LEGO Mindstorms Discontinued: What’s Next for Robotics Enthusiasts?

It’s official: LEGO Mindstorms has been discontinued. Launched in 1998, LEGO Mindstorms provided millions of children and adolescents the opportunity to learn essential programming and engineering skills. However, LEGO’s innovative product line appears to be ending, impacting the future of educational and recreational robotics for young learners worldwide.

LEGO’s Mindstorms product line blended the iconic play of LEGO bricks with an introduction to robotics and programming. Over the years, the global community of enthusiastic users grew, giving rise to intricate creations, robotics competitions, and groundbreaking STEM educational programs. The abrupt decision to discontinue Mindstorms has left many fans wondering why such a popular and effective product would be terminated.

As LEGO moves forward, the company may refocus its strategy and offerings to better align with technological advancements. While the discontinuation of LEGO Mindstorms is a shock for fans and educators alike, it’s essential to consider its legacy and impact on young engineers and aspiring programmers for the past two decades.

A Brief History of LEGO Mindstorms

LEGO Mindstorms first hit the scene in 1998, revolutionizing the world of educational robotics for kids and adults alike. The innovative product line was a collaboration between the LEGO Group and MIT Media Lab, initially aiming to introduce young minds to the wonders of technology and engineering through hands-on play.

“Mindstorms” drew inspiration from Seymour Papert’s book, Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Papert, a pioneer in artificial intelligence and educational technology, was instrumental in developing the LEGO Programmable Brick.

Over the years, LEGO Mindstorms evolved into four main generations:

  • Mindstorms RCX (1998-2003): The first LEGO Mindstorms set featuring the programmable RCX brick, infrared communication, and three motors.
  • Mindstorms NXT (2006-2013): A significant update to RCX featuring the NXT programmable brick, Bluetooth connectivity, and improved sensors.
  • Mindstorms EV3 (2013-2020): The third generation, with Linux-based programmable brick, additional memory, Wi-Fi support, and mobile app integration.
  • Mindstorms Robot Inventor (2020-present): The latest iteration, part of the LEGO BOOST product line, comes with a powerful 6-port programmable hub, Python programming support, and intelligent sensors.

Throughout its lifespan, LEGO Mindstorms gained popularity in various settings:

  • Education: It’s been a staple in STEM education worldwide, with educational institutions using LEGO Mindstorms sets to engage students in learning about robotics, programming, and engineering concepts.
  • Competitions: The system has served as the foundation for international robotics competitions, like FIRST LEGO League and World Robot Olympiad, which attract students from around the globe.
  • DIY Culture: LEGO Mindstorms captured the imagination of hobbyists who created innovative robots and solutions, contributing to an extensive and diverse fan community.

It’s worth noting that contrary to some rumors, the LEGO Mindstorms product line has not been permanently discontinued. The brand continues to support and innovate new ways to inspire creativity and learning in robotics with their most recent release, the Mindstorms Robot Inventor set. In the ever-evolving educational technology landscape, LEGO Mindstorms remains a prominent player that captivates and challenges imaginations worldwide.

The Reasons Behind the Discontinuation

The discontinuation of LEGO Mindstorms can be attributed to multiple factors. Though it pioneered in the world of educational robotics and STEM toys, it faced some challenges that eventually led to its discontinuation.

One of the significant reasons for the discontinuation was the rapid advancements in technology. The pace of improvements in robotics and electronics outpaced the updates that LEGO Mindstorms could offer. With cutting-edge solutions and technological innovations surrounding the evolution of robotics, competing products gained an edge over LEGO Mindstorms.

Another factor contributing to the discontinuation was the emergence of alternative educational products. As the market for educational toys and robotics expanded, new competitors emerged, offering consumers a wide array of choices. Some of these competitors included:

  • VEX Robotics: A comprehensive robotics platform that targets middle and high school students.
  • Sphero: Offers a suite of programmable spherical robots that teach coding concepts.
  • Raspberry Pi: A low-cost computer designed to teach programming and electronics skills.

LEGO Mindstorms faced tough competition as a result of these new offerings. A typical LEGO Mindstorms set cost was considerably higher than its competitors, making it less appealing to budget-conscious consumers. A higher price point also played a role in the declining popularity of LEGO Mindstorms.

