Wednesday, 6 January 2016

LEGO WeDo 2.0 vs 1.0 - Time to upgrade?

Image Credit: LEGO Education via Business Wire

LEGO have announced LEGO WeDo 2.0, a new version of their popular educational robotics kits at CES. These sets are widely used in primary schools for the teaching of STEM, coding and robotics.

The range was due an update. The original version came out in 2009. Although LEGO WeDo is primarily sold to schools it's also popular with some families.

Some schools will be deciding whether to upgrade their kits or possibly add more of the older version for consistency. Let's take a look at what LEGO WeDo is and the differences between the 1.0 and 2.0 kits.

What is LEGO WeDo?

LEGO WeDo allows children to add electronics to LEGO models. The range includes sensors to detect inputs as well as motors that can be programmed. 

The kits include LEGO pieces and electronics modules that connect to LEGO. There's also software to control the models and with some packages, lesson materials are also included. 

Kids build models and write the code to control them using drag a drop software. LEGO WeDo can be used to build a range of documented models or kids can design and built their own inventions. 

LEGO WeDo is pretty costly for the hardware that you get, but it's also fantastic. The use of LEGO makes the sets really flexible as well as appealing to children. The kits are durable and include practical storage and the educational materials make LEGO WeDo readily usable in schools that may not have a lot of technical expertise available.

Note that WeDo is not compatible with LEGO Mindstorms. WeDo 2.0 uses connection technology that is compatible with future LEGO Power Functions products so there may be future interoperability there. 


LEGO WeDo 1.0 is powered via USB from a computer. There's no rechargeable battery, models must be tethered to the computer. This does means that you don't need another power source and there's nothing to keep charged. 
LEGO WeDo 2.0 is powered via AA batteries by default (Alkaline or rechargeable) and models are not tethered to the computer giving lots more building options. You can purchase a rechargeable battery but this adds to the cost considerable - it costs more that half the cost of a LEGO WeDo 2.0 set. Most schools will want the rechargeable battery. Changing batteries can be a bit annoying at home, at school it the problem is multiplied up. (Yes, I speak from experience. I've spent a lot of time swapping batteries in school tech!) You'll still need to plug the rechargeable batteries in though. And you don't have the option of swapping them if they run out during a lesson unless you buy even more. 


LEGO WeDo 1.0 controls models via the USB connection. 
LEGO WeDo 2.0 uses Bluetooth low energy from a computer to a 'Smart Hub' which gets built into models. Hopefully the pairing will work well, in our experience this is a process that be tricky when multiple tablets and robots are involved. 

Electronic Components

LEGO WeDo 1.0 includes the USB Hub, one motor, a tilt sensor and a motion sensor.
LEGO WeDo includes the Smart Hub (which has a programmable light built in), a motor, a tilt sensor and a motion sensor. The 2.0 sensors are improved over the earlier ones.

2.0 uses a new connection technology which will be used by new LEGO Power Functions products. (Power Functions is used to automate LEGO models for home use but doesn't currently have programming support.)

LEGO Pieces

The LEGO pieces in WeDo 1.0 use primary colours whereas the WeDo 2.0 bricks have a more modern and fresh colour schemes with brighter green, blue and yellow shades.

LEGO WeDo 1.0 includes 150 pieces (including electronics). There's also an additional resource set that you can buy with lots more pieces.

LEGO WeDo 2.0 includes 280 building elements.

The What's in the Box Video for LEGO WeDo shows the new pieces in detail:


We're really pleased to see that LEGO WeDo 2.0 has support for a wide range of computers and tablets. It's an important bit of kit in primary schools and it would be a shame if it constrained which hardware they could use.

LEGO WeDo 1.0 has PC-based drag and drop software, but it's a paid add-on which catches people out when they are working out costings.

Scratch also has support for LEGO WeDo 1.0 which is very widely used.
LEGO WeDo 2.0 has tablet software as well as a PC version. We're pleased to see support for Android as well as iPads. Chromebook support is coming soon which will be important for a lot of schools. The software is included this time which is a good move.

The drag and drop software is actually much better suited to a touchscreen device. The app is available to download for free and works really well. It has video tutorials (no voice overs, it does have music so in a classroom you'd need to get all the kids to mute their devices.) There's a built-in documentation tool where kids can make notes and store photos and videos.

You can find the app on Google Play or iTunes (there are Start and FULL editions), and you can register to try the PC software for free.

LEGO have also said that Scratch support will be coming out in 2016, first for Macs and then for Windows. This is very good news.

