For a long
time, the Lego Mindstorms (RCX, NXT and EV3) specialized educational kit has
been the leading platform for learning robotics education. Then the
"family" of robotic solutions extended - the Lego Wedo set (1.0 and
2.0) appeared. But experts noted a certain gap between the last two solutions -
EV3 and Wedo 2.0. And finally, in April 2019, the new Lego SPIKE Prime 45678
robotics kit was announced. It was immediately dubbed the flagship and
locomotive in STEAM education. Let's find out together why Spike Prime is the
next step in educational robotics.
1. The box
thing that catches your eye is the bright yellow container, which serves as
both packaging and storage for parts. The presence of a special container is a
common feature for all Lego Education products. Traditionally, the top of the
kit has a sorting and positioning tray (two-piece), while the bottom holds the
electronics, wheels and large platforms.
parts, stickers are provided on the inner parts of the tray compartments; they
can be positioned both according to the recommendations of the developers and
to your taste. In the basic version, the set consists of 528 parts, and it can
also be noted that in addition to the basic set, you can purchase a resource
set (Expansion set 45680), but it is already available only in cardboard
2. Lego parts
building parts were based on two principles: for Mindstorms EV3 (NXT), Technic
was taken as a basis, and for Wedo and Boost, these was Brick System (classic
bricks and plates). The SPIKE Prime series is dominated by the Technic part
base, but the developers have added several unique parts to bridge the gap
between the two design approaches. For example, for the first time in the set
there was a unique 2x4 brick - with three cross axle holes.
also includes new frames of 7×13 and 11×15 modules (2 pcs.). The developer
added wheels of a new design to the list of new products (and as stated with
reduced friction with the surface). Two platforms of 11×19 modules can now be
used as a base for robots. The great idea in the Spike kit is the clamps for
wires that constantly get in the way of the moving parts of robot. The
long-awaited 28-tooth bevel gear has expanded the design possibilities for
mechanical transmissions. And the last of the new products are the so-called
"Biscuits" - connecting elements of 1x3x3 modules. The developers
note that Spike Prime includes details that many Lego followers and fans around
the world have dreamed of.
3. Electronic parts
uniqueness of the kit extended to electronic components. Before moving on to
the technical features, we note that the yellow color of the hub is a tribute
to the very first microcomputer from the Mindstorms RCX.
3.1 Hub Spike Prime
Spike Prime is a fairly compact unit with six universal ports for connecting
external devices (motors/sensors). Connection to a computer is possible both
via micro-USB and via Bluetooth. The type of hub connectors could previously be
found in the Powered Up and BOOST series. And the wires are quite thin and
flexible compared to the EV3 and, as noted earlier, are fixed in the desired
positions using special clamps.
The hub has
a built-in 6-axis gyroscope, which provides great opportunities for recognition
of position in space. The hub also has a small speaker and a 5×5 LED matrix. A
long-life lithium-ion battery is included to ensure autonomy. On the front
side, in addition to the matrix, there are also two buttons - turning on the
hub itself and turning on Bluetooth.
(in addition to those built into the hub and motors), the kit includes: a color
sensor, a force sensor and a distance sensor.
3.2 Color sensor
sensor is visually similar to its predecessors, but about half the size. Also,
according to the developers, the measurement technology has been updated, which
ensures greater accuracy. The operating modes remained the same - color
recognition (8 colors), light intensity and reflected color.
3.3 Force sensor
sensor is a direct descendant of the touch sensor. The sensor can withstand
pressures up to 10 Newtons (equivalent to about 1 kg). Pressing the button
requires a certain amount of force, which is what distinguishes the sensor from
its “brothers” (touch sensors) from the EV3 and NXT series.
3.4 Distance sensor
distance sensor has the same physical nature of measurements as before -
ultrasonic waves. The range of measured distances is from 1 to 200cm (remember
that the EV3 sensor has a maximum of 250cm). Also a unique feature of the
sensor - in addition, you can program a different reaction of the
"eyes" of sensor.
implementation of drives, the developers propose to use three motors of two
types - one large motor and two angle motors. Another distinctive feature of
the Spike Prime motors is their compactness. And also there are more mounting
points for motors, and accordingly there are more possibilities for
installation in a model. Provided in the body and special recesses for
"laying" the wire without being squeezed by adjacent parts. An
additional plus over the Wedo kit is the through hole for the shaft.
4. Toolbox SPIKE App
platform through a special application was chosen as the programming
environment. Since at present the Scratch language is so fond of beginners and
experienced programmers of all ages, so choosing this platform for writing
algorithms is a very good decision. In its structure, the application itself
resembles the Wedo 2.0 programming environment. The program itself and the
official lego site provide a variety of materials for organizing work with both
the kit and the programming environment.
there are also requirements for the operating system - your PC must have
Windows 10 (or Mac OS) installed. Also available platforms are Android, iPad
and Chromebook. In the application, upon installation, four starter lessons are
available, and it is possible to download additional materials from the library
of lessons. And also the developers have worked out the section "First
steps" in maximum detail.
impression of the Lego SPIKE Prime 45678 set is, of course, positive. Only time
will tell whether this decision will succeed in taking the golden middle
between the Wedo and Mindstorms EV3. In any case, with all its advantages, it
will not be possible to replace Mindstorms at the one moment, since in many
organisation that teach robotics, studying materials already cover the age
group for which SPIKE Prime is designed - students from grades 6 to 8. But at
the same time, the set has great potential in the implementation of the
educational STEAM methodology and you can't argue with that.
materials presented in our review of the Lego SPIKE Prime 45678 kit are taken
from the Lego Group official website.