In addition, there were restrictions in the LEGO ecosystem. While LEGO Mindstorms offered a customizable system, the reliance on proprietary parts limited the possibilities for more complex creations. This made it challenging for enthusiasts to integrate non-LEGO components into their projects, reducing the product’s overall appeal.

The rise of online platforms also contributed to the discontinuation of LEGO Mindstorms. With an abundance of online resources, such as YouTube tutorials and self-paced learning platforms, it became easier for individuals to learn various aspects of robotics and programming without needing a physical product.

Technological AdvancementsAccompanying advancements outpaced updates in LEGO Mindstorms
Alternative ProductsAn increase in educational robotics options reduced its market share
Price PointHigher costs drove budget-conscious consumers towards alternative options
LEGO EcosystemProprietary restrictions limited creativity
Online PlatformsAn abundance of online resources reduced the reliance on physical products

To sum up, the discontinuation of LEGO Mindstorms was influenced by several factors ranging from technological advancements to the emergence of more affordable and flexible alternative products. The changing landscape of educational robotics and the availability of online resources made it increasingly challenging for LEGO Mindstorms to maintain its position in the market.

The Impact on Robotics Education

The discontinuation of LEGO Mindstorms has various implications for robotics education. As LEGO Mindstorms has played a significant role in shaping robotics education, it’s vital to examine the potential impact of its discontinuation.

Without LEGO Mindstorms kits, educators might face challenges finding alternative robotics tools that offer the same ease of use, versatility, and engaging learning experiences. LEGO Mindstorms has long been a staple in robotics education, with many schools and clubs relying on kits to teach STEM skills to students.

The following are possible impacts on robotics education:

  • A shift in focus to alternative platforms: Educators must adapt by turning to other robotics platforms. An example is VEX Robotics, which offers a wide range of robotic kits, sensors, and programming options.
  • Rising costs for remaining LEGO Mindstorms kits: As supply dwindles, the price of existing Mindstorms kits may increase. This could make it more difficult for some schools or clubs to afford these valuable educational tools.
  • Reduced accessibility to robotics education: The user-friendly nature and wide availability of LEGO Mindstorms made it much easier for many students and schools to engage in robotics education. The discontinuation may decrease accessibility, particularly for underprivileged schools and communities.

The table below highlights some statistics related to LEGO Mindstorms’ use in robotics education:

Robotics teams using LEGO Mindstorms35,000+
Global LEGO Mindstorms tournaments100+
Years active21
Students reachedMillions

In addition to these broad impacts, there are specific areas of robotics education that may be directly affected by the discontinuation of the LEGO Mindstorms platform:

  • FIRST LEGO League: Founded in 1999, the FIRST LEGO League is a robotics competition for students aged 9 to 16. With the discontinuation of Mindstorms, it’s uncertain how the competition will evolve and which alternative platforms may be used.
  • Robotics curriculum: LEGO Mindstorms was often an integral part of robotics curricula for primary and secondary schools. Educators will need to adopt new tools and methods to ensure continuity of instruction.
  • Extracurricular robotics activities: Many after-school programs, clubs, and camps focused on using LEGO Mindstorms. Discontinuation may lead organizers to search for suitable alternatives or modify their activities.

The end of the LEGO Mindstorms era poses potential challenges for robotics education; however, it also presents an opportunity for the community to explore innovative alternatives and continue fostering students’ STEM skills.

Transitioning from Mindstorms to SPIKE Prime

The transition from LEGO Mindstorms to SPIKE Prime marks a significant change in LEGO’s approach to educational robotics. Educators and students need to be aware of this change and its implications, which will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

LEGO announced discontinuing its long-running Mindstorms line in 2020, with SPIKE Prime set to replace it as the primary choice for LEGO-based robotics in education. A key factor driving this change lies within LEGO’s commitment to STEAM curriculum and fostering students’ problem-solving, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.

SPIKE Prime differs from Mindstorms in several aspects. To begin with, SPIKE Prime’s overall design is more user-friendly and intuitive, making it easier for students to start building and programming their robots. The SPIKE Prime App, powered by the Scratch programming language, allows students to control their creations while introducing them to coding easily. The new system includes a central hub with six input/output ports and a rechargeable battery.

