Lego WeDo 2.0: a preliminary investigation

 

In 2016 Lego released a new version of the WeDo Kit: 45300–1 WeDo 2.0 core set, which includes 280 parts. This is a welcomed upgrade to v1, which is tethered by USB port (which also means it is not ready for tablets). This post wants to examine what is included in the set, as well as the accompanying iPad app and curriculum.

Besides some common lego bricks the really unique components (not available elsewhere) are:

19071: smart hub, also referred to as the BLED112 dongle.

This is the WeDo kit’s equivalent of EV3 brick. The green button serves to initiate bluetooth connection. It also has a RGB light surface that can show up to 10 different colors including: none, pink, purple, blue, sky blue, teal, green, yellow, orange, red, and white. In the app you can use a block to change the color.

The major update from 1.0 is the bluetooth LE standard, which are being adopted in all kinds of connected toys since last year. But at this point it seems to have all kinds of compatibility problems.

The control brick’s much reduced size is a welcomed potential. But the trade-off is also serious. The EV3 brick takes 6 AA batteries while this one takes two, which means its running time might be only a third. I have not actually tested it but I am not optimistic about it. You can also opt to equip it with a rechargeable polymer battery, which is extra cost. Most importantly, it offers only two ports instead of four on the EV3 brick.

A better view of the two ports offered

This is how the battery unit looks:

The kit contains three sensors and motor that can ONLY be used in the WeDo environment. These use 6-pin connectors that are not compatible with lpf1 devices.

For example, the v1 WeDo hub looks like this:

USB wired solution: but the connectors are lpf1 compatible

And you plug in a lpf1 sensor such as the following:

lpf1 motion detection sensor

20841: lpf2 tilt sensor 2x4x1

The Tilt Sensor reports the direction it is tilted. A new functionality in the WeDo 2.0 Tilt sensor is shake mode. The Tilt Sensor detects changes within six different positions:

– Tilt This Way
– Title That Way
– Tilt Up
– Tilt Down
– No tilt
– Any tilt (shake)

20844: lpf2 motion detect sensor

This sensor detects changes in distance from an object within its range in three different ways (so is it ultrasonic?):

– Object moving closer
– Object moving farther away
– Object changing position

21980: lpf2 medium motor

Compared to the existing version, the new medium motor adds four more studs on top, which is good if you need to add more stuff there. But as a trade-off there is only three pin holes around the axle. It is also wider on the side. Otherwise the motor is essentially the same. You can control its rotating direction, power level. And you can make it stop rotating.

Also, there is a transparent worm gear 32239, which appeared before but is kind of rare.

Now, what about the software side? Lego has a new iPad app that basically follows the EV3 flow based language but made it more cartoonish, which in my view is not the equivalent to kids-friendly.

The program interface is still rigidly flow-chart based; only the colors suggest that it is geared toward young leanrners

Compare this to what Dash & Dot’s Wonder app does, you will see what I mean by really being kids-friendly:

The designer of this program seems to think that instead of having tabs of different types of blocks they should simply place all blocks side by side. But this leaves a lot of blocks outside the screen. You have to scroll left and right to get them.

There is no text prompt for each block’s function. So I had a hard time figuring out what these blocks are for. And for certain blocks, such as play sound, you are given wave forms of each sound that I cannot hope to remember other than actually playing it:

what is sound 1? play to find out!

The good side of things is that this app (around 1G in size) offers a complete curriculum of quite a few projects. There are in total 15 projects where each one has two B models. Every project includes building instruction and programming tutorials.

From the UX perspective, however, I believe the app is a total mess as it demonstrates conflicting design principles. The actual programming interface shuns away text, which seems to suggest that it is made for pre or early readers. Yet the app includes plenty of text, some of which are obviously addressing adults.

It looks like they don’t want waste anything in the curriculum, even those words written for educators.

Okay, maybe they want to suggest that the kit is actually being used by older kids. But the idea to cram all sorts of information into this app is simply not working for me. Education, especially for this age group, is about delivering knowledge in a very strategic way. This means that you need to hide a lot of things so that kids are not distracted by them (because they won’t understand). They are not very interested in what educators call “course goals” or “learning outcomes” in bullet points. Even if you want to make it explicit about the kind of skills acquired for a certain project, you just can’t say it with this deadpan seriousness:”document evidence and present your findings about which structure design(s) are best for withstanding(!) earthquakes.”

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