BUILDING BLOCKS: LEGO Education storms the "Block-stille" with the release of the third generation of the MINDSTORMS education platform, designed for students to build robots in 45 minutes. The packaged curriculum, "Design Engineering Projects," comes with a minimum of 30 hours of STEM projects, but teachers can modify lessons and add completely new ones. Designed in collaboration with over 800 educators around the world, EV3 improves upon its predecessor (released i 2006) with new support features and tutorials, along with a more user-friendly interface. And, as LEGO Education Marketing Director Abigail Fern also found: "What's appealing to girls also tends to be popular to boys--but not the other way around." This means students won't be creating battlebots with ridiculous KO moves (as fun as that sounds to this boy), but of a more practical nature.
Outfitting a classroom with EV3, which comes with 12 kits (for 25 students), software license, and digital curriculum, will run $5000. That may seem a tad hefty, but Fern's encouraged by the many educators willing to invest in hands-on tech projects and teachers who write grants to fund this. She shared that since the MINDSTORMS first appeared on the scene in 1998, it's been in used in about one-third of all middle-schools in the U.S.
LEGO has also long partnered with the FIRST organization for the First Lego League, which invites over 200,000 youth members around the world to participate in robotics competitions. But the company isn't just all about tinkering with robotic joints and code. When we checked them out at ISTE last year, the company was showing off it's StoryStarter kit that lets students design, build, and record a story to share with others. They'll be rolling that out later this year, so be on the lookout. "Our goal is not to create the next generation of engineers--that'd be great, of course--but more importantly, problem solvers."