Three Little Pigs IEL





Name of Activity Three Little Pigs IEL
Author Matthew Mueller and Sarah Copolla
Keywords integrating engineering and literacy three little pigs client based design
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 3 Hours Total, 4+ Hours Total
Brief Description The story of the three little pigs was introduced and the problems of pig 1, pig 2, and the wolf were posed to the children. The two pigs needed stronger houses, but still wanted their houses to look like straw and sticks respectively (it was the trade of their family), and the wolf needed help knocking down the brick house but the design needed to be portable so he can carry it with him.
Lesson Objectives: Looking at the characters in the story as clients that are being designed for. They have problems that need to be solved, but each client has certain constraints that need to be considered.
Materials Needed: Straw, sticks, any found or reasonable material that the kids propose and can use to build their design.
Necessary Background Know the three little pig story.
Procedure Tell a brief version of the story or have the kids tell it.  Point out each potential client, their problems, and what the constraints of the solution might have.  Each kids will then brainstorm, design, and request materials they can use to prototype their design.
Extensions: They can test and redesign their ideas if they have time.

LEGO House





Name of Activity LEGO House
Author Emily Taintor
Keywords LEGO, house, building, town, electricity, circuit, light, bulb, constraints, construction, squishy circuits
Subject Non-LEGO, LEGO Building
Grade Level 3, 4, 5
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will build LEGO houses that are lit by LED bulbs to certain design constraints.
Lesson Objectives: - Introduce students to LEGO building under design constraints
- Familiarize students with the process of planning and implementing a circuit
Materials Needed: - LEGO Bricks
- LED Bulbs
- Wires (or playdough)
- House bases (for the design constraint)
- Batteries
- Alligator clips
Preparation and Set Up: - Give each group a base, bricks, an LED bulb, and wire (or playdough)
- Explain design constraints
Necessary Background Basic electricity information, LEGO familiarity
  1. Distribute materials
  2. Explain design constraints
  3. Students should begin by constructing a LEGO House to whatever design constraints the instructors decide upon. Our class had size and height constraints (had to fit on the small base, had to be big enough for a LEGO man to live in) but they could be any sort of design constraint, service learning-related or otherwise. During the building process the students should be considering how they want to wire the house so that an LED bulb can light the inside of the house from a battery on the outside of the house.
  4. Once the house has been constructed, have the students plan out the circuit that they want to use to light the house. We had the students use just one LED bulb so the circuits were very basic.
  5. Students should wire the house so that the LED bulb lights the inside of the house from a battery on the outside. We used playdough instead of wires to create the circuit to build off of the squishy circuits activity, so they had a lot of flexibility on implementing the actual circuit.
  6. Students should assemble their houses in one big “town” and present their houses to the rest of the class. Students should be able to explain their circuit to the class, as well.
Extensions: - Make the house more realistic (make the light connect to the ceiling or look like a lamp)
- Give more specific design constraints
- Use more than one bulb per house – would create better diversity of solutions
- Have groups of students create ‘neighborhoods’ so that they have to combine their circuits to connect to one communal energy source

Mini City

Name of Activity Build a Mini City
Author STOMP
Keywords city, sturdy structures, intro to types of engineering, boat, bridge, tower, earthquake, tornado, traffic system, non-lego
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Using a variety of materials provided and unlimited tape, the students were asked to create a “mini city” that contained 3 of 4 options. The 4 options were making a tall (2 feet) structure that is earthquake and tornado proof, a boat that can hold 20 pennies, a bridge that is at least 1 foot long to connect to another city and wide enough to allow a lego car to travel between the cities, and a traffic system.
Lesson Objectives: -Further encourage the use of the engineering design process.
-Encourage group collaboration.
-Allow the students to use and extend on the knowledge they gained throughout the introduction to types of engineering unit.
Materials Needed: cardboard, construction paper, aluminum foil, tape, popsicle sticks, lego wheels and pieces, pipe cleaners, plastic box filled with water, markers, pennies, fan
Preparation and Set Up: -Collect and separate all materials, so that each group has the same amount.
-Print out enough worksheets for the class.
-Fill plastic box with water.
-Precut pieces of tape for each group to start with.
-Discuss the challenge and possible ideas for ways to work in a group.
-Pass out worksheets and materials.
Procedure 1. Introduce the challenge. Discuss the exact details of each of the parts of the city and be sure to emphasize that they should make sure to complete at least 3 of the challenges. Also, discuss the timeline of work. We provided the students with 3 class periods, but that included the introduction and sharing their cities at the end. 2. Hand out worksheets. 3. Have students outline their ideas and make one plan as a group for their city including marking which materials will be used for what and how they will get the work done. 4. Hand out materials. 5. Encourage testing and redesigning. 6. Once ready, have each group describe their city to the class and test for earthquake and tornado proof structures (if applicable). 7. Discuss the challenges and successes of the students and their structures.
Extensions: -Limit the amount of tape.
-Provide different or fewer materials.
-Require the tower to be taller, the bridge to be longer, etc.
-Add another requirement.
Online Reference(s);;;
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Intro to Types of Engineering

