Construction toys LEGO Mindstorms EV3: Control and program robots with Apple devices

Ev3rstorm Lego robot

If you like to construct something and then program it, robots don't do badly. And when the word “Lego” is used in this context, childhood memories are usually awakened very quickly and most tech-savvy men feel weak for it. I have to admit that I somehow thought of myself when I started thinking about buying the Lego Mindstorms EV3 construction toy as a Christmas present (for the next 5 years together!) For my son.

But no matter whether dad, son or daughter likes to tinker with Lego: With the "Lego Mindstorms EV3" kit you can in any case realize a number of nerdy technical robot projects and use your iPhone or Mac as an aid. The EV3 came out in 2013, but is still the latest Lego-Technic series and the successor to the RCX and NXT series.

The "Ev3rstorm" robot with impressive "boom" is one of 5 basic models.

The "Ev3rstorm" Lego robot with impressive "boom" is one of 5 basic models that can be assembled with the EV3 Lego construction kit (Photo: Amazon).

Memories are awakened ...

Let's be honest: Who of you didn't actually play with Lego bricks in the past? As a rule, almost every child had a box with small, angular blocks and just started building on it. We even had to split the bricks, because unfortunately I had to share all the Legos with my sister ... I had the blue and green and she had the red and white little bricks. ;)

And even then we were quite creative when building with the Lego bricks: Sometimes it was huge castles, fortresses, spaceships or even cities. However, those were the times when we had to do without motors, sensors and computers with Lego. Today, fathers and children can also construct robots or other machines from Lego blocks. And robots in particular are interesting because they always have a bit of a "life of their own" and fascinate both children and adults. With the “Lego Mindstorms EV3” series, you can even program them and equip them with functions. So if you are into Lego and robotics, you will really enjoy the Lego technology set.

New or used: the robot kit is priced in the upper class

First of all: Lego construction toys are of course not that inexpensive. You are currently paying one at the online retailer Amazon Price of 299,99 Euro for the "31313 Lego Mindstorms EV3" set, the original price being 349,99 euros. Self second hand the price for the set is still close to 280 EUR. I know that the Lego set is a bit expensive as a Christmas present, but if you give it half to the junior and the other half to yourself, you might be able to justify it. And besides, you also learn something in the process. :) And for all those who are still brooding: The previous sets, such as the NXT, cost more than 500 EUR at the time and are significantly less flexible and extensive in terms of functions and programmability.

Update 28.12.2016/XNUMX/XNUMX: Purchase from Amazon warehouse deals

I've just finally bought the set. A good price tip here are those Amazon warehouse deals. Here you can get the set partly at a used price, but in perfect condition from Amazon. Products with damaged packaging or other minor defects are often sold as warehouse deals. The function is not impaired and the warranty is the same as for a new purchase! I paid just under EUR 287 for it today.

What can you build with the set?

With the EV3 package, which contains a total of 601 parts, you can definitely construct five basic models, which you can quickly assemble with the help of instructions. On the Lego side it is mentioned that even as a newbie you can have the first robot put together within 30 minutes. And there are some types of robots that can be created with the set - without any additional accessories: On the one hand, you can build the "track3r" that is modeled on a tank. On the other hand, the "rapt3r" resembles a snake and even has two nasty fangs. Once you have created a model, you can program it with your Mac. This is very easy with graphic symbols and drag and drop and does not require any real programming knowledge. You can find the EV3 software for the Mac, by the way here as a download.

The programs for the robot set are clicked together on the Mac or iPad (PC also works) and then sent to the "Brick" that represents the control unit.

The programs for the robot set are clicked together on the Mac or iPad (PC also works) and then sent to the "Brick" that represents the control unit.

A wide variety of functions are conceivable thanks to the sensors and motors supplied. It is possible to integrate a color scanner that distinguishes between eight different colors. In addition, it is also possible to integrate a gripper arm, which allows you to carry out sorting processes with your robot. In addition, an infrared sensor serves as a distance sensor, with which data can also be received. For example, your Lego robot will not run or drive against a wall. All of these sensors are connected to the so-called “brick”, the brain of your robot. In-depth information is processed here and transferred to the respective components of your little Lego model. But of course you can also realize your own ideas here. After all, nothing is more fun than creating your own robot and then adding functions.

