Both Can Be Used To Build Robots, But Which is Better?
You probably recognize the word Lego, but might be wondering "What is Arduino?" Both the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 and the Arduino prototyping platform are systems that let you and your kids build robots. Although the systems are different in many fundamental ways, they share the same goals of experimentation and creation of automated, intelligent inventions. This article will help you understand what you need to know about Arudino and Lego Mindstorms, to better compare them.
I will compare the standard Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 kit and an advanced “experimentation kit” for the Arduino. There are subjective arguments that can be made for both systems, like which is more fun, but I am going to side-step those topics and only focus on the comparison points that would be conceded by enthusiasts of either side.
Lego Mindstorm NXT 2.0 Is Better Because:
The kit is self-contained and complementary. Lego gives you parts that designed to work with each other and complement one another. Although you can buy additional sensors and components, you are able to give your robots a range of abilities just from what you receive in the standard kit. There are well written books available on Amazon that guide you through many experiments. This book is my personal favorite and recommendation.
Lego has created a unified teaching method to guide you through build and programming your creations. Careful design and care has gone into making Lego Mindstorms attractive and fun for kids. Even through the recommended starting age is 10, younger kids with interest can pick up and understand many of the concepts. The programming language you use to program your robot is simple and easy to understand, but flexible and powerful at the same time. I can think of no better language to introduce kids to programming.
Easy and Safe. Sixty minutes after opening Lego Mindstorms for the first, you can have a four-wheel rover that moves. You may not understand all the principles and electronics behind the construction and movement, but you can do it. Also it is nearly impossible to break, burn-out, or strip the Lego Mindstorm parts accidentally. Lego build safeties and protections into every sensor and electronic component to encourage experimentation without risk.
An Arduino Kit is Better Because:
It is less expensive to get started with an Arudino. Check out all the stuff you can get with the $58 started kit from Amazon. A Lego Mindstorm kit is around $260 from Amazon. If you are wondering if electronics and robot building is really for you or your kids, this less expensive investment is a good place to start. Other parts for the Arduino can be bought at places like RadioShack or any electronic store for a variety of prices. You must buy additional parts from Lego or Lego resellers and the prices for parts are all very similar no matter where you buy them.
There is an infinite set of experiments and challenges you can solve. Broken and forgotten electronic toys can now be salvaged and their parts integrated into your latest invention. You can dismantle an old remote control car or steal a motor from an unused blender to increase the amount of parts you have with which to work. Crazy ideas and plans are now within your reach, such as:
You learn the most widely used computer language: C. From video games, to operating systems, to software in your car, to micro-controllers in your sprinkler system, the language C is used. When you a write a program for the Arduino, you use the C programming language. If you know the C programming language well, you have a deep understanding of how computers and languages work. While C is not the easiest language, it is the most practical, fundamental programming language. Knowing C well will give you a huge advantage to learning any other programming language.
In some ways the difference between the two are like the difference between an Apple computer and a PC. The Apple computer and Lego Mindstorm kit is more polished, straight forward, more expensive and more restrictive. You are likely to see Lego Mindstorms used at Middle and High School. The PC computer or Arudino is less expensive, rougher around the edges, and lends itself to more crazy experimentation. Arduino kits are commonly used at High School and College. Both are great learning tools, and now you have the information to make the best decision for you.
For more details about Lego Mindstorms and the Arduino, please checkout my other articles here: