Journey to the Earth’s Core





Name of Activity Journey to the Earth’s Core
Author Kristen Burns and Sarah Halpert
Keywords sturdy car, rock, travel, ramp, layers, earth, crust, mantle, core, axles, bushings, car, density, plate tectonics, mass, friction
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description The kid’s needed to design a sturdy car that will hold a rock (small pebble). The car will then
travel down a ramp that is labeled with the layers of the earth. The upper half of the ramp
was the crust and the lower half of the ramp was the mantle. The floor directly after the ramp
was labeled the outer core and following the outer core was the inner core section. The kids
had to adjust the axles and bushings on the car to allow it to travel farther. Once the cars were
finished we tested them on the ramp to see how far into the “earth” they went.
Lesson Objectives: Review density and how to measure the mass of an object

Build a sturdy car and tweak it to allow it to travel the furthest down the ramp

Learn the layers of the earth

Materials Needed: Simple Machine Kit

Materials for a ramp

Paper to cover the ramp that depicts the layers of the earth

Small rocks


Preparation and Set Up: Get a large piece of paper and cut it down to fit the ramp while allowing some extra to account
for the outer and inner core section. Design the paper with fun facts about each layer
(temperature, thickness, etc.).
Necessary Background Vocabulary:

Plate Tectonics


Axle and Bushing


Procedure 1. Explain density and the theory of plate tectonics. Also, review how to measure the mass of an object. 2. Have them start building the cars. Make sure that the cars have a spot to hold the rock and that they are sturdy. Explain how to adjust the bushings to account for less friction. 3. Take the mass of the rock. 4. Test the cars on the ramp and see how far into the “earth” they were able to travel. 5. Fill out the worksheet.
Extensions: If a group finishes early ask them if they can make the car go further.

Capturing the Wind: Building a LEGO Anemometer





Name of Activity Capturing the Wind: Building a LEGO Anemometer
Author STOMP
Keywords NXT, program, anemometer, data, data collection, axles, bushings, plates, rotation sensor
Subject NXTs
Grade Level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will use their NXTs to build and program an anemometer that collects data.
Lesson Objectives: - To learn about methods of measuring and collecting weather data.
- To program using NXT software.
Materials Needed: NXT
Rotation sensor
plates (with holes)
thick paper/index cards/cups
tape/paper clips
Preparation and Set Up: Set up computers running MINDSTORMS.
Gather necessary materials.
Arrange students in groups of 2.
Distribute necessary materials.
  1. Have students build fan-like structure:
    1. Attach two plates in a ‘plus-sign’ design.  Be sure the holes line up where they cross!  Then take a bushing and attach it to the plates as shown.  Make sure the smooth edge faces up and the notched edge is touching the plate.
    2. Slide an axle through the plates and bushing.  It is a good idea to secure the plates with a second bushing.  Then slide the other end of the axle through a rotation sensor.  Use bushings to secure the sensor also.
    3. Use thick paper, index cards, or cups to create sails.  Tape or clip these to the plates.  Attach the rotation sensor to the RCX.  Make sure to plug the sensor into port 1.
  2. Have students write a program in investigator in ROBOLAB:
    1. Write a program in level 1 to record rotation sensor data for a certain length of time.
    2. Adjust sampling rate to a very small interval (decimal).
    3. Download and run the program to measure the speed of the fan blades as you blow on them or from outside in the wind.
  3. Have students upload and analyze the data:
    1. Upload the data to investigator.
    2. You will want to convert data from sixteenths of a rotation into full rotations. Use the compute tool to divide the data in the red bin by 16.
    3. Look and the chart and note trends. What happens when the wind blows harder? softer? How fast did the wind blow? How slow?
Extensions: Experiment with different types of arms to see what works best (different material for blades/longer blades/wider blades/narrower blades/angled blades/flat blades).
Once you’ve selected a type, try different sizes.
Reference 1

Ramp Cars: Wheel and Axle





Name of Activity Ramp Cars: Wheel and Axle
Author Kelly Clark
Keywords ramp, cars, beams, axles, bushings, wheels, Simple Machines, Potential Energy, Kinetic Energy, friction
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Using LEGOs, students will build a car to travel the farthest distance off a ramp.
Lesson Objectives: - To learn about wheels and axles.
- To introduce potential and kinetic energy.
Materials Needed: - LEGO Simple Machine kits or homemade kits with lots of beams, axles, bushings
and wheels.
- Ramp.
- Recording sheet.
- ‘Ramp Cars’ Worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up: - Set up a testing ramp.
– Mark starting point on ramp to start cars.
– Mark the spot at the bottom of the ramp that students will measure distance traveled from.
- Make one copy of the ‘Ramp Cars’ worksheet for each student.