A nice start: a book to support beginners

Anyone who likes to be taken by the hand is well served with the book by Matthias Paul Scholz, Beate Jost and Thorsten Leimbach. Here you get a nice insight from professionals, because Thorsten Leimbach is often on the jury of robot competitions and knows how to build cool robots. The book also provides step-by-step instructions for 8 robot models that can be built with an EV3 set. But the book also offers a lot of background knowledge for advanced Mindstorm fans and conveys the interaction of all parts with the programming.

The EV3 robot universe: A comprehensive introduction to LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3
At over 500 pages, this is a comprehensive manual for the EV3 range. It covers both the standard version and the education version.

Facts about the 31313 Lego Mindstorms EV3 set

For the technology freaks among you: The "Brick" works with an ARM9 processor (yes, the iPhone also has an ARM processor!) And has Linux as its operating system. It has a USB interface and can also communicate with WiFi. In addition, it has a micro SD card reader and 4 motor connections that can be controlled in the programming.

The set also contains three interactive servo motors, a remote control, a color sensor, a touch sensor and an infrared sensor. Since all parts are based on Lego Technic, you can too Buy more sensors. The offer includes the following: gyro sensor, ultrasonic sensor, touch sensor, temperature sensor, compass sensor and a tilt sensor.

Control the terminal block robot with the iPhone

EV3 also makes music

EV3 also makes music: with the electric guitar that a fan designed.

Sure, you can also control your robot with the supplied remote control - but how boring is that when you have an iPad or iPhone ??? It's much cooler with the Lego iOS app: Simply use the "Lego Mindstorm's Robot Commander“Download and you're ready to go - provided your robot is ready for use. The whole thing then works via Bluetooth, which connects your iOS device to the robot. By the way, you can control the five standard models as well as command robots you have designed yourself. And those who have already tried them all will find the official website from Lego Mindstorms EV3 (number 31313) twelve other modelsthat you can cobble together with the basic set. Try it out there and find your very own favorite Lego.

Another helpful iPhone app in this context is the "Lego Mindstorms 3D Builder". This offers you (free) detailed building instructions for the five standard robots. So Lego deals with contemporary technology here. Thumbs up! Incidentally, it should be said that I was able to find several test reports from Lego farmers who commented on the great improvements of the EV3 compared to the previous version. Lego has obviously done its homework here and brought out a very nice set that is well worth the money. And the whole set is not a one-way street, because it is based on the parts you can find at Lego Technik. So you can later buy more and more motors, components and sensors and design increasingly complex devices. The nice thing is also the large community, through which you not only find help but also always new ideas for constructions and applications of Lego robots.

My personal conclusion

I don't have the set here yet, but I'm already intrigued by it. My junior is definitely a little borderline young at 6 years old as it's recommended for kids over 10 but he's so obsessed with Lego that I'm still considering spending the money. Even if he might not be able to build and program everything on his own, I can certainly make some nice constructions with him and show him how to use the iPad for programming. I also think that the set - even though it was launched at the end of 2013, it is still with iOS Apps, Mac app and ARM processor are up to date. And anyone who is speculating on Lego Mindstorms EV4 will certainly have to wait a few more years, because the predecessor Lego NXT was a full 8 years - the current set was on the market from 2006 to 2013. I'm sure if I don't hit it this year I'm sure I'll soften up in 2015. :-)

Source of supply

The set can be bought cheaply (for 299,99 EUR - I haven't seen it cheaper anywhere) at Amazon:

20,99 EUR
Lego Mindstorms 31313 - Mindstorms EV3
The high-tech construction kit from LEGO opens up many possibilities in interaction with motors, sensors and a computing unit that is based on Linux, but can be programmed using a simple graphic interface with symbols. Age recommendation: from 10 years.
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The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de

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