to learn it. – Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers Computer programming is a skill often attributed to the selected few educated and specializing in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), who have knowledge and power to create something from scratch by using a keyboard and a compiler. They are the creators of technology. For the rest of us, commoners, programming remains black magic. Ironically, we use it every day in the form of programs, websites, or apps. But it does not have to be this way. The reality of our world demands that new generations become participants and creators of new technologies, not merely its passive users. Preparing them for this role rests on our shoulders. Fortunately, many years of research have contributed to creating numerous tools that can introduce children to coding from the very beginning of school. Possibilities of programming used as a teaching tool were already researched in 1960s by a mathematician, Seymour Papert. Inspired by Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Papert created the first educational programming language meant to teach informatics and mathematics: Logo. Seymour Papert passed away in 2016, but his multiannual research lead to, directly or indirectly, almost all achievements gained in this field to this day. The revolutionary LEGO Mindstorms robotics set was a result of cooperation between the LEGO Group and MIT Media Lab research group, led by Papert. The name of the set was actually borrowed from Papert’s pioneering book: “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas.” His influence is also recognized by creators of the famous visual programming language Scratch. Thanks to efforts of MIT, Tufts, LEGO, and many others, coding has become a much more attainable skill for students and teaching coding can be conducted even by teachers, who have never programmed before. Educational programming languages Educational programming languages are usually presented in a graphic, or in a graphic & text form. To code, you choose from a limited number of instructions in the library, then snap them together in a logical fashion, thus creating a program. The process is based on the drag-and-drop method, while the instructions often look like colorful blocks with various icons, or text. This environment is visually attractive and eliminates early syntax errors, a nightmare for every beginner programmer. Certain languages also banish logical errors of the algorithm – code blocks that can’t work together, won’t fit together. Kids who haven’t even developed typing skills can create programs. BENEFITS OF TEACHING PROGRAMMING IN SCHOOLS Upper hand on the job market Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren’t enough people who are trained and have these skills today. – Mark Zuckerberg Founder, Facebook Let’s start with arguments that are easy to measure. According to several estimates, the job market will be in need of more and more qualified ICT specialists. The digital economy develops at a pace faster than the global economy at large – seven times faster, to be precise. It is in our interest to help children and teenagers interested in coding become professionals in this field. According to the Digital Agenda for Europe published by the European Commission in 2014, by the year 2020, the European market will be in need of 900 000 ICT specialists.  Programming know-how is not only limited to ICT field. Increasingly more jobs require coding knowledge in tasks related to creation and modifying simple websites, apps, blogs, managing online shops, etc. Technology and computers are very much at the core of our economy going forward. To be prepared for the demands of the 21st century — and to take advantage of its opportunities — it is essential that more of our students today learn basic computer programming skills, no matter what field of work they want to pursue. – Todd Park U.S. Chief Technology Officer This concerns also completely non-technical professions. The agenda published by the European Commission estimates that at present, 90% of all jobs require at least basic informatic skills. Coincidentally, despite growing access to technology, 50% of employees have insufficient competencies in this area. Therefore, we are dealing with a significant gap in expertise. Filling this gap during the upcoming years is one of the most important tasks standing before the education today. Observations indicate that in the majority of national educational systems, this gap forms during the first 12 years of education. The competencies developed during this period do not match those required on universities, or on the job market.   Digital literacy Benefits of learning how to code run much deeper than career prep. In 2012, Estonia started a pilot program aimed at teaching students programming from the first grade. However, Estonians do not intend to create a nation of computer scientists in the next twenty years, but rather educate the society, which will be able to use technology, computers and internet in a more aware and smarter way. Mitch Resnick of MIT Media Lab seems to share this approach: So young people today have lots of experience and lots of familiarity with interacting with new technologies, but a lot less so of creating with new technologies and expressing themselves with new technologies. It’s almost as if they can read but not write with new technologies.  Programming is becoming a more and more important skill, steadily turning into a basic competence. Digital literacy increasingly more frequently appears in the same category as ability to read, write and calculate. In the world, where we cannot imagine life without technology, these comparisons actually make sense. Developmental and educational advantages Learning to code makes kids feel empowered, creative, and confident. If we want our young women to retain these traits into adulthood, a great option is to expose them to computer programming in their youth. – Susan Wojcicki Senior Vice President, Google Not all people realize that learning coding entails many benefits, which have little to do with technology. Various research suggests that learning programming positively influences cognitive and social skills of students. Children exposed to basic computer science with rudimentary algorithmic thinking and logical constructs, exhibited advances in a variety of academic and social areas. Improvements were noted in terms of visual memory, cognitive and language skills. Another noticeably enhanced thing was meta-cognition, or learning of how to learn, which is connected to self-monitoring and independent learning.   Computational thinking The term computational thinking u” was first used by Seymour Papert in 1980s. According to Jeanette Wing, prime promoter of this idea, computational thinking is a process, where a problem and its solutions are formulated in a comprehensible manner that can be executed by a computer. In simpler terms, this approach is referred to as “thinking like a computer scientist.” Computational thinking also promotes soft skills that aren’t often introduced into classroom. Programming teaches problem solving, decomposition (breaking large tasks into smaller sub-tasks), logical reasoning, error correction. These skills are useful in traditional STEM programs, science and engineering, but are also applicable in a variety of other fields including social sciences, or art.  Evolution of logical thinking Logical thinking is directly connected to understanding logical constructs. Computers complete tasks by following a certain algorithm – a predetermined set of steps, which must be executed in order to reach a certain goal. As long as the underlying steps don’t change, the computer operation is predictable. Algorithm executed on the same data will always deliver the same result. Training creativity As they created their interactive Mother’s Day cards, you could see that they were really becoming fluent with new technologies. What do I mean by fluent? I mean that they were able to start expressing themselves and to start expressing their ideas. When you become fluent with language, it means you can write an entry in your journal or tell a joke to someone or write a letter to a friend. And it’s similar with new technologies. By writing, be creating these interactive Mother’s Day cards, these kids were showing that they were really fluent with new technologies. – Mitchel Resnick, MIT Media Lab Knowledge of basic programming skills creates a new creative way to express yourself. If applied accordingly, coding gives tangible results in developing children’s creativity. Like a paintbrush and canvas, which allow to express one’s thoughts and feelings in a form of a painting, programming gives the opportunity to similarly demonstrate one’s creativity by composing various pieces: animations, games, interactive images, or presentations.  Training creativity is more probable, the simpler and diverse the programming language is. A great example is Scratch, the structure of which was inspired by LEGO bricks (Scratch creators worked with LEGO before, in order to design LEGO Mindstorms set). In case of bricks, children rely on intuition to connect elements available in the set. They build and create models, which inspire them to continue their work. In this context, creativity develops almost organically. Similar thing happens in Scratch, where children intuitively connect blocks to create simple programs that inspire them to construct even more. Connecting programming with other interests, such as music, film, or animation, also has a positive influence on enhancing their creativity. This method encourages a wider group of pupils to take an interest in programming and equips them with additional tools to express themselves.  Learning from mistakes When programming, it’s impossible to completely avoid mistakes. Some of them are frustrating – every programmer has an experience of spending several hours looking for a missing comma. But the category of errors, which are part of the creative process, is also significant. By default, programs come into existence through trial and error, they also require repetitive testing on each stage. Thanks to this method, error in programming gains an educational value; unlike other methods, error is a challenge, not a failure. Consider the words of Seymour Papert, who once wrote how some children are actually held back by traditional teaching methods, because they stigmatize errors: The question to ask about the program is not whether it is right or wrong, but if it is fixable. If this way of looking at intellectual products were generalized to how the larger culture thinks about knowledge and its acquisition, we might all be less intimidated by our fears of ‘being wrong.’  