Help for the LEGO EV3 Robotics Teacher
By Jesse Flot
The last two years have been full of changes (and resulting challenges) for classrooms that use the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robotics platform. The Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy has been hard at work to support LEGO EV3 teachers as they navigate these changes by updating our curriculum, professional development, and developing fully virtual solutions.
Big Change #1: Discontinued Support for the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3
In June, LEGO Education officially retired the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robotics platform. Once stock runs out, schools will no longer be able to purchase additional LEGO EV3 kits. This creates incredible logistical issues for classrooms that are not yet able to (or desire to) transition to the LEGO SPIKE Prime robotics platform.
Also motivated by the complexity and challenges brought on by COVID-19, our team has developed a fully virtual version of our Intro to Programming EV3 curriculum. We’ve virtualized over 70 environments, so that students can follow along with every piece of direct instruction, every “Try It’ programming activity, every Mini-Challenge, and every End-of-Unit Challenge. The curriculum contains all of the material for both physical robots AND virtual robots, so educators that need to balance both (as is the case with many hybrid learning implementations) don’t need to also balance multiple curricula.
The virtual robot itself contains simulated versions of the programmable motors, sensors, and other components. A built-in sensor dashboard allows students and teachers to quickly inspect the values the robot sees, speeding up the process of developing and troubleshooting their code.
Virtual activities can be run as many times as the student needs to foster their understanding, and their completion is automatically awarded so that students know when to move on. Our hope is that this virtual solution provides a smoother transition for classrooms with the physical LEGO EV3 being retired.
Big Change #2: Discontinued Support for the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Icon-based Programming Software (aka EV3-G)
Support for the original icon-based programming software (EV3-G) for the LEGO EV3 was discontinued after Apple released their "Catalina" update for macOS in October of 2019. At that point, schools had to choose between keeping the programming software running on an older version of the macOS operating system, or losing the programming software and updating the computers. In many cases, the decision to update the operating system was driven by IT security policies and classrooms lost access to the programming software. In response, LEGO Education released "EV3 Classroom" a word-block-based programming software (aka Scratch) for classrooms to use toward the end of 2020.
In response to these changes, our team fully updated our Introduction to Programming LEGO EV3 curriculum, a resource used by thousands of classrooms each year. The updated curriculum takes a classroom-proven and familiar tool and aligns it to EV3 Classroom, the word-block-based programming software. Like its predecessor, the updated Introduction to Programming with EV3 Classroom is freely available through our CS-STEM Network (CS2N.org).
Likewise, we also fully revamped our Teacher Professional Development, Teacher Certification, and Student Certifications. The new EV3 Classroom isn't a simple 1-for-1 swap with the previous icon-based software; it's a paradigm shift that comes with new concepts, new best practices, new pitfalls, and new troubleshooting and coding techniques. Our updated teacher training helps prepare educators to be successful, and our certifications reflect this new understanding.
LEGO SPIKE Prime Resources
For those LEGO EV3 Classrooms who are transitioning to the LEGO SPIKE Prime robotics platforms, we've got your back, too. Check out the following LEGO SPIKE Prime resources that the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy has produced so far:
- Coding and Computational Thinking with LEGO SPIKE Prime (a free, coding-focused curriculum available through the CS-STEM Network)
- CMRA Certified Online Professional Development with LEGO SPIKE Prime
- CMRA Certified Onsite Professional Development with LEGO SPIKE Prime
- Robocamp with Virtual SPIKE Prime (a fun, coding-focused virtual curriculum also available through the CS-STEM Network)