"I have been a huge fan of Lego and robotics for a number of years, so the Lego Mindstorms series is something that naturally caught my attention.
My experience with Mindstorms started with the EV3 set. I originally purchased a set for personal use. I then used my role as a Primary School educator to introduce EV3 into classrooms. When I heard about the next iteration in the Mindstorms series, Robot Inventor, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
I had heard a few negative comments about the 51515 set before purchasing it, which raised a little bit of doubt in my mind that it would be a worthwhile purchase. Thankfully, those doubts have been firmly put to rest.
The new Mindstorms set looks fabulous straight out of the box, You receive lots of little bags packed full of colourful parts, some stickers and a small booklet with some links. There are no instructions in the box, with digital instructions being favoured instead.
The model instructions, as well as videos, code examples and the coding software are all contained within the new Mindstorms app. The app is well designed and easy to navigate. My one complaint so far would be the difficulty I had locating the Windows version, which was tucked away in the Microsoft App store. I would have expected the PC software to be easier to find for a new premium product such as this. A more visible link on the product page would help.
The Mindstorms Robot Inventor kit features 5 new robot designs out of the box. Personally, I think these new robots are an upgrade on the models that come with the EV3 sets. Each robot model starts with a basic build. You then have the option to choose one of many additional activities to further develop and refine your robot. Charlie, which is the first robot I built, has ten additional activities to add to the base model including: a golf multiplayer game, a drum kit and a ski board. This new approach is a welcome improvement over the EV3 set. When you wish to start a new project, you can simply remove the additional parts/code and start again with your base model already built. This is in contrast with the EV3 kit, which only has one mode for each of the 5 robots. Once you get bored, you have to tear the entire thing down and start again.
The biggest improvement that the 51515 Robot Inventor kit brings is in the coding software. The new Mindstorms app allows you to choose from Scratch or Python style coding, giving the user the option of block base coding or text based coding. This is such a drastic improvement over the coding software provided with the previous EV3 system. Speaking as an educator who has used the Mindstorms sets in school classrooms, this new approach to the coding is a game changer and will allow so many more children (and adults) of just about any ability to enjoy playing and learning with Lego Mindstorms.
There are a few complaints from hardcore Mindstorms users which cannot go unmentioned. Robot Inventor 51515 does remove the option to daisy chain blocks. The wires are also hard wired rather than removable. Users will need to be more careful when pulling robots apart, because snapped cables will be a lot more expensive to replace now that they are built into the motors. It is a little disappointing that this new kit appears to be less flexible in its design than the previous EV3 was.
Overall, I am really pleased with my purchase of the Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor kit. The base package is a smart upgrade on the previous entries in the series with hours and hours of content to make and play with out of the box. This is before you factor in all of the fantastic creative possibilities that users will be able to design & make for themselves. The new coding software is head and shoulders above the previous EV3 software in accessibility and user-friendliness. I hope that Lego will continue to support the 51515 kit with extra features and add-ons for users to enjoy later down the line. Hopefully some of the negative aspects that current hardcore Mindstorms enthusiasts are disappointed with will be addressed throughout the product’s life."