Modern tools to teach programming use errors as additional instruments. In graphical languages, syntax errors are completely eliminated (hard to find any syntax in a colorful block) and instructions can be connected together only if their succession makes sense. Developing cognitive abilities The advantages of learning to program are comparable to benefits of bilingualism. Despite some obvious differences, learning to code is in many ways similar to learning a second language. In early childhood, mind is more susceptible to acquiring a new language, especially if the learning process is hidden behind everyday activities, suited to one’s age. Research focused on children’s abilities to learn coding shows that programming skills develop most rapidly at similar age. Teaching method is also important. It must age-appropriate, introduced as a form of entertainment and tied with other developmental processes, such as art, math, or reading. HOW TO TEACH PROGRAMMING? To ensure development of logical and computational thinking, learning how to program should be introduced as early as possible. However, it is a challenge for teachers, who must introduce children to programming on an understandable level. Tools adjusted to students’ age and capabilities Encouraging children to start coding is easier than one might think. Young students naturally accept such challenges, as long as topics and projects are presented at an appropriate level and are connected with fun age-related activities. The market offers a multitude of tools for teaching programming, all of them adjusted to various stages of development and proficiency. Yet some of them noticeably excel in their effectiveness and are often recommended by experts. Games Most children are familiar with video games and gaming apps, so when they are given the opportunity to create their own game, they enthusiastically accept the challenge. There are two different approaches to using gaming in coding lessons. In gameplay learning, the educational process is integrated with the context of the game. By completing tasks, students gain points and proceed to the next levels. Tools of this kind are applied not only in teaching programming, but also in other school subjects. There are numerous apps, which rely on a similar mechanism, such as Tynker, Alice, CodeCombat, etc. Game design focuses on learning through coding and teaching through creating. It allows children to become game designers, programmers, creators of their own functional game, which equips them with real skills and raises their self-esteem. Inarguably, this is the most efficient and inspiring of teaching methods available today. By bringing into existence equivalents of their favorite games, children feel same as wizards. A great software for programming simple games is Scratch. Robotics Robotics is another field able to amazingly inspire kids to learn coding. Tangible mechanisms (best if built by students themselves) make coding more real. It is much easier for students to grasp the code, when a robot executes it in a physical world, right next to them. Seymour Papert was aware of this already in 1997: Giving children the opportunity to program behaviors into vehicles, robots, dinosaurs and other constructs of their own design opened a new horizon onto the possibility of engagement: many children who were mildly interested in the graphics programming showed high degrees of enthusiasm in this new sphere. At the same time, many kinds of program structure that were not spontaneously picked up in the old context now seemed obvious to the children. The conclusion to be drawn was not that LEGO constructs were better objects for programming than graphics, but that variety offered more chances for more children to relate to more concepts. There are many educational robotics sets available on the market, but the ones that seem the most valuable were created by LEGO Education: LEGO WeDo and LEGO Mindstorms. Their effectiveness is built upon kids’ love for LEGO bricks, but they have various other advantages. Equipped with sensors and motors, these sets can be controlled with kid-friendly drag-and-drop visual programming software (WeDo sets can also be programmed in Scratch!), so they are a great tool for students aged 6 (WeDo), but also for those who are 99 years old (Mindstorms). When talking about robotics, one should mention its other educational values. By operating in the physical world, robots teach physics and mechanics. By building robots with bricks, or other elements, children amend their motor skills, which seem to be recently forgotten. By selecting appropriate constructions, sensors, or themes, one can also learn biology, chemistry, history, or art. Hence, robotics is a truly interdisciplinary field. WHERE TO START Before introducing programming into your class, you should consider several crucial aspects, such as age of the children you’ll be working with, their programming experience, class duration and equipment you have. Another thing to bear in mind is how much time you can devote to preparation before class. Basing on these criteria, you can pick the tools most suitable to your needs. For young children (ages 6 to 8), the best choice would be robots programmable in graphical languages, which do not require fluent reading and writing skills. You can use pre-made robots (e.g. Dash and Dot), or robotics sets (LEGO Education WeDo), which provide you with more options, but require more time in class. If your students have already had their 8th birthday, you can introduce them to slightly more difficult software, such as Scratch (you can also program LEGO WeDo sets in it), or create more advanced robots with LEGO Mindstorms EV3. Before long, we will publish on our blog an in-depth article about tools for teaching robotics and programming. Once you’ve selected your tools and prepared the equipment, it’s time to arrange the teaching curriculum. Depending on time, skill and experience of the teacher, she can create it on her own, or choose one of the lesson packages available on the market. If you want to know more about picking the right equipment for your robotics workshop, or how to start working with Scratch, try our on-line webinars. We also encourage you to familiarize yourself with our robotics and programming courses, which are based on LEGO WeDo, Scratch and LEGO Mindstorms. OVERVIEW Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn. – Stephen Hawking Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist, and Author Technology development and worldwide changes related to it shift programming from after-school classes to the actual school program. This change is caused by the gap between competencies of school graduates and demands of universities and job market. At the same time, researches confirm that programming astoundingly develops soft skills, such as logical thinking, problem solving, creativity, or team work – the most valuable skills nowadays. Rapid introduction of programming into schools will be a great challenge for modern education system. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be scared of it. Many years of research produced convenient tools, which from the very first years of school education introduce programming into classes easily and in an involving manner. Learning programming by relying on games and robots can be fun for children, and at the same time equip them with tools and skills they will be able to benefit from many years into the future. Bibliography Digital agenda for Europe, European Commission, 2014. Valerie Barr, Chris Stephenson, Bringing computational thinking to K-12: What is involved and what is the role of the computer science education community?, 2011 Let’s teach kids to code, TEDxBeaconStreet, 2012. Marina Umaschi Bers, Designing digital experiences for positive youth development: From playpen to playground., Oxford University Press, 2012. Douglas Clemens, Young Children and Technology., Forum on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 1998. Jeannette M. Wing, Computational thinking benefits society Social Issues in Computing, 2014. Seymour Papert, Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, 1980. Beth Gardiner, Adding Coding to the Curriculum, NY Times. Mitchel Resnick, John Maloney, i in., Scratch: Programming for All. Seymour Papert, Educational Computing: How Are We Doing?, 1997.
Decorate your Christmas with LEGO WeDo 2.0!
As the year comes to its end, the festive atmosphere spreads all around. It is no different in the RoboCAMP office. Like everywhere else, Christmas decorations pop up in here as well, but we decided to make them our way. First, we believe that the handmade decorations are more precious and embellish house even more than the bought ones. Moreover, we are devoted fans of LEGO bricks and believe they are suitable for a great festive decoration as well. It inspired us to create a mobile decoration that would fit into the Christmas spirit and that anyone could make on their own. Our robot shows the travel of Santa Claus and his reindeers through the starry sky, on their way to deliver presents to all well-behaved children. Take a look: To build this robot, all you need is: LEGO WeDo 2.0 (45300) set, two sheets of paper with background and Santa’s sleigh printed on them, scissors and sticky tape to cut out and fold the paper cylinder. To begin, you must download the graphics. You can select a finished illustration, an illustration that you can color yourself, or an illustration template, which you can use to paint your own Santa’s sleigh and the landscape he’ll be flying across. Whichever graphics you choose, you must print it in two copies on hard paper. Then, you can proceed to building the decoration. The principle behind this construction is quite simple. The middle part is wrapped in a paper cylinder with the night scenery. The entire construction stands on a turntable (underneath, you may stick it to the surface with the double-sided tape) and two wheels, which rotate in the opposite directions. This solution makes the whole decoration slowly turn one way. Above the paper cylinder, there are four arms, which move in the opposite direction by means of the gear train. At the end of each arm, you can see one of the characters of Santa’s sleigh. Together, these elements create a beautiful effect of the whole sleigh soaring across the starry sky. In order to make the construction move, you must create a program, which will turn the motor on with the right power and will make it rotate in the correct direction. We have explained everything in the instruction below: The decoration is now ready. You can go ahead and admire Santa Claus and his reindeers as they travel across the sky. Merry Christmas!
Scratch Day – Develop your own games with the new ArcadeCAMP lesson plan.
