Basic Programming


Name of Activity Basic Programming
Author Ali Boreiko
Keywords touch sensor, ultrasonic sensor, sound sensor, light sensor, simple programming, introduction to NXT, introduction to Mindstorms, introduction to programming
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students complete a simple series of programming challenges to familiarize themselves with Mindstorms programming.
Lesson Objectives: For students to become more competent programmers
Materials Needed: computers with Mindstorms, whiteboard/chalkboard, a list of simple challenges OPTIONAL: pre-built cars
Preparation and Set Up: 1. Decide what functions of the NXT will be most useful for your class. Do you want them to know how do use a particular sensor? How to steer the robot? How to make the NXT make noises? Then, create a list of ~8 challenges that target these areas of Mindstorm programming (see our example under “References”). Create the challenges so that harder challenges only require the students to change 1 or 2 parts of their program. That way they will see the direct connection between the change they made and the robot’s actions. They will also feel accomplished if they are able to complete more challenges.

2. You may have the students pre-build a car, but the activity can also be done by programming other things (e.g. an NXT arm)

  1. Ask each group to put the necessary sensor/equipment onto their robot.
  2. As a class, program the first challenge. As kids complete the challenge, have them come up to the board and demonstrate the challenge to either STOMPer. Once the students have accomplished and demonstrated the challenge, write their name on the board next to the challenge.
  3. Once kids have finished the first challenge, they may go on to harder challenges–but they must complete them in order!
  4. As kids complete the challenges, check off the challenges under their names. This way, you recognize kids who stay focused on the tasks.
Extensions: This activity can be adapted for various skill levels by simply making the challenges more difficult or adding more difficult ones at the end of the list
Previous Activity (if applicable) Introductory building
References Our list of touch sensor challenges
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Introduciton to Mindstorms, Introduction to NXT Robotics

Different Beaks


Name of Activity Different Beaks
Author Emma Coltoff, Pami Anderson
Keywords beaks, birds, animals, adaptations
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students identify the pros and cons of each beak for “consuming” each different food source.
Lesson Objectives: learn to identify the pros and cons of different forms of the same physical trait
Materials Needed: Beaks: spoons, clothespins, pipettes, chopsticks, pliers, etc.
Food sources: beans, rice, seeds, grain, gummy worms in straw, etc.
Preparation and Set Up: Put each of the food sources in a separate container
  1. Distribute each of the different types of  ”beaks.”
  2. Distribute each of the food sources to separate groups.
  3. Have the groups use their beak to try to “consume” the food source and record their observations.
  4. Rotate the food sources until all groups have tried each of the food sources.
Extensions: More food sources, more beak options.
Modifications: Instead of using beaks, try a different physical trait.
Reference 1
Previous Activity (if applicable) Birds and Their Habitats
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Animal Adaptations

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.

Intro to Scratch





Name of Activity Intro to Scratch
Author STOMP
Keywords Scratch, Programming, User Input
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students learn basic programming concepts with Scratch, including giving a sprite instructions and having a sprite respond to user input.
Lesson Objectives: - Students are introduced to the Scratch block interface
- Students learn basic motion blocks, including glide, move __ steps, and change x or y
- In the second half of the lesson students get the sprite to move using user input instead of basic instructions
Materials Needed: Computers, preferably one for each student.
Preparation and Set Up: None
Necessary Background None
Procedure If students have never seen programming before, it may be a good idea to start with human robot to get them used to the idea. Another good intro game is to set up the floor space as an xy plane with positive and negative axes. Then do a “simon says” type game where you tell the students coordinate pairs and have them go to the approximate location on the floor. This can be a good way to get them used to the idea of the Cartesian plane if they’ve never seen it before. Show the students an example of a sprite moving to the four corners, and write on the board the blocks they’ll need. Then let the students explore the program a little with this goal in mind until they figure out a way to do it (there are multiple right ways). In the second hour have them move the sprite again, this time using key presses or mouse clicks. Key presses are the easiest, using the when ___ key pressed block under the events section.
Extensions: Challenge the students by asking them to try moving the sprite two or three different ways.

