During the past week, the recently announced LEGO Education SPIKE Prime sets made their first appearance during the Moscow International Education Fair 2019. Certified LEGO Education teacher and LEGO Ambassador Vera Senyuta, PhD, attended the press-conference and brought us the latest details about LEGO’s most advanced educational solution.
The press conference and the presentation covered both LEGO SPIKE sets, 45678 LEGO Education SPIKE Prime Set ($329.99 USD) and 45680 LEGO Education SPIKE Prime Expansion Set. The event was hosted by Tom Hall, General Manager, LEGO Education International; Yannick Dupont, Content Manager; and Thomas Rose, Training Program Manager. Together they told the audience about the idea behind the new sets and how the set will play a role in modern schools, as well as answered questions about the products.
Editor’s note 4/15: Since publication of this article, LEGO Education reached out to us to share some clarifying information about SPIKE Prime that we have incorporated into the article and quoted below.
The LEGO Education SPIKE solution has been in development since 2017 and is a pretty ambitious project. Designed for students of 10 years of age and above, SPIKE is positioned to replace LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3. Even though EV3 has the same age recommendations, LEGO’s research has shown that its building and programming environment is too complicated for the youngest members of its target audience. Therefore, SPIKE brings a brand new environment which is described as more friendly and much easier to use while allowing designs just as advanced and complicated as is possible with EV3. In other words, students as young as 10 years of age will find SPIKE much more convenient to use than LEGO Mindstorms EV3.
In addition, LEGO Education also provides LEGO WeDo 2.0 for the target audience of 7+. Thus, both primary and secondary grades are covered with educational solutions. Moreover, during the press conference, it was mentioned that a brand new LEGO Mindstorms-like solution could likely follow in the next year or two. Aimed at teens, that new product would likely feature a more complicated interface and designs.
Clarification from LEGO Education: There are no plans to have a new LEGO MINDSTORMS like solution as of now. SPIKE Prime is complementary to LEGO Education’s learning continuum. WeDo2.0 will continue to serve the primary school audience while MINDSTORMS EV3 Education will serve middle school as well as high school students.
Improving on EV3, which comes with 34 lesson plans available online, and WeDo 2.0, which only has 18 lesson plans in the box, the new SPIKE Prime will provide teachers with more than 40 lesson plans from the box; this could be enough for a whole year of school.
While 45678 LEGO Education SPIKE Prime Set will come in a huge plastic container, 45680 LEGO Education SPIKE Prime Expansion Set will be packed in a cardboard box and will include a large angular motor and a light/color sensor. The large hub is only included in the larger base set, though it can also be purchased separately.
LEGO SPIKE brings motors and sensors that are more advanced than ever before. According to the details provided during the press conference, the new light/color sensor is more accurate than the one in Mindstorms EV3. The new sensor is capable of detecting a tiny 0.2-inch dot (5mm) at a distance of 2 inches (5 cm). Via the programming interface, its modes can be switched between detecting light and detecting color. As for the new touch sensor, it will be able to register up to 10 pressure levels. Unfortunately, no details were given about the other sensors, so we may have to wait until the general release of the set before we can find out everything else about the SPIKE sensors.
The most advanced part of the system is, of course, the hub. It has 6 input/output ports for connecting external sensors and motors. Inside the hub are a chip providing Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, a speaker, a 6-axis gyro, and a rechargeable battery. The great news is that the hub will work with every LEGO Boost and WeDo 2.0 external motor and sensor. However, the backward compatibility is limited to the hub, as it isn’t possible to use SPIKE motors and sensors with Boost and WeDo hubs. As of now, the hub has been presented in its final design, but the software is still in development and will be finalised by August 2019 when the set will start shipping.
Clarification from LEGO Education: SPIKE Prime hardware will offer no backwards compatibility with LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 as the plug system is different… Even though the hardware from SPIKE Prime and some other LEGO Education products such as WeDo share the same plug system and therefore may fit together, you can’t combine the SPIKE Prime and WeDo hardware and use the SPIKE App or WeDo 2.0 App to code them.
The software for SPIKE Prime will support 17 languages. The coding environment is based on the popular Scratch coding language, which includes drag-and-drop blocks. Compared to that of LEGO Boost, the LEGO Spike coding interface is more detailed. A lot of programming blocks have variables; for instance, a precise angle of rotation can be set for a motor or a precise level of pressure can be set for a touch sensor. Supported operating systems are Windows 10, macOS X, Chrome, iOS, and Android. LEGO Education representatives also mentioned a LEGO Spike to Apple Thunderbolt connector could be an upcoming possibility.
Clarification from LEGO Education: We are always looking at ways to offer more compatibility, although a LEGO Spike to Apple Thunderbolt connector cannot be confirmed just yet.
As for the many new elements found in the set, LEGO confirmed to us that the majority will be unique to SPIKE Prime when it launches, though some of them may eventually find their way into other LEGO products.
Let us know in the comments what you think of this new system and if you’d like to see us review it. You can check out all the photos below.