Mark your calendars for Scratch Day! On May 14, 2016, people all over the world will come together once again to celebrate Scratch Day! Scratch Day is a global network of events that celebrates Scratch and people who use it. If you want to get involved in this special event (and you should!), we have prepared a little gift that you may find useful. Our free demo account now holds a project in which your students will develop a fun and exciting Space Explorer game, one that involves maneuvering a space shuttle through an asteroid field. Read more about the project here. What is Scratch? If you don’t know it yet, you’re in for a treat! Scratch is one of the greatest tools for teaching programming to kids, beloved by students and teachers all over the world. It is a simple visual programming software designed especially for kids by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, available for free online or as a desktop app. With Scratch, kids can create their own animations, interactive stories, and games. They can also program robots with Scratch since it is compatible with LEGO WeDo sets.* Those activities are not only a fun way for teaching programming and algorithms, but they also help develop creativity and problem-solving skills as well as enhance collaboration. And what’s even more important, kids have loads of fun doing it! You can learn more about Scratch by visiting the Scratch website. * Full Scratch compatibility is now available for WeDo 1.0. Compatibility with WeDo 2.0 is now available for Mac only. The Windows version will be released in June 2016. Why teach coding? Coding has been called the “literacy of the 21st century”. But seeing children at a younger than ever ages using technology continously and intuitively, we have a tendency to view the younger generation as digital natives. So what could we possibly teach them about technology? The fact is that there’s a difference between consuming technology and creating technology, and learning to code is mostly what makes this difference in this day and age. Coding lessons can at the very least bring your students a much needed understanding of what the technology products they use daily really are and how they work. But these lessons can also equip them with the tools needed to create their own technology, teach them to be makers, and empower them to make changes not just in their lives but possibly in the lives of millions of others and change the world! Because let’s be real, making something just by typing the code is as close to being a wizard as you’re going to get. So convince your students to stop waiting for that letter from Hogwarts and teach them how to code! Organize your own Scratch Day event You can start by organizing your own Scratch Day event at your institution. Register here to be a part of a global initiative that takes place simultaneously in more than 269 locations and counting. Help popularize Scratch in your region and encourage your students to take up coding. The Scratch Day website offers all the information and activities that you need to organize such an event in your school, library, or community center. You can also skip Scratch activities altogether and go with our project instead. All you need is a classroom-like space, computers, and students eager to learn how to code, and you’re good to go! Scratch Day project by RoboCAMP Team Our free Scratch project guides students through the process of coding a fun game that we named Space Explorer. In the game, the player controls the small LEGO space shuttle and tries to maneuver it through an asteroid field made of LEGO gears. The shuttle is controlled with arrow keys. Pressing the space-bar fires laser missiles that destroy asteroids. The objective is to survive as long as possible in the asteroid field. The resulting game is highly playable, fun, and a bit addictive. Try it out below! Press the green flag button to start. The coding process is divided into two 45-minute lessons. You can conduct them separately or as a single 90-minute workshop. Each lesson has its own objective. During the first lesson, we develop the basic gameplay and then improve it by adding more features in the second lesson. Each lesson consists of several specific tasks with step-by-step coding instructions. Students focus on them one by one to better grasp the game mechanics and the code itself. The first lesson is preceded by a short introduction with fun facts about video games and their history. To access this project for free, create your RoboCAMP demo account now! If you need instructions on how to use the website, run the tutorials in the Help bar on the left side of the screen or contact us via live chat. ArcadeCAMP lesson plan – coding lessons for every school! Are you a Scratch fan yet? Do you like the Space Explorer game and lesson materials? Then we’ve got great news! We’ve prepared a brand new lesson plan for you! Let us introduce ArcadeCAMP, a whole new idea in the RoboCAMP universe. ArcadeCAMP is a lesson plan developed for Scratch and Scratch only – no robotics sets are required! It provides an introduction to programming and game development for kids ages 8 and up. With ArcadeCAMP, your students will learn how to program their own computer games by recreating the most popular games in history – from early arcade hits such as Pong and Frogger to ultimate video-game blockbusters such as Snake or Tetris. Starting from basic concepts, they will learn how to design and program the most important game features, including sprite control, object detection, score keeping, and leveling, as well as how to master most common programming instructions and data types. They will also learn about the history of computers, programming, and video games development. The ArcadeCAMP lesson plan consists of 19 45-minute coding lessons with tutorials for making eight fun games. The games are intended to be made with Scratch 2.0 software. Learn more about the product here. Are you going to organize your own Scratch Day event? Let us know in the comment section!
LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 Core set – The Ultimate Review by RoboCAMP Team
LEGO Education recently launched a new version of its WeDo™ robotics set. How different is the new set from what we are used to with WeDo 1.0? Which one is better for the classroom or for homeschooling? Is it time to upgrade? Our team of dedicated educators, robot designers and curriculum developers has worked with the new sets for several weeks now, so we can discuss it all and help you make an informed decision. We have worked with the sets in classrooms, designed several new robot models, performed tests on the new electronic components and used the new software on different devices with different operating systems. By doing so, we have gathered plenty of information, so this article is quite extensive. To help you navigate through it all we prepared a table of contents so you can jump to the section that interests you. We hope you will find this review helpful. Have a nice read. Table of Contents What is LEGO WeDo? Storage box and contents LEGO parts – general information LEGO parts – detailed comparison Effects on robot designs Electronic components The Smart Hub The Medium Motor The Motion Sensor The Tilt Sensor WeDo 2.0 software – general information WeDo 2.0 software for tablets iOS Android WeDo 2.0 software for personal computers Windows 7 Windows 8 and 8.1 Windows 10 Mac OS X WeDo 2.0 Software – overview WeDo 2.0 Software – programming blocks LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 curriculum Conclusions What is LEGO WeDo? LEGO Education WeDo is the result of the collaboration between Mitchel Resnick, head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab, and Erik Hansen, head of the Electronics R&D department of The LEGO Group. Previously, their 20-year collaboration resulted in the highly successful LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit for children aged 11+. The LEGO Education WeDo™ Robotics Construction Set, aimed at children aged 7-9, was launched in 2009 and introduced LEGO robotics to younger audience. The set combines the beloved LEGO bricks with one motor, two sensors, and a hub that connects the model to the computer. Simple drag-and-drop visual programming software is then used to bring the model to life. With this kid-friendly approach, the set makes learning fun, inspiring and engaging. Kids learn about complex topics in the fields of physics, engineering, and programming, as well as develop motor and cognitive skills through robot building, all as they have fun with LEGO bricks. Its simplicity and versatility make WeDo a great set to use in the classroom for teaching robotics and programming and enhancing STEM lessons. Children work in pairs using one WeDo set and one computer or tablet, which improves their collaboration and communication skills. RoboCAMP educators have a long and successful history of teaching with WeDo and we are certain that there’s hardly a better tool for getting young children excited about technology and programming. Our own lesson plans for WeDo, CityCAMP, StarCAMP and SafariCAMP prove that the possibilities are even greater – you can use WeDo to spark interest in physics, mechanics, astronomy and even biology! Being very fond of the original set, we’ve been really excited about the new WeDo 2.0 set since the earliest rumors about it surfaced last year. Now, a few weeks after first getting our hands on the new sets, we can finally tell you what we think. Storage box and contents Let’s start with the storage. The LEGO Education WeDo™ 2.0 Core set comes in a large, durable, plastic storage box, almost two times bigger than its predecessor’s. The box comes with a semitransparent plastic lid, and is equipped with a convenient sorting tray with 13 different-size compartments for storing small LEGO pieces. Each compartment holds from 4 to 11 types of LEGO pieces, sorted according to size and use. Bigger elements are stored underneath the tray, in the bottom of the box. The element card is conveniently laid out to match the tray compartments. The set also contains a sticker sheet with 13 stickers that can be used to label the compartments, which is really practical and helps with keeping the bricks sorted. It is best to place the stickers on one side of each compartment of the sorting tray, to make them visible when we add the bricks. Inside the box you will also find an information sheet on how to download software for the product, which for us was seriously misleading. Our adventures and misadventures with downloading and running the new LEGO WeDo software will be described in the Software section. The WeDo 2.0 set contains 280 LEGO pieces which is a huge change, since the previous version only included 150 elements. Therefore, we get almost twice as many bricks for a similar price. In case of WeDo 1.0 you could extend your building capabilities with the separately sold WeDo Resource set containing 325 more LEGO pieces. The number of pieces in the new set, along with the size of the sorting tray, led to the great increase in the size of the storage box. This can be an obvious disadvantage in some classrooms, as the new sets require much bigger workplaces and more room for storage between classes. However, there is a silver lining to the storage space problem, since the new boxes can be stacked more easily than the WeDo 1.0 boxes. The space problem is, however, negligible compared to the great improvements the new storage system brings to the building process. After using the sets for a while, we can firmly state that it is now much easier to find pieces, which shortens the building phase of a lesson and greatly reduces the dreadful noise of searching for a LEGO piece (a real blessing if you use the sets in class frequently). Overall, there’s a significant improvement in comparison to the WeDo 1.0 container, with its impractical four-compartment tray that was usually thrown away, leaving us to store all the LEGO pieces loosely in the main storage box. LEGO parts – general information Like in most LEGO sets, when you open the box for the first time, all LEGO pieces are