Adaptations Box





Name of Activity Adaptations Box
Author Emma Coltoff, Pami Anderson
Keywords animal, adaptations, habitat
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description (less than 1 hour)
STOMPers lead students in selecting physical character traits for an animal that can survive in the chosen habitat.
See link for reference:
Lesson Objectives: to understand different physical character traits/adaptations necessary for specific habitats
Materials Needed: 1-2 shoeboxes, colored paper (for fur), cotton balls (fat), felt (feet), googly eyes (two sizes), pipe cleaners (ears), paper plate (head), popsicle sticks (neck), other (additional body parts), tape
Preparation and Set Up: attach paper plate head and neck to shoebox
Necessary Background Basic understanding of which characteristics are necessary for which habitats and why.
  1. Select habitat
  2. Pick two students as volunteers to attach body parts to “body” (shoebox)
  3. Go through options for feet, ears, eyes, etc. with discussion of why one choice is the best
Modifications: Additional body parts can be added as deemed necessary.
Online Reference(s)
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Animal Adaptations

Frankenstein’s Robot


Name of Activity Frankenstein’s Robot
Author Charlie and Laura +Devyn and Alli’s Minigroup
Keywords Frankenscience, Introduction to NXT, sensors, instructions
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Time 4+ Hours Total
Brief Description Providing students “Frank” the NXT brick, and walking them through the process of making Frank functional. This activity is an intro to NXT, so instructions are there to guide students as they become comfortable with new parts. Parts should be entirely interchangeable between robots.
Lesson Objectives: Personification of sensors
Confidence in using individual sensors and motors
Ability to combine a number of simple parts to create a more complex system
Materials Needed: NXT kits
Procedure Frank the robot is broken down into several steps of building and programming. The goal is for the kids to build a fully functional robot with advanced behavior without the children feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the project.

Frank is introduced to the children as just an NXT brick. we comment on how Frank wants to be more mobile and introduce the deigns for the legs of frank the robot

Building Instructions [Frank the robot[moters+frame]]

distribute the PDF of the instructions to the kids, and the instructions should be intuitive enough for the kids to follow along. an NXT mindstorms program should also be developed that the kids can follow along as it’s programmed ( highly recommended to code and debug before giving to the kids)

once the kids have built frank up to the point of the instructions finish at, then the kids should bring out the laptops and start programming the motors. these small steps will show the kids that programming and building are not actually two separate tasks, but opposite sides of the same coin. this also allows for multiple iterations of the engineering design process.

once the kids have finished with the motors and basic frame then the other PDF’s should be distributed.



Same End, Two Ways of Getting There


Name of Activity Same End, Two Ways of Getting There.
Author Matt’s mini group
Keywords NXT, Ultrasonic sensor, light sensor, understanding how they work
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Understanding how sensors really work and use different sensors to accomplish the same goal.
Lesson Objectives: To understand how the ultrasonic sensor works. Use two sensors to accomplish same goal.
Materials Needed: Already built NXT car, bouncy ball to demonstrate ultrasonic sensor, flashlight maybe to demonstrate how the light sensor senses both reflected and ambient light and the difference between the two.
Preparation and Set Up: Already built car and a thorough understanding of how the sensors truly work.
Necessary Background Understand how the sensors are able to accurately sense whatever it is they sense.
Procedure In order to understand how untrasonic sensors work, children can throw a bouncy ball against a wall from different distances and see how it takes longer to come back to them when they are farther and less time when they are closer.  In order to understand how the light sensor works, they should pull up the real time reading of the light sensor on the brick and hold it up to different lightings and see how the reading changes and test how it is different when sensing reflection as opposed to ambient light and use these readings to set the threshold to put in the program.  A flashlight can also be held up to a piece of paper at different distances and see how the intensity changes.  The challenge will then be to have a car go back and forth between two walls using the ultrasonic sensor on one side and the light sensor on the other side.
Extensions: Use a different sensor as well to accomplish the same goal if a group is far ahead.
Previous Activity (if applicable) Basic programming knowledge and basic sensor usage.
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) NXT



