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Introducing EVN ALPHA: The Next Evolution in LEGO MINDSTORMS & Robotics Education

For over two decades, LEGO MINDSTORMS has been the foundation of robotics education, inspiring millions of students and educators alike to delver into the exciting world of robotics with LEGO. From the early days of the Robotics Invention System (RIS) 2.0 to the most recent iteration, the EV3, LEGO MINDSTORMS has continuously evolved, shaping the minds of future innovators and engineers.

However, as with plenty of LEGO themes in the past, all good things must come to an end. News of the discontinuation of the LEGO MINDSTORMS theme was announced in October 2022 with it being only a few months after that the range of sets could no longer be purchased. For many fans, MINDSTORMS was not just a toy but a gateway to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.

In response to this void, a team of passionate roboticists has embarked on a mission to fill the gap left by the departure of LEGO MINDSTORMS back in 2022. Enter EVN ALPHA, the spiritual successor and natural evolution to the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 system.

Since its inception in 2002, LEGO MINDSTORMS has witnessed plenty of changes and upgrades from the RIS 2.0 to the NXT and eventually the EV3 system. Each iteration brought with it new features and capabilities, propelling robotics education with LEGO to new heights. However, with the discontinuation of MINDSTORMS, there was a pressing need for a new solution that could cater to the needs of educators and students alike.

The hard-working team behind EVN ALPHA recognized this need and set out to create a robotics system that builds upon the foundation laid by LEGO MINDSTORMS while introducing innovative features to enhance the learning experience. It's a bigger, better, more modern version of LEGO MINDSTORMS - appealing to every LEGO Roboticist out there!

At the heart of EVN ALPHA lies the RP2040 MicroController Chip, designed by Raspberry Pi. This powerful dual-core 133 MHz MCU offers not only performance but also compatibility with a range of programming languages, including Arduino, C/C++, MicroPython, and CircuitPython, providing users with a versatile platform for exploration and experimentation.

One of the standout features of EVN ALPHA is its extensive connectivity options, boasting 26 ports for I2C, UART, Servos, EV3, and NXT Motors, among others. This allows for seamless integration with a wide range of peripherals, opening up a world of possibilities for robotics enthusiasts. Further seamless integration also takes place thanks to 64 LEGO Technic compatible holes, compared to just 32 holes of the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3.

Furthermore, EVN ALPHA addresses some of the other limitations of previous LEGO MINDSTORMS iterations, such as the size and bulkiness of the controller. With a more compact form factor and improved build quality, EVN ALPHA offers a sleek and modern design that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Measuring just 104 x 56 x 40mm, the EVN ALPHA is closer in size to the SPIKE Prime Hub than the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 or NXT.

In addition to its hardware capabilities, EVN ALPHA also comes with a comprehensive library of educational resources and tutorials, designed to guide users through every step of their robotics journey. From basic programming concepts to advanced robotics projects, EVN ALPHA provides the tools and support needed to unleash creativity and innovation.

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of EVN ALPHA is its potential to inspire the next generation of roboticists and LEGO roboticists in particular. By providing an accessible and affordable platform for learning and experimentation, EVN ALPHA aims to democratize robotics education and empower students to turn their dreams into reality. EVN Aplha has been described by CNX Software as the Spiritual Successor to the EV3 Hub with plenty more development planned in the future.

EVN ALPHA was first developed by Kenneth Chow and his mentor Teng Yi at the end of 2018 to deliver world-beating robotics solutions. This was amplified further with the discontinuation of LEGO MINDSTORMS, the lack of modern resources and the existing robotics technology being extremely costly. Many found these factors a barrier to entry for getting involved in the STEM and robotics industry and education.

"While building the V1.0 demonstration, something clicked. The EVN ALPHA finally felt like a product surpassing the EV3 rather than a one-off engineering prototype - better in many aspects, but incomplete overall. From then, it has been a crazy sprint, and we are excited to bring to life a product that we feel will change robotics education."

Kenneth is the founder of the Centre of Robotics Excellence (CORE) and is involved in many aspects of competitive robotics across a wide age range. Meanwhile, Teng Yi has four years of international competitive robotics experience under his belt, participating in and winning 5 RoboCup sub-leagues. Both have put in large amounts of time and effort into the EVN ALPHA to make robotics education as accessible as possible.

As we continue to bid farewell to the LEGO MINDSTORMS legacy, let us welcome the dawn of a new era in robotics education with EVN ALPHA. Together, let's embark on a journey of discovery, innovation, and endless possibilities with EVN ALPHA thanks to its genius and innovative creators, Kenneth Chow and Teng Yi.

"One aspect of accessibility is cost. We endeavour to bring the EVN to all of you at the lowest possible cost. Based on the initial prototypes that we have manufactured, we are confident that the price you are seeing [~USD230] is sustainable for us over the initial Kickstarter period. We have also given ourselves a rather generous timeframe to deliver EVN to you and intend to deliver as early as April if everything pans out as planned."

If you've found this article interesting and would like to find out more and support the EVN ALPHA project and the work of Kenneth Chow and Teng Yi, then please click on the links below. Here you can find videos, further information and all the behind-the-scenes work of EVN ALPHA. And, most importantly, you can support this project by donating a generous bit of money to get this campaign up and running.

Please give what you can and support this project in any way possible. A big thank you to Kenneth Chow who reached out to us at Bricks Up about the EVN ALPHA campaign. Thank you.


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