pre-packaged in several plastic bags. The contents of each bag, unfortunately, do not correspond to the way LEGO intended us to store the pieces in the sorting tray, therefore, if you buy several sets at once, prepare yourself for a bit of work to sort them all out. Although, since the sets will have to be sorted more or less every one to two weeks depending on the frequency of use, you may as well get used to it now. And if you think that it’s nothing new since you’re used to working with WeDo 1.0, think again, as this time you have almost twice as many pieces, and you need to put each one of them in the right compartment of the sorting tray. But let’s focus on the LEGO pieces. The first thing that catches the eye when you open the box is the color palette of the LEGO pieces, significantly different in WeDo 2.0 compared to WeDo 1.0. It is dominated by greens, light blues and yellows, in bright and fresh hues, with a small share of other colors. There are also lots of transparent pieces. Those bright colors sure correspond to the main theme of the curriculum that LEGO designed for this set, which is recycling and ecology. They also definitely appeal to most kids that age. However, we fear that such a limited color palette can inhibit creativity a bit, since it suggests some solutions over others. Adding a couple of red and dark blue pieces, would make the set much more valuable in this regard. WeDo 2.0 set contains many more tiny pieces when compared to its predecessor, which is puzzling since the kit is designed for the same age group and labeled 7+. One can only assume that today’s 7-year-olds are much more capable of handling small objects than their peers in 2009, when LEGO WeDo 1.0 was launched. The truth is, however, quite different. With a total of 280 LEGO pieces, and a significant share of really small ones, the age limit of the WeDo 2.0 kit is actually set properly. For WeDo 1.0 the age limit was a bit too high, since it worked very well for kids as young as 6 years old. Educators at RoboCAMP used them with very good results for years. There are also some issues regarding the new software that contribute to the higher age limit, but we will discuss them in the Software section. LEGO parts – detailed comparison The differences between LEGO WeDo 1.0 and 2.0 sets are most apparent in the case of LEGO pieces. The electronic components, apart from the new hub as well as the new software, hasn’t actually changed much. Let’s then take a closer look at what’s inside the new set, and, equally important, what isn’t. 1. The upper left corner compartment is all about the plates. The Technic plates here, come in more colors and sizes than were available in the WeDo 1.0 set. Apart from that, the first compartment also holds several other interesting pieces worth noticing. There’s the white bracket, ideal for joining pieces in perpendicular planes. A gray frame, aka 4×4 plate with open center, can be useful for reinforcing the structures. A turntable base along with an azure 4×4 round plate create a great and practical turntable for all those crane and carousel models. Thanks to its larger dimensions and a pin hole in the middle of both plate and base, the turntable can now be controlled by motor, and almost as useful as its Technic counterpart. Remember the 2×2 turntable in the WeDo 1.0 set? It’s a different world now! 2. Let’s move on to the lower left corner compartment for all its slope goodness. In total, there are more pieces in this category than in the WeDo 1.0 set. However, there are fewer types of slopes and curved slopes to choose from. The set, most importantly, lacks sloped pieces with a width of two studs, which were abundant in the WeDo 1.0 version. Those were very useful for building stable sloped constructions and will be very much missed. There are a couple of types of LEGO pieces worth noting in this compartment. The azure 4×1 double curved slope is very rare and can be used to tame all those cables connecting electronic components to the hub. The 1×2 31° slope is also a new addition to the set, further expanding the possibilities of building sleek, more aerodynamic designs. Interestingly, it is the only sloped piece with a width of two studs, which to us seems a bit strange. 3. The next compartment contains classic bricks. There are more pieces in this category in the LEGO WeDo 2.0 set than its predecessor, but they are generally smaller. However, the lack of 2×6 bricks that we got used to with WeDo 1.0 is compensated for by more beams in the next compartment. 4. The number of Technic bricks in the new set is the same as in WeDo 1.0, but there are more lengths available. In addition, we get two beams and two bent beams, as well as two more tiles with perpendicular beam than before, so yay! It’s a shame, though, that all the pieces in this category are green. It would be great if we could have some color diversity here. 5. The next small compartment holds a whole new group of LEGO pieces, not available at all in the WeDo 1.0 set. Axle connectors and angle connectors are a great addition to the WeDo set, and open up many new building opportunities. With the previous version of the set, we built our own connectors using 2×2 Round Bricks. There’s no need for that now, and we can design even longer and more durable drive shafts than before. 6. The WeDo 2.0 set finally introduces half bushings. They are stored in the sixth compartment along with whole bushings, pins (two more than in the 1.0 version but still few) and pin-to-axle connectors. 7. There are many more axles in the new set, which, along with all those axle connectors, really expand the set’s possibilities. We also get some special axles, such as a 4-module axle with end stop, 2-module axle with grooves and a very interesting black 2-module axle with pin. It’s hard to compare it all to the total of six axles that were available in LEGO WeDo 1.0. 8. The eighth compartment is also on the small side, but its contents are very interesting. It holds all the decorative pieces, such as flowers and other plant parts, transparent 1×1 round bricks in three colors, a tiny lever, and two sizes of round tiles with eye decoration. Eyes are especially interesting since we not only get to choose the size of the eyes for a LEGO creature of our design, but can connect them to whatever LEGO piece we want, which creates nearly endless possibilities. There is no LEGO minifigure in the WeDo 2.0 set. Some kids may miss it but it can also be a good thing. Minifigs did, after all, create a bit of a fuss in the classroom (two kids per set and only one minifig, guys!). They were also unnecessarily suggestive, since kids (as well as adult robot designers), tended to try to scale all their builds to the size of this little LEGO figure. 9. The next compartment holds four types of round LEGO plates and tiles. There are two classic 2×2 round plates and six round plates with rounded bottoms. But it’s the other two types that are really worth noting. Take a closer look at dark gray 2×2 round tile with hole in the center and white round plate with one knob. Those two pieces can be joined to create a neat little connector piece for connecting LEGO bricks in opposite planes. We can’t wait to use that trick in one of our designs. 10. Let’s move on to the next group. It holds several types of plates and tiles of a one-stud width. There are many pieces of this type in the set and that’s cool, but the color palette here is really poor. All the plates are white and most of the tiles are gray with just two tiny 1×2 tiles in azure. 11. The next compartment holds a lot of interesting LEGO pieces. The most valuable of them all are most definitely the 2×2 bricks with one or two ball joints, and bricks with ball socket. These parts are invaluable for creating joints that allow free movement in two planes at the same time, including rotation. Apart from that, we get yellow Technic ball joints with an axle hole, which further expand the possibilities of creating various types of ball joints. In this compartment we will also find very practical pieces that we know from WeDo 1.0 – 1×2 bricks with pin and 1×2 bricks with axle hole. The number of pieces of both those types was reduced by two and now we get four of each. There are also two 1×1 white bricks with stud on one side, which can be used with tiles with eye decoration. 12. The twelfth compartment contains various types of LEGO pieces. There are six transparent wedge belt wheels, which is a lot; however, there are only two tires to go with them. We also get round 2×2 bricks, which we got used to in the previous version of the set. A nice surprise is the introduction of the second type of rubber band – the well-known yellow 33 mm one is now joined by its smaller 25 mm red version, which, along with more belt wheels and small bushels, creates entirely new possibilities for designing gear belts. Interestingly, despite the fact that the new set lacks any minifigures, it contains two minifigure snow-boards. We guess they could be used as skids but we wonder why they really made it into the set in the first place. 13. Now, for the final compartment. GEARS! Lots and lots of different types of gears. There are the classic spur gears with 24- and 8-teeth, and we get as many as four of the latter (which is great since those valuable little pieces seem to always be the first to get lost). In place of crown gears, Lego WeDo 2.0 introduces 20-teeth bevel gears and double bevel gears in 12- and 20-teeth versions for operating on non-parallel axes. The set also contains LEGO’s great transparent gearbox and a worm gear, as well as four (two more than in 1.0) gear racks for more powerful rack-and-pinion mechanisms. Overall the gear selection in WeDo 2.0 is much wider than its predecessor’s. It allows for building more diverse transmissions, but it comes with a cost. It is much harder to correctly mesh up bevel gears in a parallel transmission; therefore, it may be harder for small children to use. 14. Larger and uncategorized pieces are stored in the bottom of the box. In addition to the electronic components, the base contains two 16-stud-long plates, introduced in the 2.0 set in exchange for the 8×16 brick available in WeDo 1.0. There’s a 50 cm long string, without studs on ends, and two chains, with studs. String and chains can be used together with reels to design various pulley or hoist systems. The bottom of the box also includes elements that were sorely lacking in the LEGO WeDo 1.0 set, as there are two types of tires (four offset and two balloon) with matching wheel rims there, which allows us to finally build vehicles. And finally, the real star of the show – the brick and axle separator. The much-needed piece joins the LEGO WeDo set in its new 2.0 edition. Ironically, without the 8×16 bricks base, separating the blocks is now less of a problem than it was in WeDo 1.0. Still, its presence in the set is much appreciated. LEGO parts – farewells The new LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 set is much richer than its predecessor, at least in terms of LEGO parts. However, there are several particular pieces in WeDo 1.0 that will be very much missed. Let’s start with the most important one, the gray Technic cam. This particular, inconspicuous LEGO part was indispensable for all designs using crankshaft mechanisms. And while there are ways of creating crankshafts without this part, the mechanism will never be as simple and neat. Other parts that were often used in WeDo 1.0 are 2×6 bricks, 8×16 base brick and 2×2 slope bricks, all mentioned in the previous paragraphs, and all useful for building durable LEGO structures. Effects on robot designs WeDo robot designers and constructors should be very pleased with the new set. The possibilities of the 2.0 set are significantly greater even with the same limited amount of electronic pieces. With 280 LEGO parts to choose from, we can build much stronger and bigger models – in WeDo 1.0 there always seemed to be one plate too few. There are also several new possibilities brought by the introduction of new types of pieces to the set. New gears, ball joint connectors, axle connectors, more rubber bands, a