Name of Activity Flubber
Author Laura Fradin
Keywords goo, fun, chemical engineering, borax, glue
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description This will take less than an hour, but is a fun way to introduce chemical engineering by making goo that the kids can take home.
Lesson Objectives: -introduce students to the concept of chemical engineering
-explore how different ratios of chemicals/ingredients produce different results
Materials Needed: -water
-elmer’s glue
-food coloring (optional)
Preparation and Set Up: Have 2 different containers for mixing the ingredients.
Necessary Background None
Procedure How Flubber is actually made: 1) Mix 3/4 cup of the water with 1 cup glue in a bowl. Stir this mixture until it is thoroughly mixed together. Set it aside. 2) Mix 2 tablespoons of Borax with a 1/2 cup of water in a separate bowl. Mix thoroughly until all of the Borax is dissolved. 3) Combine the two mixtures. Stir them together. Add several drops of food coloring until the mixture is the color you want it to be. 4)Continue stirring until it is one mass of goo. See extensions to see how this activity can be more independent for students and take a full class period.
Extensions: This activity can be done as a demonstration in front of the whole class, allowing students to come do different parts of the reaction/procedure.

However, this activity can be done by giving the students a certain amount of each material and have them work in pairs to try and create something that is the consistency of flubber. This will take almost a whole class period! Each group should have a different mixture and they can learn the effects of using various proportions/ratios of each ingredient. After each group has experimented and they have discussed what happened when they mixed various proportions, you can make flubber as a whole class using the procedure outlines above.

Detective- Solving the Mystery


Name of Activity Detective- Solving the Mystery
Author Kirsten Jorgensen and Hannah Garfield
Keywords detective, engineers, solve, mystery
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Solving the mystery (~30 minutes)Did this is the second half of the 2nd mechanical engineering project day
Lesson Objectives: determine who committed the crimeoverview of the different types of engineering
Materials Needed: posters with mug shots and descriptions of suspects
Preparation and Set Up: make posters of suspects with mug shots and descriptionsExample: Bill Ding; Hometown: Burlington, VT; Age: 25; Occupation: Structural Engineer with concentration in buildings;
Procedure Use whatever time needed to finish and present rube goldberg devices present posters and talk about what skills each suspect has that could be helpful for them to commit this crime and what experience do each of them not have. Discuss and blind vote on which of the 4 different suspects (mech, envior, civil, electrical) they think did it THEY ALL DID IT–engineers work together to accomplish goals and most projects require people from different disciplines with different experience to complete them Talk about final project at the end of class.
Previous Activity (if applicable) Detective: Mechanical Engineering
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Detective Engineer: Intro to Different Types of Engineering

Detective- Mechanical Engineering



Name of Activity Detective-Mechanical Engineering
Author Kirsten Jorgensen and Hannah Garflied
Keywords rube goldberg, mechanical, simple machines, gears, inclined planes, pulley, lever, wedgem screw
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total, 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Lesson 3 of Detective Engineer: Intro to Different Types of Engineering unit – mechanical engineering.
Lesson Objectives: -understand what mechanical engineers do and design-become familiar with the different types of simple machines

-create a rube goldberg device

Materials Needed: LEGO Simple Machines KitExtra Lego Pieces

a few NXT touch sensors

Preparation and Set Up: Arrange students in pairs with 1 simple machine kit per group
Procedure Continuation on the “Detective” Story line that we are following in this unit. Give the next part of the crime. We sent some of the shrapnel  they filtered from the last week and determined that the bomb that exploded in the museum of science was a bomb that was triggered by a button next to the bomb. There were no finger prints on the trigger. Discuss how this is possible? eventually get to Rube goldberb device because they wouldn’t be blown up if they were a distance away and triggered the bomb. What kind of engineer could build this? First we have an open discussion on mechanical engineers-what they do and why this field is different from other types of engineering–moving parts, robotics etc. What is a rube goldberg device? How do they work. Open discussion about what a simple machine is, why we use them, why they’re helpful, what the different kinds are and what their specific uses are (write on board for reference later). Project: Create a rube goldberg device with 2 different simple machines that can trigger a button (NXT touch sensor) from across the desk — has to be far enough away so they don’t blow up Give students 10-15 minutes to develop an idea and have a plan before they start. Hand out simple machines kits  after it is confirmed that they have a relatively good idea of what they are going to build and assist students as needed (how to work a gear box and how to make the certain simple machines because a lot of them have never seen how gears work) Ended up using a second week for this project so they could finish. Had pairs present their projects to the class. Had them talk about their idea and which simple machines they used.
Extensions: If they finish early, try to have them implement a 3rd simple machine. (only 1 group finished early)
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Detective Engineer: Intro to Different Types of Engineering

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