Some critical features of SPIKE Prime include:

  • Streamlined building system: Utilizing the familiar LEGO Technic elements, SPIKE Prime makes the building process seamless for students, removing barriers to entry.
  • Upgraded software: The SPIKE Prime App, based on Scratch, provides a more accessible and engaging programming experience for learners.
  • Lesson plans and resources: SPIKE Prime has a wide range of lesson plans and resources designed specifically for educators to integrate STEAM concepts into their classrooms seamlessly.

It’s essential to understand that SPIKE Prime is compatible with several Mindstorms elements, like the EV3 motors and sensors. This compatibility ensures users don’t need to discard their current Mindstorms investment entirely.

ProductRelease YearCompatibility
Mindstorms NXT2006Partially Compatible
Mindstorms EV32013Compatible
SPIKE Prime2020Compatible

During the transition, educators and students might face challenges adapting to the new system. Some possible hurdles include the following:

  • Adapting to the different software and coding language
  • Implementing new lesson plans and resources
  • Compatibility issues with older Mindstorms elements

However, LEGO provides extensive resources to assist with this transition. The SPIKE Prime app includes onboarding materials and guided tutorials, ensuring users effectively familiarize themselves with the new system. Additionally, numerous online communities, forums, and documentation are available to support users throughout this transition process.

The move from LEGO Mindstorms to SPIKE Prime represents a progressive step towards a more accessible and engaging educational robotics experience. While the transition may present challenges, the vast amount of available resources promises a smooth integration of SPIKE Prime into classrooms and learning environments.

What Sets SPIKE Prime Apart

LEGO Mindstorms has significantly impacted the world of robotics, education, and creativity since its introduction in 1998. But with the discontinuation of LEGO Mindstorms, a new player has entered the market: LEGO Education SPIKE Prime. This advanced robotics system brings a fresh set of features that set it apart from its predecessor. This section’ll examine the key differences between LEGO Mindstorms and SPIKE Prime.

One of the significant differences between the two systems lies in their target audience. The SPIKE Prime’s approach to education is designed for teachers and students grappling with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) concepts. While LEGO Mindstorms catered to a wide age range, SPIKE Prime explicitly targets middle school students.

SPIKE Prime’s unique hardware and software components provide users with innovative tools for building and programming robots. Some notable features include:

  • New easy-to-connect 2×4 pin connectors replacing the traditional LEGO Technic pin system
  • A 6-port hub with built-in Bluetooth, gyroscope, and accelerometer
  • Improved color-coded motors and sensors for easier identification
  • A 13 x 7 LED matrix display enabling a wide range of visual effects and expressions

When it comes to programming capabilities, SPIKE Prime stands out with its intuitive programming platform, including:

  • A new Scratch-based programming language for a smoother transition from LEGO and Scratch activities
  • Compatibility with Python, expanding the programming capabilities for more advanced users

Moreover, SPIKE Prime’s curriculum offers a new approach to learning with:

  • 32+ hours of inclusive, hands-on lessons developed in collaboration with educators
  • Step-by-step video guidance to support both students and teachers
  • Multimedia materials like audio recordings, supporting multilingual classrooms and students with learning differences
  • A focus on real-world applications and critical 21st-century skills, such as computational thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration

Below is a quick comparison of LEGO Mindstorms and SPIKE Prime in a markdown table:

FeatureLEGO MindstormsSPIKE Prime
Target AudienceWide age rangeMiddle school students
HardwareTraditional Technic pin system2×4 pin connectors
Hub4-port hub6-port hub with built-in sensors
Motors & SensorsBasic color codingImproved color coding
Display5 x 3 LED matrix display13 x 7 LED matrix display
ProgrammingProprietary programming languageScratch-based language & Python compatibility

LEGO Education SPIKE Prime offers an innovative robotics platform with enhanced hardware, software, and curriculum features geared toward middle school students. Its focus on STEAM education, real-world applications, and inclusivity sets it apart from its predecessor, LEGO Mindstorms.

Options for Mindstorms Enthusiasts Moving Forward

While it’s true that LEGO Mindstorms has been discontinued, there are still many alternatives for Mindstorms enthusiasts to explore. In this post, we’ll discuss some popular options to continue fostering creativity and learning in robotics and STEM education.