new bigger turntable – all of this will make the designing process easier and simply more fun. Our talented RoboCAMP robot designers are working hard to provide WeDo 2.0 versions for all our WeDo models. They are now working on our popular SafariCAMP lesson plan. When ready, all the WeDo 2.0 materials will be added to your SafariCAMP lesson plan subscription at no additional cost. As for now, let us introduce Horse and Nest in their new 2.0 editions. Electronic components Electronic parts in the LEGO Education WeDo™ 2.0 Core set are generally very similar to what was available in WeDo 1.0. We get four electronic components – one medium motor, a tilt sensor, a motion sensor and a Smart Hub. The set introduces the new connection technology using plugs and ports to connect electronic elements with Smart Hub. The connection technology is, therefore, more similar to LEGO Mindstorms than to WeDo 1.0. It’s hard to assess yet if this technology is better than the system used in the previous version of the set. What we do know already is that with WeDo 2.0 you can plug in only two electronic elements into the Smart Hub at a time. WeDo 1.0 allowed for connecting one sensor and multiple motors to one hub.The cables in 2.0 are wider, which may improve durability. However, it can also become a problem in some designs, as the cables are much stiffer and harder to twist, and can restrain the movement of some robot models. The Smart Hub WeDo Smart Hub is a brand-new electronic LEGO element, designed specially for the WeDo 2.0 set. It plays the same role in the set as its predecessor, the WeDo USB hub, connecting sensors and motors with the computer and program that control them. The Smart Hub is significantly bigger than the previous version. In fact, it is bigger in every direction! Whereas the previous USB hub was a brick with a 4×5 base and a height of two regular bricks, the new one measures 4×8 studs and has height of three bricks. It has 1×4 Technic bricks (with holes) sticking out in the middle of both sides, which makes the hub even wider. All of this makes the Smart Hub almost four times bigger than its previous version. The main reason for the increased size of the new Smart Hub is that it has to hold two AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable), which now power the wireless connection and all other electronic parts attached to the hub. In WeDo 1.0 there was no need for an additional power source as the models were powered via USB from a computer, which they were connected to all the time. The introduction of the Smart Hub adds another task to classroom logistics as you have to keep the batteries charged. The battery case in Smart Hub can be replaced with a rechargeable Add-On Power Pack, but the purchase considerably adds to the cost of the equipment for the classroom, as one power pack costs about half the price of a whole LEGO WeDo 2.0 set. Even with a whole set of power packs, you still need to keep them charged. And you won’t have the option of swapping them when they run out during a lesson, unless you buy even more. Considering all that, we suggest going with much cheaper, good quality rechargeable AA batteries and a good set of chargers. Buy 150% of the amount you need for one lesson – that way you will always have some charged batteries in reserve. The biggest change, compared to the previous LEGO WeDo USB hub, is the use of wireless Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth 4.0) technology, instead of conventional USB solution with a cable. This brings brand-new possibilities and changes. Together with plenty of wheels provided in the new WeDo set, a wirelessly controlled, battery-powered WeDo model can now be truly mobile. This is a big step forward from the previous WeDo system. However, the Bluetooth technology creates a challenge of connecting all the Smart Hubs to the right devices in the classroom. There’s a possibility of changing the name of each Smart Hub in the Connection Center of the WeDo software. We suggest assigning an individual name to each hub both in the software and physically, using stickers. The back panel of the WeDo 2.0 Smart Hub contains two ports for the electronic parts supporting the new LEGO Power Functions plug. The top of the hub is covered with studs, has one centrally placed green button, and a light panel next to it. The light panel is used to indicate if the Smart Hub is connected to a computer or tablet. It is also a light source that can be programmed in WeDo software, with 10 colors to choose from. The green button (which LEGO also refers to as a “blue light button”) is used to turn the Smart Hub on and off. Pressing the button on a hub will make it ready to connect to other devices. When the hub is connected to another device, the light lights up blue. To turn the hub off, press and hold the green button for a few seconds. Sadly, the hub’s button isn’t utilized for anything more. The possibility of running the last program with the press of a button would be invaluable, making the WeDo set truly wireless. Currently, despite the Bluetooth technology, you still need to start the program using a tablet or computer. Adding this feature would bring WeDo closer to the more-grown-up Mindstorms EV3 set. The Medium Motor The new motor is very similar to the one in the 1.0 version of the WeDo set. The main difference is the introduction of four studs on the top, at the expense of one less pin hole on the front. This design allows for easier integration with other LEGO parts. Several tests performed to compare 1.0 and 2.0 motors suggest that there are no major differences in operation. The new motor seems to operate slightly more stably and with a bit less power – the tested WeDo 1.0 motor worked faster despite the fact that it has been heavily used for a couple of years. The Motion Sensor The WeDo 2.0 motion sensor attached to the Smart Hub can detect objects within a 15 cm range. Like in the previous set, the sensor can be used to measure distance to the object in front of it, or detect motion (which is in fact a change in distance). Its readings are then sent to the computer via Smart Hub and displayed on the computer screen. Interestingly, in WeDo 2.0 those measurements are interpreted inversely than in the WeDo 1.0 set. With increasing distance, the number values displayed on the screen increase, which suggests that the readings are in fact distance measurements. In LEGO WeDo 1.0 the correlation was inverse – the greater distance, the smaller the number that appeared on the screen. This is a good change since it is now much easier for kids to understand what the measurements mean. However, this change makes it much harder to use both 1.0 and 2.0 versions of the WeDo set in one classroom, which otherwise would be a nice solution for some schools. Working with data that in the two sets is collected differently can be very confusing and very demanding for the teacher to make the class work. The WeDo 2.0 motion sensor has much better resolution than its predecessor. It can detect a change in distance as small as the size of two studs, which is around 1.5 cm, whereas for the previous version it could be as many as nine studs (over 7 cm). Moreover, with the WeDo 1.0 sensor, the resolution changes with distance, while the new sensor resolution is constant in the range of 25 studs. All of that makes the new 2.0 sensor more dependable and better overall than its predecessor. The Tilt Sensor The new version of the WeDo tilt sensor brings minor changes with respect to its older version. Its response to the change of its position is slower, which means that the sensor must be tilted strongly to detect the change. The the tilt sensor readings are, once again, interpreted differently by the software. In the WeDo 1.0 version, different measures of tilt were referred to using the numbers 0, 2, 8, 4 and 10 in the software. Now those same positions of the sensor are marked as 0, 3, 5, 7 and 9. It’s hard to say as to why LEGO made the change since there’s no obvious reason for it. Nonetheless, it’s another impediment for those teachers who hope to incorporate two types of sets in a classroom. WeDo 2.0 software – general information LEGO WeDo 2.0, unlike its predecessor, doesn’t require the user to buy the software separately. Much like with the recent LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set, the software dedicated for this set is available for free download on the LEGO website, which is great. There are two software versions available: FULL or STARTER. The most obvious difference between the two variants is that the “FULL” software includes the new LEGO curriculum (consisting of 17 projects, which include 1+8 models with building instructions), whereas the “STARTER” software allows for building only the “Get Started” project. In early statements, LEGO Education said that the curriculum will be available for schools at the price of $289.95. However, as of this writing (March 9, 2016) the curriculum is available for free. This information was posted as an added paragraph in the WeDo 2.0 ReadyGo Classroom Pack product description, stating that this is a limited offer. This information has disappeared. Nonetheless, the FULL software with the curriculum is still available for download. Core Set buyers were not informed about the special offer; however, they also can download the full version without being charged. LEGO’s strategy on this subject is a bit unclear, but for the time being, the customer (and in fact, everyone who has the link) is granted free access to building instructions, which is hardly reason to frown. In the recently added FAQ section, LEGO states that the promotion will last until June 30, 2016. Customers who bought the curriculum during the promotion can be reimbursed for their purchase. Downloading and installing the WeDo 2.0 software can be bliss or a nightmare, depending on the device and operating system you use. We have a long and successful history of working with the previous LEGO WeDo set, whose programming software was available only for personal computers (Windows XP and newer, iMacs). For more than five years, using a computer with WeDo was the obvious thing to do, so you can imagine our surprise, when we saw that the WeDo 2.0 software version for desktops is, by far, the most faulty of them all. You can see our findings on using LEGO WeDo 2.0 software on different platforms below. WeDo 2.0 software for tablets iOS There is support for Apple products (iOS 8.0 or later, compatible with iPad 3rd generation or iPad mini and above), so both software versions are available in the Apple App Store and work fine. Find the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 FULL or STARTER application in the Apple App Store and there shouldn’t be any problems with downloading and installing the app on your device. Android Support for Android devices is problematic. LEGO states that WeDo software works on devices that run Android 4.4.4 or higher and support Bluetooth Low Energy/Bluetooth 4.0. This, however, is only partially true. WeDo 2.0 users have described problems with numerous devices that met requirements, with the WeDo application refusing to install. The LEGO community started to create a list of devices tested by users and the outcomes of those tests. The list can be accessed here. On February 25, 2016, a member of LEGO’s technical support stated in the thread linked above that tablets and phones with screens smaller than 8” are not supported. This limitation, however, is still not reflected either on LEGO’s FAQ site (or any LEGO website for that matter) or Google Play. LEGO WeDo is also not available for Kindle devices. WeDo 2.0 software for personal computers Windows 7 The WeDo software version for the Windows 7 is, sadly, a disaster, despite several updates. The first version, “01_00”, had only an installer for the 64-bit architecture systems, and didn’t have a button to exit the application. What’s more, the application would crash if the computer didn’t have a webcam installed, it would crash if the touch pad and mouse were used at the same time, and it would even crash randomly upon start! However, these bugs are