Simple Machine Crane





Name of Activity Simple Machine Crane
Author Matt Mueller, Emily Naito, Mary McCormick, Karman Chu
Keywords Simple machines, pulleys, gears
Subject LEGO Building
Grade Level 5
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Students design and build a crane system using simplemachines that will lift as much weight from the floor as possible. The simple machine system will be attached to a motor on the desk. Students may use string attached to motor, gears, pulleys to lift the weights.
Lesson Objectives: Designing and building simple machine systems, using pulleys and gears in combination, employing engineering design process to design, build, and test systems.
Materials Needed: LEGO bricks, gears, pulley wheels, string, motors, weights, cup for weights.
Preparation and Set Up: Strings attached to cups that can hold weights, worksheets for students to learn about gears and pulleys.
Necessary Background Simply machines background on gears, pulleys functions and uses.
Procedure 1. Clarify the problem: lifting as much weight as possible from the floor to the desk using simple machines - gears and pulleys – that are attached to a motor on the desk. 2. Talk about how it might work.  What do gears do? What do pulleys do? 3. Brainstorm designs in groups. 4. Get materials and start building. 5. After 1 class period, review gears and pulley functions and uses.  Work more on designs. 6. Return to building, testing and revising as needed. 7. Come together as a class to talk about different designs.  Test how much weight each design can hold, and make it collaborative by seeing how much the whole class holds together (summation of weights). 8.  Discuss as group how the designs worked. 9. Redesign – If time, let students incorporate what they lave learned to redesign.
Extensions: Class discussions:
How might these cranes be more effective with other simplemachines? How do cranes work in real life? Where do we seecranes?
Redesign could be to make it more challenging by lifting weight faster/slower.
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The Perfect Puppy





Name of Activity The Perfect Puppy
Author Alison Boreiko
Keywords NXT, introduction to robotics, animal, dog, programming, sensors
Subject NXTs, LEGO Building
Grade Level 5
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will combine their knowledge of sensors, programming and building to create their “perfect puppy.”
Lesson Objectives: -Teach students to program with more than one sensor
Materials Needed: -Project Proposal Worksheet
-NXT kits
-*optional: Craft Supplies (for decorating the dog)
Preparation and Set Up: -Make copies of the Project Proposal Worksheets (1 per group)
Procedure 1. Give instructions: Students are to design a pet dog. The dog should use two sensors to mimic dog behavior. 2. Have the students fill out a project proposal form. It’s important that they clearly explain which behavior they wish to mimic and how they will go about mimicking it with the NXT. Demand precision and specificity in their project proposals. 3. Once a group has had their proposal approved, give them their NXT kit and their laptop so they can get to work!
Extensions: Students can continue to develop their robotic dogs.

Challenge Day!