One choice is VEX Robotics, which offers a series of competitive and educational robotics platforms. These platforms are designed for elementary, middle, and high school students to engage with building, programming, and competing in robotics competitions. Some highlights of VEX Robotics include:

  • The VEX IQ platform, catering to students in the elementary and middle school range
  • VEX V5, designed for high school students or higher-level enthusiasts
  • An expansive library of components, sensors, and programming options
  • Active involvement in robotics competitions such as the VEX Robotics Competition and the VEX U College-level competition

For those interested in open-source robotics platforms, Arduino is another excellent alternative to LEGO Mindstorms. Arduino has a vast community of users and developers, creating many resources, tutorials, and project ideas. Essential aspects of Arduino include:

  • A variety of programmable microcontrollers, such as the Arduino Uno and Mega
  • Support for the C++ programming language
  • Open-source software and hardware, allowing for customization and individualized projects
  • Numerous expansions and shields for adding sensors and components to suit different needs

If you want a platform compatible with LEGO components, look no further than Robotis PLAY 700, a beginner-friendly alternative that mixes robotics with LEGO building. The PLAY 700 provides:

  • Simple assembly with no tools required
  • Block-based programming using a smartphone or tablet application
  • Compatibility with LEGO Technic bricks, for an enhanced building experience
  • Opportunities for hands-on learning and robotics education

Finally, one can explore Raspberry Pi, a small, affordable computer often used in robotics and other STEM projects. Raspberry Pi’s features are:

  • A reasonably priced, single-board computer with various versions and models
  • The ability to run Linux-based operating systems
  • A large community of users and developers providing support and guidance
  • Compatibility with many programming languages, sensors, and components

Each option provides Mindstorms enthusiasts unique opportunities to continue their love for robotics and STEM education. Whether diving into VEX Robotics competitions, tinkering with Arduino-based projects, building with Robotis PLAY 700, or exploring the world of Raspberry Pi, there’s something for everyone.

Navigating the Secondhand Market

Now that LEGO Mindstorms has been discontinued, many enthusiasts might wonder where to find these beloved kits. The secondhand market is the go-to place for locating LEGO Mindstorms sets, and it’s essential to learn the ins and outs of navigating this market effectively.

One of the most popular destinations for buying secondhand LEGO Mindstorms sets is eBay. Offering various sets and individual parts, eBay provides a platform for buyers and sellers to connect. However, when searching on eBay, verifying the seller’s reputation and checking their feedback is crucial. This way, buyers can ensure they’re purchasing from a trustworthy source.

Another valuable platform for LEGO Mindstorms enthusiasts is BrickLink. BrickLink is a marketplace dedicated explicitly to LEGO products. It offers an extensive database of LEGO sets and parts, including Mindstorms. Like eBay, buyers must examine the seller’s feedback and reputation before purchasing.

Facebook Marketplace and local online classifieds, such as Craigslist, can also be excellent sources for finding LEGO Mindstorms sets at reduced prices. These platforms allow buyers to communicate directly with sellers and potentially negotiate prices. It’s essential, however, to prioritize safety when arranging in-person transactions by meeting in public spaces.

To facilitate finding the best deals and rare items in the secondhand market, consider making use of the following tips:

  • Set up email alerts on eBay and BrickLink to stay informed about new listings matching your desired criteria.
  • Regularly check Facebook Marketplace and local classifieds for new offers and deals.
  • Participate in LEGO Mindstorms forums and groups to connect with other enthusiasts and hear about any available sets.
  • Remember that patience is key – waiting for the right deal and being prepared to act quickly can pay off in the long run.

When searching for secondhand LEGO Mindstorms kits or parts, buyers must also be cautious of potential issues, such as:

  • Incomplete sets: Verify that all necessary parts and components are included in the listing.
  • Non-functional parts: Request information or testing from the seller to ensure all parts are in working order.
  • Counterfeit products: Look for indications of authenticity, like LEGO branding on parts and original packaging.

By being vigilant and informed when navigating the secondhand market, LEGO Mindstorms enthusiasts can successfully find the sets and pieces they desire.