- Arrange students in pairs.
- Distribute materials.
Necessary Background This activity explores the concepts of kinetic and potential energy. A car moving down a slope converts potential energy into kinetic energy. Potential energy is the amount of stored energy the car has when it is sitting at the top of the ramp. As the car moves down the ramp it converts potential energy into kinetic energy – the energy of movement of the car. At the bottom of the ramp the car has converted all the potential energy to kinetic energy. The point just at the bottom of the ramp is the point at which the car has its maximum kinetic energy. The car will slow at the bottom of the ramp due to loss of energy to the floor through friction – the force between the car tires and the ground.

Simple machine
Potential energy
Kinetic energy

  1. Tell student that they the design challenge is to build a car that will travel down a ramp and then travel the farthest horizontal distance from the bottom of the ramp.
    1. Tell students about potential energy. The energy that the car has at the top of the ramp before it is released (stored energy). This energy is converted into kinetic energy (the energy of the movement of the car has while moving).
      1. Explain that potential energy is highest at the top of the ramp (explain this by telling students that the car has the ‘potential’ to travel the farthest when it is placed here vs. when it is placed lower on the ramp). Potential energy is affected by gravity and the mass of the car.
      2. Explain that the kinetic energy is highest when the car is just at the bottom of the ramp because this is when it is moving the fastest, but has no more potential energy from being on the ramp.
      3. Explain that the force of friction – the force of the ground on the tires – is what slows the car down when it reaches the bottom of the ramp. Without friction, the car would continue to go forever in the same direction at the same speed.
    2. Tell student that they can build their car however they would like using the material provided. They can change the number of wheels, type of wheels, axles, etc. Remind them to think about potential energy, kinetic energy, and the forces of friction
  2. Have students build and test their cars. Allow each group three tests and record the farthest trial on the board or on a sheet.
  3. Have the students fill out the ‘Ramp Car’ Worksheet.
  4. Bring the class together to discuss the activity.
    1. Talk about what would be different if the ramp was shallower, steeper, rougher, or smoother. Do a demonstration if possible. Use this demo to discuss inclined planes.
    2. Discuss the different designs. Whose car went the farthest? What was different about this design? What did some of the other designs look like and why did they not go as far?
    3. Conclude by asking students how they might improve their designs.
Extensions or Modifications: You can modify this activity to be applicable to older grades by having student graph distance v. time, taking the mass of their cars and predicting how far their car will travel using mathematics.
Reference 1
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Name of Activity Gears
Author Laurie Cormler
Keywords gears, axles, Drive Gear, Follower Gear, Gear Ratio, Gear Trains, Simple Machines
Subject LEGO Building
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will learn about gears through hands on exploration with LEGOs and a worksheet.
Lesson Objectives: - Familiarize students with gears.
- Learn how gears can be useful.
Materials Needed: One Homemade LEGO kits for each group:
- Kit should contain several gears of each size (about 5 of each).
- Kit should contain many axles (10 – 20) and bushings (20 – 30).
- Kit should contain a “challenge wall” – This wall should be a collection of beams with holes about 4 inches tall and 6 – 8 inches wide. On the top left corner attach a gear with an axle and a bushing.
- One activity worksheet per student.
Preparation and Set Up: - Create homemade LEGO kit.
- Make photocopies of worksheets.
- Arrange students in pairs.
- Distribute materials.
Necessary Background The engineering design process is an eight step process that engineers use to design:

Step 1. Identify the need/problem

Step 2. Research the need/problem

Step 3. Develop possible solutions

Step 4. Select the best possible solution

Step 5. Construct a prototype

Step 6. Test and evaluate the solution(s)