Models and Lessons

With LEGO WeDo 1.0 you get a set of 8 activities (projects) with the software and can purchase an addition 30 hours of STEM content.
LEGO WeDo 2.0 includes a basic getting started project. You can also purchase over 40 hours of educational material including starter projects, guided activities and open activities. There's lots of STEM focused material and also computing content. The packaging varies between countries to tie in with the local curriculum. With 2.0 the models can move around more as they aren't tethered to a USB port and the new material takes advantage of this.

The LEGO WeDo 2.0 content reflects modern primary school computing terminology and themes and feels much more up to date. My kids (aged 7 and 9) really like the look of the models.

In the LEGO WeDo 2.0 'What's in the box' video we find out that Milo the robot model that features in the promotional material is male, this seems a shame. I guess LEGO didn't read our article on whether girls and boys need different tech toys. The new projects do include girl and boy characters called Mia and Max (though Max always get the first mention in the material I've seen.)


Regular readers of Tech Age Kids will know that I'm rather obsessed with storage for robots and electronics kits. It's so important not to lose pieces in a kit like this. 

LEGO WeDo 1.0 just provides a plastic storage box to keep the pieces in. You do get a component list so you can check pieces off, but they all just go back in the box. I know some teachers weigh the kits at the end of the lesson to see if everything is back!
LEGO WeDo 2.0 has really focussed on storage. The kit comes in a plastic storage tray with a lid. Larger components are stored in the base while the smaller components are stored in a tray with compartments. Each compartment has a sticker which shows the pieces that should be stored in it and there's also a component list laid out to match the tray. Very practical.


It's difficult to do a direct comparison as resellers create bundles for schools and those aren't necessarily directly comparable. Also 2.0 includes the basic software whereas it's an extra for 1.0. 

The core set for LEGO WeDo 2.0 is slightly more expensive than the basic set for WeDo 1.0, but you get upgraded technology, more LEGO and the basic software and a first project to build. This makes the new edition pretty good value, especially if you plan to use it for custom projects or with the Scratch programming language. 

The curriculum content for LEGO WeDo 2.0 is additional cost, with LEGO WeDo 1.0 a site license for the software plus activity pack was a similar price. There's more content included in the WeDo 2.0 curriculum pack so this looks reasonable. Bundles of LEGO WeDo 2.0 sets with the curriculum pack plus multiple WeDo 2.0 sets are available.   

It looks like it will be slightly more expensive to equip a school for LEGO WeDo 2.0 but also better value for money. 


LEGO WeDo 2.0 definitely looks like a good upgrade. The new blocks and models have a more modern feel to them and the curriculum content is better aligned with current curricula. The ability to develop models that don't need to be tethered to a computer is brilliant but there is a cost to this - you either need AA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack. This does mean more management of the technology and more things that can go wrong. 

If you've already invested in LEGO WeDo 1.0 and want to add to your collection LEGO have said they will continue selling the older version until mid 2017.

Note that there is no compatibility between 1.0 and 2.0 due to a change in technology. 

If you're just getting started then LEGO WeDo 2.0 looks like the way to go. 

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Wayne said...

Thanks for the interesting comparison. Is the charger for the rechargeable battery the same as that used for the Mindstorms EV3 rechargeable battery?

Steve said...

Your comparison between V1 and V2 is valid if you are just looking to buy a WeDo set from scratch.

What you didn't really point out is that, if you already have a pile of Power Functions devices (Motors, Servo, IR remotes etc), none of it is compatible with WeDo v2. With WeDo 1, you could buy PF devices quite cheaply and supplement your WeDo set. Not the case with WeDo 2. And just check out the prices for an M motor (WeDo 1 vs 2).

Tracy said...

Hi Steve, I did mention the incompatibility and that 1.0 users may want to add to their collection while they can. Remember that LEGO Education have said that 2.0 uses the same connection system as the upcoming Power Functions 2.0 so we might end up with a similar situation for extending 2.0 in future. It is a shame that there's no compatibility between versions.

RSing said...

I got the WeDo 1.0 from an older kid; but don't have the software. I have the 9580& 9585 kits. What else would I need to start. Do i really need the lego wedo software or scratch will do ? Appreciate your response !

Wayne said...

Hi RSing,
You can do a lot with Scratch software and the WeDo sets you have. Just go with it and see how it goes. IMHO, you don't NEED the WeDo software.
Hope this helps!

RSing said...

Thanks ! let me try that !

Unknown said...

I think this is shameless money making from Lego. Lego could have preserved the connectors whilst upgrading the hub to Bluetooth. Still, someone has kindly done it for them and its called the SBrick.

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