Name of Activity Challenge Day!
Author Jay Clark
Keywords difficulty, tasks, points, programming, risk, reward, risk vs. reward, NXT, MINDSTORMS, 3 Hours Total
Subject NXTs
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Students choose from a list of different tasks with a range of difficulty levels and varying point values. The group with the most points at the end of the class period wins!
Lesson Objectives: Review Programming Skills.
A first exposure to making risk/reward decisions.
Materials Needed: One NXT kit per group
Computers with Mindstorms NXT software
Black electrical tape
Preparation and Set Up: Put together a list of challenges on a worksheet. They should range in difficulty level from very, very simple to challenges that are more or less impossible to complete. Assign point values to the activities based on their difficulty, keeping in mind that close scores are more fun and drive the students to keep working. An example worksheet is attached below.
Necessary Background This activity is as much of an activity in assessing risk/reward and strategy as it is in programming. Some students will complete many tasks with simple, fundamental programming. Others will bite off more than they can chew, and end up without many points at all.
  • Introduce challenge day and go over what each challenge calls for specifically.
  • Hand out worksheets and set a strict time limit.
  • Update scores on an overhead or white board.
  • After the time is up, talk with children about risk/reward, and about how hard each challenge was. If they could do it over again, which would they choose? which were fastest.
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NXT Segway





Name of Activity NXT Segway
Author Jay Clark
Keywords NXT, balance, wheels, sensors, wiring, math blocks, proportional controllers, light sensor
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 9+
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Students build and program an NXT to balance on only two wheels using two light sensors.
Lesson Objectives: Master the use of wiring and math blocks
Master Building with NXT pieces
Introduce the concept of proportional controllers
Materials Needed: NXT kit plus one additional light sensor for each group.
Computers with LEGO Mindstorms installed.
Preparation and Set Up: Make sure this activity is done in an evenly lit room with a consistently-colored floor. Otherwise, it will not work.
Distribute extra light sensors to each group.
Necessary Background An NXT segway works by separating two light sensors about the center of gravity of the robot. If the robot loses its balance and starts to lean one way, one light sensor will receive more reflected light than the other. The differnce in these values can be scaled and then used to control the motors.

Generally, the following tips allow for the easiest construction of an NXT Segway:

The robot’s center of gravity should be such that the robot’s balancing point allows for the two light sensors to be evenly spaced off the ground.
The further the light sensors are from the robot, the more sensitive the response.
Weight should be added way above the pivot point (the wheels). Think about balancing a broom vs. balancing a watermelon.

Vocabulary: Proportional Controller – Control in which the amount of corrective action is proportional to the amount of error

Procedure Introduce students to the concept of proportional control. examples:

  • slowing down based on distance from stop sign
  • changing dial in shower based on error from desired temperature.

Introduce proportional control in the human brain in the form of keeping balance.

  • If you lean forward a little bit, your brain applies pressure to your toes to try to push your center of gravity back.
  • If you move to far forward, your brain will step forward.
  • If you are leaning way far forward, your brain will call for a very quick, large step.

The reaction is proportional to the error.   Introduce the segway activity. Now that we know how to balance an object that we know is leaning one way or another, we need to determine how we can figure out if the NXT is leaning. Ask students for suggestions. Encourage all ideas, but in the end, tell them that we’re going to use light sensors because they have the most consistent response and resolution. Activity If we mount the light sensors so they are the exact same distance off the ground when the robot is balanced, we can be sure that the light sensors will have the same reading. If the robot starts leaning, there will be a difference in the light sensor readings. We can use that difference to control the motors to balance the robot.Notes Students will have to experimentally determine their constant of proportionality. Because the power input of the move block converts negative numbers into positive numbers, there needs to be a comparison block to set the move block’s direction.

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Name of Activity Tug-O-War
Author Kara Miranda
Keywords gear, gear ratios, build, machine, tug-o-war, competition, prototype, Engineering Design Process, torque
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will use their knowledge about gears and gear ratios to build a machine that will play tug-o-war against another classmate’s.
Lesson Objectives: To apply building techniques and knowledge about gears to an activity challenge.
Materials Needed:
RCX or NXT LEGO kits

Assortment of extra LEGO pieces, especially gears and beams
Engineer’s Planning Sheet

Preparation and Set Up:
Collect necessary materials
Photocopy worksheets
Arrange students into groups of 2
Decide how you will distribute extra pieces
Write design requirements on the board
Necessary Background Review gears, gear ratios, and torque.

