Recently, I represented MacICT at the product launch of LEGO® WeDo 2.0, LEGO Education Australia’s latest robot platform. As a fan of the original LEGO® WeDo kits and a facilitator of robotics workshops for students and teachers, I was very curious as to how the update could transform what I do.
There continues to be a lot of buzz in the media surrounding the need for STEM (and STEAM) education to help prepare the current generation for an increasingly complex digital world. While I completely agree that developing future work skills are crucial, I’m personally more attracted to the values and thinking skills that platforms like LEGO® WeDo 2.0 can support.
Educators often fall into the trap of trying to help their students avoid failure. I love failure. The frustrating, teamwork-building, innovation-driving, make-you-earn it type of failure is essential for learning and building resilience in students. And LEGO is a great environment for failure!
Here is my review!
The slim blue box is a good improvement. It’s about twice as large as the original and comes with lots of empty space for storing small or partially constructed models. But the best change by far is the new wireless Bluetooth Smarthub. It not only allows your models to wander around untethered but with some new and extra pieces, it also dramatically changes the types of models you’re able to make.
Unfortunately, the new hub isn’t backwards compatible with the original LEGO® WeDo. The new ports are non-stackable, so you can no longer put two motors in parallel off the same hub, but it does have a programmable light built into the hub.
Fortunately, you can still connect multiple hubs to the one app which allows more sensors and motors to be accessed and programmed. A group of motivated children will drain the hub’s AA batteries quickly, so a rechargeable pack (also available from LEGO suppliers) may be the way to go for classrooms.
LEGO has truly responded to teacher need here, and has dramatically improved their programming tools. The new suite runs on Mac, iPad and Android tablets, as well as Windows, but you’ll need around 1.5gb of space for the full content app. New models place an emphasis on the Science syllabus content themes of simple machines, forces, and living things, which makes this an easy win for teachers looking to integrate robotics into their established lesson plans.
When you close the app the hub automatically switches itself off, conserving battery power which is super convenient if you own classroom sets. While the brick-based language itself has only minor changes, users can now easily take screenshots of their code, photos of their models, and take notes on their progress, and save it as a pdf all within the app! This could be a game changer when entering your students into the Junior FIRST Lego League exhibitions where they need to display the design process of their model.
In addition, LEGO press releases tell us that a Scratch based way to program LEGO® WeDo 2.0 will be coming out in the next few months, allowing for a richer programming experience for older students. Unfortunately, the Windows 7 and 10 apps seem to be fairly buggy, or unsupported, so these should be avoided until updates address the issues. Android, iPad, Windows 8 and Mac have so far proven to be more stable (See the FAQs for more information).
In Australia the product can be purchased from Moore Educational and Modern Teaching Aids. While LEGO® Mindstorms EV3 can be bought in toy stores; LEGO® WeDo has always been stuck in the education world, with only persistent parents finding the kits. If you’re new to LEGO robotics, head over to the LEGO community forums, and have a look at our student and teacher workshops to learn more about the Jr FIRST Lego League and how to implement robotics in your classrooms.