Step 7. Communicate the solution(s)

Step 8. Redesign

- Gears
- Drive Gear
- Follower Gear
- Gear Ratio
- Gear Trains
- Simple Machines

  1. Explain gears to the class
    1. Talk about how gears are simple machines – a device that helps people do work
    2. Talk about how gears connect to each other with interlocking teeth.
    3. Show that different sized gears have a different number of teeth – This means that one turn of a big gear will turn a small gear more than one turn.
    4. Explain what a gear ratio is. A gear ratio is the number of teeth on the drive gear compared to the number of teeth on the follower gear. Teeth on drive gear: Teeth on follower gear
    5. Explain the difference between gearing up and gearing down and their purpose:
      1. Gearing up mean that for ever revolution of the drive gear the follower gear turns more than one revolution – this is used to make something move faster and gives less power to whatever is attached to the follower gear.
      2. Gearing down means that for every revolution of the drive gear, the follower gear turns less than one revolution – this is used to give more power to whatever is attached to the follower gear because it moves slower with the same power as the drive gear.
    6. Explain that gears are used to slow down or speed up motors in cars, give bikes more resistance up hills, make watch hands move at different speeds etc.
  2. Pass out the gears to the students so they can have a close look.
    1. Have students count the number of teeth on each sized gear.
    2. Have students do the Gear Ratio Worksheet and activity (attached).
  3. Explain to students how when one gear is turned clockwise, the other gear turns counterclockwise.
    1. Pass out the ‘Gears Worksheet’ (attached).
  4. Explain the final challenge of the activity.
    1. Show students the “challenge wall” with one gear at the top left.
    2. Tell students that they must add gears to the wall so that when you turn a driver at the bottom right, the top left gear will turn.
Extensions or Modifications: - Have students make the top left gear turn clockwise when the bottom right gear is turned counterclockwise.
- Add a spindle attached to a net over a LEGO man on the top left gear that the students have to turn with the other gears. Have the challenge be to free the LEGO man by adding a Gear Train to the lower right of the wall so that when it is turned the net is lifted.
Reference 1
Reference 2
Reference 3

Solar System – ROVing Away





Name of Activity Solar System – ROVing Away
Author STOMP
Keywords Solar System, ROV, planet, beam, bricks, plates, axles, Solar Energy, Light Sensor
Subject and Grade Level NXT, K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Lesson Objectives: - Program a NXT ROV to travel from Earth to an assigned planet.
- Use this activity to learn about the solar system.
Materials Needed: - One pre-built NXT car for each pair of students.
- ‘Solar System’ that can be laid out on the floor, which shows all nine planets including earth. These can be marked off with tape, construction paper circles, etc.
- ‘ROVing Away’ activity worksheet.
- Planet fact cards set at each planet.
- Postcards from Pluto, by Loreen Leedy.
Preparation and Set Up: - Create ‘Solar System’ and planet facts.
- Lay out ‘Solar System’ and planet facts.
- Distribute NXT cars.
- Distribute activity worksheets.
- Break students into groups of 2.
- The teacher should do some research on each planet so that students can discuss the solar system after the activity. Wikipedia should have sufficient information on the solar system for this activity:
  1. (optional) Read Postcards from Pluto by Loreen Leedy to the class. This will serve as review and set up for the lesson.
  2. Divide students into groups and assign each group a planet (there may be repeats).
  3. Tell students to make an educated guess as to how long they think their trip might take from Earth to their assigned planet. Have students program their car to run for this amount of time and then stop.
  4. Tell students that since the planets are different distances from Earth, the time that each group programs into their NXT should be different.
  5. Tell students to reenter new times until their car stops exactly at the designated planet.
  6. Come together as a class and discuss the difficulties and successes that each group had.
  7. Have each student read their planet fact card to the class to facilitate discussion on the solar system.
Extensions or Modifications: - Use a light sensor to program the car when to stop.
- Program the NXT car to turn around and return to Earth.
- Program the NXT to turn and stop when it is facing the sun. The sun can be represented as a flashlight and the device used to make the NXT stop is the light sensor.
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