Today i met with the technology teachers at my middle school and they are interested in beginning a robotics cycle in the school. A cycle is 1/5th of the school year and is only 35 days. They have 6 classes per day with 24 students in each class. They are looking to go either with NXT’s or VEX EQ. I have worked a lot with NXT’s but never the EQ’s.
I was hoping to get some feedback from people who have experience with both as to which you believe would work better in a middle school environment.
Thanks in advance!
Up front, the most obvious difference (which the students love) is that IQ has driver control in addition to autonomous. On the competition side (which doesn’t look like what you’re necessarily interested in), IQ competition is year round, while Lego League is short, quick and done, 1-year teams without much year-over-year continuity.
If you get into IQ, I recommend joining the VEXIQ World Wide Coaches Association on Facebook.
@kmmohn definitely mentioned the best difference that the driving the robot keeps kids engaged.
Another major upside are the 12 universal ports for motors and sensors for VEX IQ to Lego’s 4 sensor and 4 motor ports. It allows for much more creative robots.
From a dollar cost, the VEXIQ parts are less expensive than their Lego Counterparts. The other advantage is that the VEXIQ constructed “machines” are more roboust. They can manage drops without bursting into lots of pieces.
From a programming standpoint having the RobotC environment with both a character based and a graphics based language is a plus. For schools that have iPads, I recommend the use of Modkit. With the Bluetooth radio on the robot, the programs from the iPad can be directly downloaded.
I assume you mean EV3 robots - the NXT is the previous-generation Mindstorms brain, and hasn’t been sold new since ~2014. The motors and sensors in the NXT kit are different from those in the EV3 kit, but are compatible.
In the camps I’ve been running recently, the kids build and program both an EV3 robot and an IQ robot in the same week. We start them on the EV3 bots and then move them on to IQ after a couple of days.
IMO, IQ is the clearly superior platform on paper, but in practice there are various minor issues that make it a bit more even between the two. Some random thoughts:
- Kids LOVE teleop, and Mindstorms can’t do that very easily.
- IQ parts are physically much harder to put together and take apart, even for adults. On the other hand, we have some 3D-printed pin pullers which help a lot, but not in every scenario. We have not needed any tools to take apart Mindstorms parts.
- If you’re programming on iPads via Bluetooth, EV3-G for iOS offers only a small subset of the features of the desktop version, whereas Modkit on iOS has near feature-parity with the desktop version. However, the Bluetooth connection to the EV3 seems to be a bit more reliable than that to the IQ brain.
- Modkit will do a bunch of drivetrain-related math for you, providing blocks like “Drive forward X mm” and “Turn Y degrees”, whereas EV3-G makes you do all that math yourself (which can be a bit much for younger kids, though middle schoolers can probably handle it).
- The IQ super kit is about $90 cheaper than the EV3 core set, a difference which will really add up if you buy enough kits for ~150 kids.
Overall, the EV3 platform is somewhat less capable but quite a bit easier to use and more polished. If it’s feasible, I would recommend that you play around with each kit a bit before making a final decision.
Factor in on-going costs and TCO too. Some replacement part comparisons:
-LEGO EV3 brick $205 vs VEX IQ brain $100.
-LEGO EV3 battery $90 vs VEX IQ $20.
-LEGO EV3 motor $28 vs VEX IQ $20.
Also only 3 motors in EV3 set vs 4 motors in VEX IQ super kit.
For classroom use it’s worth exploring is the new LEGO Spike Prime product. List price is 4 cents cheaper than an IQ super kit but you’re buying into a more expensive ecosphere and realistically for a true comparison you’d need to add the Spike Prime Expansion set for an additional $100 anyway.
I’m actually really curious about the difference in the competition seasons. For EV3, is it true that you can only qualify from your first competition? What else is different? I only really know VEX IQ, so I’m not going to give input to the original question…
Sort of a quick summary: Lego League (and Lego League Jr.) are part of FIRST Robotics, and High School FRC teams get a lot of “brownie points” towards their Chairman’s Award for starting and helping out lego league teams. Since the FRC season is pretty much full-time for January-April, the Lego League activities are in the fall, October-December (in Michigan, at least) so the FRC students can build their bots. Like FRC, there is not really time for iterative improvements, so you better get it right the first time. Competition typically includes the robot challenge (basically a “programming skills challenge” fully autonomous only, there is no driver control), a presentation (which often includes a skit to present their invention), and perhaps a “think on the spot” teamwork challenge like build a tower from newspaper and popsicle sticks (where the judges are usually looking at the team interaction/planning/working together, rather than the actual end product). In my experience, most lego league teams are “1-year activities” with teams forming up for a single season of FLL-Junior and FLL, and then a bit more continuity with FTC and FRC.