Alternative Robotics Kits and Platforms

Although LEGO Mindstorms has been discontinued, several robotics kits and platforms are still available for educational and hobbyist purposes. These alternatives offer a range of options, features, and complexity levels that cater to budding engineers, programmers, and roboticists.

Raspberry Pi and Arduino: Raspberry Pi and Arduino are popular programmable boards that can be the foundation for countless robotics projects. Raspberry Pi, a compact single-board computer, is suitable for projects requiring more computing power. On the other hand, Arduino is a microcontroller board perfect for more straightforward tasks and controlling various electronic components.

Pros of Raspberry Pi and Arduino:

  • Affordable and accessible
  • Wide range of applications
  • Extensive online resources and communities
  • Compatible with various programming languages

VEX Robotics: VEX provides various robotics kits for different age groups, such as VEX IQ for elementary and middle school students and VEX EDR for high school and college students. These kits enable kids to learn important STEM concepts while participating in exciting robotics competitions.

Pros of VEX Robotics:

  • Comprehensive curriculum resources
  • Options tailored to various age groups
  • Engaging competitions
  • Strong emphasis on collaboration and teamwork

mBot by Makeblock: mBot is an all-in-one solution designed for STEM education. It’s an easy-to-assemble robot kit with drag-and-drop, block-based programming software called mBlock. mBot is compatible with Arduino and Raspberry Pi, allowing users to create diverse robotic applications.

Pros of mBot:

  • Easy to assemble and program
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Compatible with Arduino and Raspberry Pi
  • Offers expansion packs for added functionality

Sphero: Sphero offers a range of spherical, programmable robots designed for teaching coding and robotics principles. With their Blockly-based programming interface, Sphero robots introduce educational elements through interactive play.

Pros of Sphero:

  • Unique, durable design
  • Engaging and educational
  • Block-based programming
  • Wide range of available apps and activities

In summary, even though LEGO Mindstorms is no longer available, many alternative robotics kits and platforms cater to various user preferences, making it possible for learners and enthusiasts to explore the fascinating world of robotics.

The Future of LEGO Robotics

Despite the discontinuation of LEGO Mindstorms, exploring the future of LEGO robotics and addressing any concerns among enthusiasts is essential. LEGO remains dedicated to incorporating technology into its toys, paving the way for innovative products to inspire the next generation of builders, programmers, and engineers.

One of the highly anticipated LEGO launches is SPIKE Prime. Aimed at middle school students, it’s designed to integrate programming principles with hands-on learning. Students can develop valuable STEM skills while constructing various models using the latest technology. Key features of SPIKE Prime include:

  • A new, user-friendly programming app
  • Versatile LEGO Technic elements
  • 11 different building projects

Another noteworthy product is the LEGO Boost system. Specifically catered to younger kids aged 7-12, this system combines the traditional building experience with coding and interactive play. Combining Boost with classic LEGO sets adds a new dimension to the building experience, offering endless creative possibilities. The Boost system comes with several intriguing features:

  • Over 840 LEGO pieces
  • A Move Hub with a built-in tilt sensor and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Easy-to-follow building instructions

A recent partnership between LEGO and NVIDIA Jetson should also be mentioned. This collaboration aims to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and provide the LEGO community access to cutting-edge robotics technology. By incorporating AI into custom LEGO creations, builders can explore new and exciting possibilities in robotics.

Fabulouscreations, a community-driven site, offers another option for enthusiasts seeking support and inspiration for their LEGO robotics projects. Their platform provides an outlet for sharing ideas, tips, and customized building instructions. This resource will prove invaluable for builders seeking innovative ways to incorporate robotics into their LEGO creations.

As the future unfolds, it’s clear that LEGO will continue to provide a wide range of robotics options for fans of all ages. Despite discontinuing the Mindstorms line, LEGO is committed to ensuring that builders, programmers, and engineers alike can thrive through their innovative offerings.

ProductAge RangeFeaturesFuture Prospects
SPIKE PrimeMiddle School agesNew App, LEGO Technic elements, 11 building projectsIncorporate Programming & Hands-on Learning
LEGO Boost7-12 yearsOver 840 pieces, Move Hub, interactive playDevelop Coding & Creativity
LEGO and NVIDIA JetsonAll agesAI & Robotics technologyCreating advanced custom LEGO projects