The "brain" and "heart" of the LEGO Mindstorms Robot is the EV3 Programmable Brick. It's a combination of a small computer, control center, data manager and power output. The EV3 runs in the Linux programming environment, and has some amazing functions.
One of the first steps at the beginning of the year is to guide students as they explore the landscape of the EV3. There are four main tabs, and under each of these categories is a variety of functions.
By navigating through the tabs it is possible to view, log and graph data input (like distance, light intensity, changes in position, etc.), control motors manually, save and organize files, connect to computers via bluetooth, and even write simple programs.
The import and output ports on the EV3 brick are differentiated by letters and numbers. Numbered ports are inputs for data from sensors. Lettered ports are outputs for energizing motors.
You can learn a great deal about the EV3 Programmable Brick from the EV3 Manual.
As we progress through the year, and the challenges get more complex, it will be important to have a firm understanding of the way this brick works.