Engineering Design Process

Gear ratio

    • Tell students that in this challenge they will be playing tug-o-war by building a machine that can provide enough torque to pull on another machine doing the same thing. String will be tied between the two, and a machine will have to pull the other over a line of tape in order to win.
    • Make sure to review how gears work, gear ratios, and using gears for torque vs. speed. Also explain the engineering design process.
    • Tell students the requirements for their tug-o-war contenders. Examples of requirements are:
    •       Must use gears
    •       Must have a sensor
    • Allow the class to brainstorm different ideas for their machines. Have them plan out and draw their design on the engineering planning sheet.
    • Distribute materials and have students start building. You may have to assist students with tying string to their machine.
    • After the students finish building, pair up machines and tie them to either end of a string, making sure the middle of the string is right above the tape on the ground, and that both machines are equidistant from the tape.
    • Have the students start their machines. Whoever’s machine gets pulled over the line first, loses.
  • After the students finish, review the activity with the class. Have them share their ideas, ask groups to explain what the hardest part of the challenge was, etc.
Extensions: Have students add more gears
Make a classwide tug-o-war competition. Whose is the “strongest”?
Allow those who lose to redesign and compete against each other again
Reference 1

Building a Mini Golf Course





Name of Activity Building a Mini Golf Course
Author STOMP
Keywords design, obstacle, groups
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description The class will work in pairs to build a mini golf course. Each group will design a different obstacle for the course.
Lesson Objectives: To use sturdy building to build an obstacle that can withstand being hit by a ball.
To design a moving obstacle.
To program the obstacle to move.
To work as a class to achieve a goal.
Materials Needed: - LEGO NXT kits
- Extra motors and gears
Preparation and Set Up: - Arrange students into groups of 2
- Distribute LEGO NXT kits
  1. Have students construct a pathway for the golf ball to travel down.
  2. Have students use a motor to construct an obstacle that the golfer has to pass to get the ball into the hole.
  3. Use sensors to activate or disarm the obstacle.
  4. Place the RCX out of the way of the golf course.
  5. Some ideas for obstacles students can build are:
    1. A claw
    2. A windmill
    3. Revolving doors
    4. Rotating platform
    5. Bat
  6. Program the RCX so that the obstacle reacts as the student wants.
  7. Have all the students put their designs together to complete the golf course.
  8. Test each golf hole with either a miniature ball or a real golf ball.
Extensions: Build a putter that will hit the golf ball onto the course.
Use trigonometry to find out how to get a hole-in-one for your golf course.
Have a mini-golf competition using the obstacles.
Modifications: This activity works well as a final project.
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Lincoln LEGO Land





Name of Activity Lincoln LEGO Land
Author STOMP
Keywords LEGO, structure, environment, Lincoln LEGO Land, sensors
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 3 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will use engineering knowledge gained throughout the previous lessons to create a LEGO structure as part of a class-chosen environment.
Lesson Objectives: n/a
Materials Needed: 1 Team Challenge LEGO kit for each group of 2 – 4 students
Lincoln LEGO Land planning sheet (attached)
Lincoln LEGO Land Evaluation
Preparation and Set Up: n/a
  1. Review past LEGO activities with the students, emphasizing the floowing:
    1. Building a sturdy car
    2. Programming for time
    3. Light sensors
    4. Touch sensors
    5. Designing
  2. Present the design challenge to the students:
    1. Tell students that they will create their own classroom LEGO environment.
    2. Brainstorm ideas. A few examples are:
      1. Amusement Parks
      2. Toy Stores
      3. Pet Shops
      4. Zoos
      5. City/Town
      6. Mini-golf
      7. Airport
      8. Playground
      9. Circus
    3. Agree upon an environment that the students want to create (you may want to have a classroom vote).
    4. As a class, brainstorm ideas of structures that you want to include in your environment.
    5. Assign each group one of the structures to create out of LEGOs so that there is no duplication.
    6. Before building, give students the task of building a structure that includes at least one programming component. Use concepts learned throughout the year (sensors, timing, motors, etc.)
    7. Have students plan their designs on the Lincoln LEGO Land Planning Sheet.
    8. Check the plans and allow the teams to begin building and programming.
    9. Encourage each student to add an individual element to their design.
    10. When projects are complete have students fill out Lincoln LEGO Land Evaluation.
    11. The final day, assemble all the structures and have students share their design with other students, teacher, parents, community members, administrators, etc.)
    12. Students can make a booklet to share as well, including pictures of their designs.
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