nothing compared to the most crucial of them all, which is still not fixed: despite having Bluetooth Low Energy/Bluetooth 4.0 as the only hardware requirement, the software won’t connect to the Smart Hub. Since programming the electronic LEGO bricks is the single most important feature of the set, being unable to do so, causes understandable frustration among customers. At RoboCAMP, we have tried different approaches to make WeDo 2.0 work. It was certainly the most problematic software we have ever used. Finally, we resorted to calling the distributor. Mr Jakub Piasecki from AKCES Education, LEGO Education distributor for Poland, has shed some light on the problem. Because of different handling of the Bluetooth 4.0 technology on different Windows operating systems, LEGO made the WeDo software for Windows 7 compatible only with one specific Bluetooth 4.0 dongle. This dongle is BlueGiga’s BLED112. Let’s clear up the confusion. It doesn’t matter if your computer has Bluetooth Low Energy/Bluetooth 4.0, because even if it does, it won’t be used by the application. The BLED112 dongle is required in all cases to make the software connect with the Smart Hub. LEGO at first falsely advertised the WeDo 2.0 as requiring only built-in Bluetooth 4.0, then suggested buying BLED112, and finally admitted that Windows 7 users won’t be able to connect at all without the BLE112 dongle. This information has since been added to the FAQ on LEGO Education’s website, which will hopefully make future customers aware that they may need additional hardware to use the set. LEGO also promises upgrades to the existing software that will fix all bugs. The version of the software we tested was 1.1.0. How to download and install the software for Windows 7: Buy and connect BlueGiga’s BLED112 Bluetooth 4.0 dongle. Following the instructions on an information sheet in the box, go to www.LEGOeducation.com/Download. The link redirects to the education.lego.com download page, which provides installation links for both Mindstorms and WeDo Education software. Click the WeDo 2.0 button. You will see a page offering two products: FULL or STARTER versions of the software. On the right side of each product panel there are instructions for downloading the software for “All Operating Systems”, with the link redirecting the user to LEGO Education Resources Online. Links on both product panels are the same – it does not matter which one you click. Click one of the links. You will be redirected to LEGO Education Resources Online. When asked to “Activate the product using LEGO ID” click “Next”. Log in to LEGO Education Resources Online or create a new account. After logging in you will be taken to the page boldly called download page. However, it’s not the end yet. Choose if you want to install the STARTER (here referred to as Core Software) or FULL version of the software (here referred to as Curriculum Pack). Click the appropriate “Continue” button. In the product description window that appears, click “Go to product page”. You can also note that both product descriptions apply to the same, STARTER version of the software. You can laugh or cry for a while here – luckily, we hope, you already know which to choose. If not – read here. After that, you will be finally redirected to the product download page, where LEGO brags that it has “automatically detected your operating system and language settings”. However, no matter what the page detects, there is only one version of software for Windows available and it is for Windows 7. I use Windows 8.1 and I, too, was offered a version for Windows 7 (heads up – it doesn’t work). We also didn’t notice any differences when changing language settings – the only version available is marked “global” and in English. Download the software anyway. Install the software and you’re finally done. Phew! Windows 8 and 8.1 Despite looking nearly identical, applications for Windows 7 and Windows 8 operating systems are very different. The Windows 8 version is targeted more at the users of tablets with this system, but if you happen to own a computer with Windows 8 (or 8.1) you can use this application as well and consider yourself lucky. Contrary to the version for Windows 7, this one actually works out of the box. How to download and install the software for Windows 8 and 8.1: Go to Windows Store and search for LEGO WeDo 2.0. Install the app on your device. In the Bluetooth settings of your computer, pair your LEGO WeDo Smart Hub with your computer. You should now be able to use the software to program your WeDo robots. Windows 10 Windows 10 users have a problem. Their operating system is not even listed as supported by WeDo 2.0. Despite having access to the Windows Store, the WeDo software that works on 8 and 8.1 is unavailable for 10. What’s more, the installer for the Windows 7 version of the WeDo software won’t even start to work, informing you that “this program does not support the version of Windows your computer is running”. However, we found a temporary solution. It uses the installer for Windows 7 and, therefore also requires the BLED112 Bluetooth dongle. Here’s how it works: Download the WeDo 2.0 installer for Windows 7 from LEGO Education Resources Online. Click the downloaded file with the right mouse button and select “Properties”. Click the “Compatibility” tab. In the “Compatibility mode” section tick the “Run this program in compatibility mode for” option and select “Windows 7” below. Click “OK” and install the application. This way you can enjoy WeDo 2.0 software on your Windows 10 machine, provided you have the BLED112 Bluetooth smart dongle. LEGO has announced that it is working on a software version for Windows 10, but there was no release date mentioned. Edit, March 18: Fun fact! We managed to run the Windows 8 version of the WeDo software successfully on Windows 10 without the Bluetooth dongle! Turns out that if you install the WeDo software on the Windows 8.1 system and then upgrade to Windows 10, the software still works. The only inconvenience is that after the system upgrade, you have to pair your WeDo Smart Hub with Windows every time before use. It is obviously another hack rather than a solution, but it proves that using WeDo with this version of Windows is possible, even without the BLED112 dongle (you still need Bluetooth 4.0, however). Therefore, enabling W10 users to download the W8 version of the software will at least temporarily solve the problem. Please spread the word! Maybe LEGO will hear us! Mac OS X The software for Mac users is available on the LEGO Education website on the same page as the version for Windows 7. The version of the software that is now available is identified as 1.2.7, which suggests that there were more updates to this version of the software than to the one for Windows 7. This may be due to the fact that the Mac version is more buggy, or that LEGO gives it a higher priority. We really hope it’s the latter, since we have not managed to test this version of the software or check if it needs additional hardware. We hope it works as well as the iPad version. For those of you who would like to download the software and test it yourself, here’s how to do it: Go to www.LEGOeducation.com/Download. Click the WeDo 2.0 button. You will see a page offering two products: FULL or STARTER versions of the software. On the right side of each product panel there are instructions for downloading the software for “All Operating Systems”, with the link redirecting the user to LEGO Education Resources Online. Links on both product panels are the same – it does not matter which one you click. Click one of the links. You will be redirected to LEGO Education Resources Online. When asked to “Activate the product using LEGO ID” click “Next”. Log in to LEGO Education Resources Online or create a new account. After logging in you will be taken to the page called download page. Choose if you want to install the STARTER (here referred to as Core Software) or FULL version of the software (here referred to as Curriculum Pack). Click the appropriate “Continue” button. In the product description window that appears, click “Go to product page”. If you don’t know which version of the software to choose – read here. After that, you will be finally redirected to the product download page, where you can choose the OS X operating system. Download the appropriate version of the software. Install the software on your computer. Software – overview Once you have successfully installed the software on your device, we can move on to discussing its features. The new version of the software has its ups and downs and can surely rouse a debate. Let’s start with the icon, which is quite frankly just ugly and much less clear than the simple but great icon of WeDo 1.0, which was much easier to find on the Desktop. Starting up the new software takes significantly longer than before. It takes 12 seconds for the software to be ready to use, and then you still have to maneuver through the so-called Science Lab Lobby to start a new project or edit an existing one. You also always have to close the Project Library tab that is open by default before you can move on to programming. All these actions required to start programming can be confusing for the youngest children. In WeDo 1.0, you were good to go just two seconds after clicking the software’s icon. Every project made with WeDo 2.0 software is available only through the Science Lab Lobby; you can’t save it, which can be a huge problem. To edit, delete or change name of an existing project you have to press and hold it for a few seconds – this action is used both on tablets and computers, which can be tricky for computer users (it definitely took us some time to figure it out!). Inside the project, you will find an interface similar to what we know from the WeDo 1.0 version. The program scripts are created by dragging and dropping blocks from the block palette at the bottom of the screen onto the Programming Canvas. The block palette is presented as a vertical roll, which you scroll by dragging it left or right. In the Toolbar at the top of the page, you will find several important buttons. The Home button can be used to get to the lobby. Project Library button opens a panel with 1+8+8 projects found in the LEGO WeDo 2.0 curriculum (sold separately). Purchasing the curriculum also grants access to the Design Library, with building and programming inspirations. In the Toolbar you will also find a Capture tool icon, for access to the camera and screen capture tool, and the Documentation tool icon, where students can document their work. On the right side of the Toolbar, the Help bar holds a brief description of programming blocks and information on how to connect Smart Hub to the software. The Display button shows and hides images or text displayed by the program. And finally, the Stop button stops all the scripts in the program. In the right corner of the page, you can access the Sound Recording tool and the Connection Center, which controls the connection between the Smart Hub and your device. To connect the Smart Hub, turn on the hub and select it from the list of available devices (in some cases you will need to pair the devices beforehand). To change the name of the device, click its name on the list and hold it for a few seconds. WeDo 2.0 Software – programming blocks The drag-and-drop WeDo 2.0 software is much better suited to a touchscreen device than a personal computer. This means that PC users would need to get used to some changes, such as scrolling through the block palette or clicking and holding instead of right-clicking. To enter numbers into the input fields, you have to click the number field and use the number pad that appears on the screen to enter numbers. Yes, even when using a PC, you cannot enter numbers using the keyboard – it’s quite ridiculous on its own. What’s more, however, is that when you want to enter letters into the text field, then you use keyboard. That’s just absurd. Apart from those quirks, WeDo 2.0 software is really similar to 1.0. We still have the same categories of blocks and they are color-coded identically. We have yellow Flow blocks, which can start, suspend and repeat the script, as well as send messages to other scripts. The only thing that has changed here is the operation of the Wait block – it has been calibrated and now the numbers in the numerical input field of the block reflect actual seconds. WeDo 1.0 used a time unit of 0.1 second. This change is understandable but unfortunate, since in order to do some programs, we will now have to explain fractions to 7-year-olds. At RoboCAMP we prefer the previous time unit, which we refer to as “LEGOseconds” with our students to avoid confusion. Green motor blocks are used to control the motor and, interestingly, the light on the Smart Hub. Red Display blocks are used to display numbers and pictures in the Display field and perform simple arithmetical operations on the numbers displayed in the field. The new feature here is the introduction of three new blocks for controlling the Display field itself. We can now program when the field appears, when it closes and what size it should be. There are also some changes in the input blocks. As for the Sensor Input blocks, we get three new blocks for controlling the distance sensor – we can now detect an increase, a decrease and any change of distance. We can also still get a numerical value of the distance, which is now interpreted inversely than in WeDo 1.0. There are also changes in the readouts displayed by the tilt sensor. The positions of the sensor are now marked as 0, 3, 5, 7 and 9. Other input blocks, such as text and number input, random input or sound input block, haven’t changed compared to the previous version of the software. LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 curriculum With the purchase of a LEGO Education WeDo™ 2.0 Core set, we get access to the STARTER software. It contains the programming software and one free Starter Project available in the Project Library with building and programming instructions for a basic WeDo rover, and additional ideas for using sensors with the model or connecting two rover models together. To get access to more WeDo 2.0 projects prepared by LEGO Education, you have to purchase the Curriculum pack, available for schools for $289.95. However, under a temporary promotion, the full version of the curriculum is available for free to all Core set buyers until June 30, 2016 – read more here. The Curriculum provides access to 8+8 additional projects. Among those, half contain comprehensive building and programming instructions and other educational materials, and the other half are just lesson ideas with brief descriptions and pictures of some sample mechanisms. We will prepare a thorough review of the models and lessons provided in LEGO WeDo 2.0 Curriculum Pack soon, so stay tuned. Conclusions Those of you who read the whole review (Congrats!) already know that we have somewhat mixed feelings about the new LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 set. Let’s sum up the pros first. We love that the brick resources are huge compared to the set’s predecessor. We also like several new pieces that were introduced in this set. The building possibilities are much greater and the building process itself is easier and much more pleasant. And although there are some bricks that will be missed from the 1.0 set, our general impression regarding the brick contents of the new set is extremely positive. Another thing we really like is the storage box, especially the sorting tray, which allows for a significant reduction in construction time – much appreciated in the classroom (almost as much as the noise reduction). As for the electronic parts, our collective opinion is moderately positive. We like the improved sensors but also feel that the changes in interpreting their readouts were unnecessary. It is now nearly impossible to conduct the classes using 1.0 and 2.0 sets simultaneously, which is unfortunate as not every school can afford to upgrade all their WeDo sets at once. The Smart Hub and the introduction of Bluetooth technology is a nice idea but it’s sadly not fully utilized. There is no cable connecting the hub to the computer or tablet, but the robot is still not completely independent – you still need to run the program using another device. We deeply regret that the button on the Smart Hub wasn’t programmed to run the last program. It would have been so great if children could take the programmed model and play with it away from their desks, just like with LEGO Mindstorms. I guess we will have to wait until the third version of the set to realize this dream. And there’s the batteries that you now have to keep charged – we’re just not sure if it’s worth it. And now for the software. Well, it’s free. And that’s about it in terms of the pros. It is, sadly, the most underdeveloped software we have ever used. We encountered countless problems concerning software versions and availability, the installation process, additional and hidden hardware requirements, connecting to the Smart Hub and general lack of information. To run the software on all the devices we tested, we had to search the farthest corners of the Internet and contact several people at LEGO Education and its regional distributors. It was a really exhausting and frustrating process. So is it time to upgrade? Well, yes, in a couple of months. Hopefully, by then LEGO will have fixed all the bugs and other problems with the software and provide a reliable source of information and support for users. If it happens, WeDo 2.0 will have a chance to replace its predecessor as the greatest tool for teaching early robotics to kids aged 7-9. However, if you’re not convinced (or you teach mostly 6-year-olds), according to LEGO Education, their WeDo 1.0 set will be available until mid-2017. If you have questions about the new WeDo 2.0 set or want to share your own thoughts and observations, you’re welcome to add your comments below.
GORILLA ROBOT FOR LEGO WEDO
The great thing about educational robotics is its comprehensiveness. Working in teams on a project creates the perfect opportunity for kids to develop crucial abilities, such as motor skills, mental operations and social skills like communication and collaboration. It is also an eclectic field of study, integrating the knowledge of various domains like mathematics, physics, mechanics, programming. Those benefits make robotics a great addition to any STEM curriculum. However at RoboCAMP we believe that robotics can be integrated into any core subject – what matters here is the context in which we set up the task. With that in mind we decided to combine robotics and Earth sciences in a fun project for children aged 6 to 9 – robotic Gorilla. The Gorilla lesson is divided into four steps: introduction, robot building and exploring, programming (LEGO WeDo Software or Scratch), and play-time. Our gorilla is a cute and friendly robot, loved especially by the youngest students. The construction consists of a walking gorilla figure and a banana branch with a hidden tilt sensor. The idea is to make the gorilla walk and make sounds by waving the banana branch. A detailed step-by-step instruction will guide your students through the whole building process. This project is great a activity for children aged 6 to 9. For younger kids we suggest using LEGO WeDo Software. 1. Say hi to your new Gorilla buddy! A lesson with robotic Gorilla is a great chance to introduce your students to this amazing species. It brings the great opportunity to discuss various topics in class – from the biology of primates and evolution, through gorillas’ distribution in the world and their communication skills, to their conservation and ecology. 2. Building time! At this part use a step-by-step building instruction below. The gorilla is build using a standard LEGO Education WeDo 9580 set. To navigate through the instruction use + and – buttons on the bottom bar. If you get stuck, click an arrow button for a hint. How it works? This is getting exciting! Before we start programming let’s focus on the robot’s design. This part explains how all the electronic and mechanical elements work together. Find the motor, tilt sensor, hub and gears in your model. Try to figure out what are they used for. 3. It’s alive!! Not literally of course. But don’t worry – we can still make the Gorilla walk and recognize the sensor’s movement. Take a look at the instruction below to program the Gorilla using Scratch software. 4. Play-time! Enjoy the fully functioning Gorilla robot! Have fun! We hope that you enjoyed this project. Let us know and leave a comment – we’d love some feedback! The Gorilla lesson is a part of RoboCAMP’s SafariCAMP lesson plan containing 12 nature-themed projects. If you want to see more, visit check this link..
Robotic egg decorator for Mindstorms EV3
The Easter holiday is a joyful time when we engage in numerous celebrations and special activities. The most notable and fun has to be dyeing eggs and decorating them in different, often very detailed and ornamented, patterns. As you may know, at RoboCAMP, we like to improve on common tasks by designing robots to do the work for us. Inspired by the upcoming Easter holidays, we decided to decorate our eggs in a more modern, automatic way. Thus, we came up with the idea for the EV3 Robotic Egg Decorator. Take a look at the video which shows a glimpse of what this robot can achieve. Build one yourself! All you need is a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 (31313) set, a felt-tip pen (at least one color, but the more the better!) and a couple of hard-boiled eggs. The building instructions for the EV3 Robotic Egg Decorator are right below. The Egg Decorator uses all three EV3 motors. The large motor is responsible for precise lengthwise positioning of the pen on the egg, and the second one rotates the egg. The medium motor is used to raise and lower the pen so we can control where the robot draws lines on the egg. The main challenge was to build a robot that will hold eggs of different sizes. Our robot has an ingenious holder, which uses a LEGO tire to give a better grip on one side with a clever, adjustable holder at the other end. The programs we’ve provided give you the chance to decorate your eggs using three different patterns. You can combine them to make your egg designs unique! Click here to download an EV3 project with three sample programs. Have a fun and happy Easter holiday!
USING LEGO WeDo WITH SCRATCH – THE SMART SPINNER
As promised, we are back with a new Scratch programming tutorial. This time we chose another popular LEGO WeDo model – the Smart Spinner. LEGO’s Smart Spinner model The model consists of a spinning top and a handle, which uses a motor to set the top in motion. When the spinning top is connected to the handle and the handle motor is turned on, the handle spins the top. The distance sensor is used to stop the motor when the handle is lifted away. This neat design includes an interesting and easily visible gear train, which transfers energy from the motor (powered by the computer) to the top. Building and programming the Smart Spinner in class is a great opportunity to discuss a variety of science and technology topics, e.g. the transmission of motion through a machine, changing electrical energy (from the computer) to mechanical energy (the moving gears and spinning top), angular momentum, friction, gear trains, etc. Program LEGO’s Smart Spinner using Scratch To build the Smart Spinner, follow the instructions in the WeDo software or on the manufacturer’s web site. To program the spinner, we will use Scratch. The idea is to turn the handle motor on when the program is started and stop it when the top is spinning and the handle is lifted away. The script for this project is fairly easy. The instructions below will guide you through the process of writing a script for the Smart Spinner in Scratch 1.4 (The WeDo extension for Scratch 2.0 is still a little buggy, so we do not recommend using it in class just yet). Use the + and – buttons on the lower bar to navigate through the instructions. Click on the main field to start and stop the animation. We hope you like this project. Let us know if you need more tutorials on how to use Scratch with WeDo.
USING LEGO WeDo WITH SCRATCH – THE HUNGRY ALLIGATOR
LEGO Education WeDo Robotics set. The LEGO WeDo robotics set by LEGO Education is by far our favorite tool for introducing programming to young children. Introduced in 2008, LEGO WeDo combines intuitive drag-and-drop programming software with LEGO’s Power Functions motor, two types of sensor (an infrared motion/distance sensor and a tilt sensor) and a USB hub that connects the motors and the sensors to the computer. The goal is to build a robot with kid-friendly LEGO bricks and then write a program to run it. The WeDo packaging suggests the age range is 7+, but six year olds will do just fine when using WeDo in the classroom. In the home environment, with a parent’s assistance, even five year olds will do well with it. The programming software developed by National Instruments uses drag and drop to build programs from simple colorful blocks. The idea is similar to LEGO Mindstorms software but with much fewer and simpler blocks. For more detailed information and tips and tricks on the WeDo sets and software, see the WeDo Teacher’s handbook available with every RoboCAMP WeDo lesson plan. Make the most out of it. Scratch! As was already stated, WeDo is perfect for youngsters. But what do you do when your child (or your class) grows out of it? For older kids (9+) most parents and teachers consider skipping straight to LEGO Mindstorms as they assume those kids will get bored quickly with WeDo. However, with its many software options and much more complicated mechanics, LEGO Mindstorms might be a little much for many nine year olds. A nice transition idea for kids this age and a way to make the most of your WeDo sets is to use WeDo bricks with Scratch visual programming software by MIT Lab. We hope you’ve already heard of Scratch. If not, definitely check it out! Scratch is a free brilliant programming environment, in which kids can control the actions of animated objects called sprites. These can be used to create animations and even simple games (see our Gorilla game and Bouncing Frog game in Scratch). You can also choose to ignore the sprites and focus solely on robotic control, as Scratch can be used with LEGO WeDo. Program LEGO’s Hungry Alligator using Scratch. Since moving on from the WeDo programming environment to Scratch for the first time can be tricky, we created a simple tutorial on how to program LEGO’s popular Hungry Alligator WeDo construction using Scratch. The Hungry Alligator is a neat construction (one of our favorites by LEGO), which uses a motor and a distance sensor to move an alligator’s jaws. Its design includes a 90-degree-coupled gear and a belt drive, all hidden within a whimsical animal character. To build the Hungry Alligator, follow the instructions in the WeDo software or on the manufacturer’s web site. Now, for the programming part, the idea is to make the alligator catch and eat any thoughtless “prey” that crawls voluntarily inside its jaws (this alligator is a pretty passive and patient predator). The instructions below will guide you through the process of writing a script that will make the alligator do just that. Use the + and – buttons on the lower bar to navigate through the instructions. Click on the main field to start and stop the animation. In the next couple of weeks we are going to share more tutorials on how to use Scratch with WeDo. Stay tuned!
THE HOUR OF CODE – MAKE A BOUNCING FROG GAME USING SCRATCH, PART 2
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to upgrade a simple Pong-style game, made in Scratch visual software, by adding more features to make it more playable and challenging. For part 1, in which we build the basic game mechanics, visit Bouncing Frog game, part 1. This project is a contribution to the Hour of Code initiative introduced by CSEdWeek and Code.org to promote teaching computer programming and encourage students to create by writing code. From December 8-14, 2014, in celebration of Computer Science Education Week, the campaign encourages millions of students all over the world to spend an hour of their time learning how to code. The Bouncing Frog game is the second project prepared by RoboCAMP as a contribution to the Hour of Code initiative. If you missed the first one, check out the Gorilla game. In lesson 1, we created the simple game mechanics, in which the LEGO frog character is bouncing on a LEGO leaf. The player’s task is to move the leaf from side to side to keep the frog from falling into the water as long as possible. In lesson 2, we will learn how to use variables to add more features to the game, like accelerating the frog’s speed and keeping score. The final result is shown below – click on the green flag button to start the game. To give you a better understanding of how the game is made, we divided the lesson into three parts: Using a variable to accelerate frog sprite’s speed Using a variable to keep score Displaying the game completion message Ready? Then let’s start coding! 1. In this part, we learn about variables. We then create the new variable and use it to set the initial frog sprite’s speed and make it accelerate over time after every contact with a leaf sprite. To complete this part, follow the instructions below. Use the + and – buttons on the lower bar to navigate through the instructions. Click on the main field to start and stop the animation. 2. In the next part, we add the second variable to the program, which holds the score value. The player gains a point each time the frog sprite bounces off the leaf. 3. The third part of the lesson presents how to display a final message at the end of the game. We use another variable and a couple of blocks from the “Operators” tab to make it. That’s all! We hope you understand the concept of a variable now and enjoy your new game. We find it rather addicting. The high score so far among us here in the RoboCAMP offices is 75 points. Can you beat it? Tell us in the comments section below!
THE HOUR OF CODE – MAKE A BOUNCING FROG GAME USING SCRATCH, PART 1
This is the second project prepared by RoboCAMP as a contribution to the Hour of Code initiative. If you missed the first one, check out the Gorilla game. The Bouncing Frog game is a simple Pong-style game starring a LEGO frog modeled after the character in the Frogs construction of the StarCAMP WeDo robotics lesson plan by RoboCAMP. To build this game, we will use the Scratch visual programming software from MIT Lab, which can be downloaded free of charge here. You can make your own graphics for the game or download the ones already prepared from here. In our project, we used a LEGO frog character bouncing on a LEGO leaf. The player’s task is to move the leaf from side to side to keep the frog from falling into the water as long as possible. The project is divided into two lessons. In lesson 1, we will learn how to create the simple bouncing mechanism. In lesson 2, we will learn how to use variables to add more features to the game, like accelerating the frog’s speed and keeping the score. The final result is shown below – click on the green flag button to start the game. To give you a better understanding of how the game is made, we divided the lesson into four parts: Importing the background and frog sprite and defining its starting position. Defining the starting angle and programming the bouncing off the edges feature. Importing the leaf sprite and programming the mouse control feature. Programming the frog’s interaction with the leaf. Ready? Then hold on to your hats and let’s start coding! 1. In this part we import the background for the game. We also import and name the frog sprite. Then we set up the starting position for the frog sprite to make it appear exactly in the same place each time the game starts. To complete this part, follow the instructions below. Use the + and – buttons on the lower bar to navigate through the instructions. Click on the main field to start and stop the animation. 2. In this part, we program the frog’s action when it hits the edge of the stage. We also define the initial angle for the frog’s motion to make the game more playable. 3. The third part is really interesting. We add the leaf sprite to the stage and name it. We then program it to move sideways with the movement of the computer mouse. This is how we let the player control the game. 4. And for the final task. Let’s add an interaction between the two sprites and program what happens when the frog touches the leaf. That’s when the project begins to resemble the famous and beloved Pong game. Congratulations! You’ve completed your Hour of Code project from RoboCAMP. We hope you had fun making the Bouncing Frog game. But don’t stop there! Stay tuned for lesson 2 and in the meantime check out the Gorilla game. Keep calm and keep coding!
Santa claus’s sleigh for Mindstorms EV3!
The Christmas season is here again! To celebrate this joyful time, we at RoboCAMP have decided to share a little gift with all of you LEGO Mindstorms EV3 enthusiasts. If you like the idea of inviting the Christmas spirit into the scientific world of robotics, take a look at our new robot model – Santa Claus’s sleigh, consisting of a functional sleigh, Santa himself and two of his favorite reindeers! We are sure that it will look awesome under your Christmas tree! To build your own model, follow the instructions below. And there is more! Send a picture of a this model under your Christmas tree to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on our Facebook page with the tag #robocamp. The winner will get six months of free access to a RoboCAMP lesson plan of his/her choosing with instructions for lots of great LEGO models. Good luck! The sleigh is powered by two large EV3 motors, which move little wheels that are hidden from view. A medium motor moves both reindeer. Their legs move simultaneously and their heads bob from time to time. The model is made with a single LEGO Mindstorms EV3 31313 set – no additional parts are needed. To build Santa Claus’s sleigh, follow the interactive building instructions below. They are long but totally worth the effort! The construction is designed to be controlled with the infra-red remote controller that comes with the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set. To download the ready-to-use program for Santa’s sleigh, simply click here. Have fun with the robot!