Build a Tower





Name of Activity Build a Tower
Author STOMP
Keywords Simple Machines, sturdy shapes, structure, beam, brick, plate, axle, bushing, connector peg, sturdy shapes, triangles, bracing
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description - Students will build a tower that is at least 4-6 inches high. The tower must be sturdy enough to hold up a book/stack of books.
Lesson Objectives: - Familiarize students with sturdy building using their LEGO Simple Machines kits.
- Use sturdy shapes to build a structure.
- Build engineering/LEGO vocabulary.
Materials Needed: - LEGO Simple Machines kit.
- Stack of books.
- Rulers.
- ‘Engineer’s Planning Sheets’.
- ‘Engineer’s Final Report’ Worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up: - Make enough copies of each worksheet for the class.
- Collect a book/stack of books to use for testing.
- Gather a couple of rulers to test tower height.
- 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


Pieces -

Connector Peg
Friction Peg
Axle Extender

Sturdy Shapes



  1. Review sturdy building from prior activities, especially “Building Strong Shapes”.
    1. Talk about overlapping beam/bricks
    2. Talk about using pegs to connect pieces and how using two pegs to connect two beams means the beams won’t rotate.
    3. Talk about how you can use axles and bushings in a similar way that you can use pegs to attach beams.
    4. Make sure to give the students a height requirement – 4 to 6 inches.
  2. Use the Engineering Design Process to introduce and teach the lesson
    1. Brainstorm: Have students think of ways to build sturdy structures and what a LEGO tower might look like.
    2. Choose and Plan: Have students fill out the ‘Engineer’s Planning Sheet’ and circle what each partner will build. Although each person does their own worksheet each pair will need to agree on a plan.
    3. Create: Haves students build the towers. If students have trouble help s tudents use their sturdy building techniques.
    4. Test: Each tower must pass two tests.
      1. Height Test: The tower must be at least 4 inches tall (measure with a ruler).
      2. Weight Test: Each tower must hold the weight of a book/stack of books.
    5. Redesign: Students must rebuild their designs after failed tests. Talk with students about what can be done differently to pass the test.
    6. Share:
      1. Have students fill out the ‘Engineer’s Final Report’
      2. Come together as a class to discuss the activity.
        1. Let each pair share what they have created.
        2. Talk about problems groups had and how they fixed them.
Extensions or Modifications: - Have students build a tower that will support the students weight/hold more books.
- Have students build a taller tower.
- Build a structure that can pick up a stack of books.
- Using a baseplate for this lesson may be helpful for students.
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Build a Sturdy Wall





Name of Activity Build a Sturdy Wall
Author STOMP
Keywords sturdy, wall, tests, overlapping, drop test, flick test, plate, beam, brick, Simple Machines
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will build a sturdy wall that can withstand two different tests.
Lesson Objectives: - To familiarize students with LEGO building strategies.
- To familiarize students with LEGO and engineering vocabulary.
- To introduce the Engineering Design Process to the students.
Materials Needed: - LEGO Simple Machines kits or homemade LEGO building kits.
- Engineer’s ‘Final Report’ Worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up: - Arrange students in pairs.
- Distribute LEGO Simple Machines Kits.
Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Drop Test
Flick Test


  • Introduce the LEGO pieces students will be using in this lesson.
  • Discuss how to describe LEGO pieces (e.g. a 2 x 4 brick is a brick that is 2 studs across and 4 studs long)
  • Write the pieces that were introduced and tell the students that they are only allow to use and take out those three piece types.
  • Explain the challenge and using steps of the Engineering Design Process:
  1. Create: The task for the day is to build a sturdy wall.
    1. Give building tips and talk about sturdy building. For example, overlapping bricks and beas are stronger than non-overlapping bricks and beams, three plates is the same height as one brick. Talk about overlapping bricks at corners of buildings
  2. Test: Each wall must pass two tests:
    1. Flick Tests - Wall cannot fall apart or fall over when gently pushed.
    2. Drop Test - Wall cannot fall apart when dropped from the knee.
  3. Redesign: Have students think about why their design might have broke and what they can do differently to change it.
  4. Share: 
    1. Have students fill out their ‘Engineer’s Final Report’ Worksheet (some students may need help).
    2. If there is time have students come together to share their wall designs and discuss what made their designs sturdy. Compare the students’ walls to the walls in the classroom/other buildings.
Extensions or Modifications: - Have students build a 2-sided wall (the two walls should be connected with overlapping beams/bricks/plates).
- Have students build a 4-sided sturdy house.
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Building Strong Shapes






Name of Activity Building Strong Shapes
Author STOMP
Keywords Triangle, square, braced square, LEGO, Simple Machines, sturdy, beam, brick, plate, axle, bushing, friction peg, connector peg, axle extender
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Lesson Objectives: - Familiarize students with specific LEGO building strategies and any new pieces.
- How to use pegs (friction and connection).
- Building a triangle and a square.
- Bracing with beams.
- Teach the names of LEGO building pieces.
- Reinforce knowledge of shapes.
Brief Description Students will be guided through this activity, building a triangle, a square, and a braced square using LEGO pieces. Students will then attempt to build a sturdy box on their own with LEGO pieces from their kit.
Materials Needed: - LEGO Simple Machine kit.
Preparation and Set Up: - Construct example shapes.
- Arrange students in pairs.
- Distribute LEGO kits.
Necessary Background N/A
  1. Review sturdy building and names of pieces (it may help to have an overhead or poster of pieces and their names):
    1. Overlapping beams and bricks are stronger than non-overlapping ones
    2. Three stacked plates are the same height as one beam.
  2. Show students how to build in ways other than stacking pieces (pegs, axles and bushings, etc.).
  3. Have students make a triangle.
    1. Show students on your example how you can use both pegs and axles with bushings to connect beams.
    2. Push on your triangle to show how strong and sturdy it is.
  4. Show students a pre-built square
    1. Show on your demo model that the square is not sturdy and talk about why.
    2. Have students brainstorm ways to make a square sturdy.
  5. Have students build a square and add a diagonal brace to their square to make it sturdy.
    1. Show students that by adding the brace you have created two triangles and remind students that triangles are very sturdy shapes.
  6. Have students use this new knowledge to build a sturdy box.
    1. Tell students that the sides of the box do not need to be closed.
    2. Use the Engineering Design Process in the process of building the box.
      1. Create: Build the box using the pieces introduced in this lesson
      2. Test: apply 2 tests
        1. Flick Test – the box won’t collapse when pushed
        2. Drop Test – box doesn’t break when dropped from ankle height.
      3. Redesign: Rebuild the box until it passes the tests. Consider ways to make the box stronger.
      4. Share: Come together as a class to share designs.
        1. Talk about difficulties that different groups had in building their box and how they overcame these difficulties.
        2. Identify different shapes in the boxes and the pieces that the groups used.
        3. Talk about ways that different groups made their boxes stronger.
        4. Look around the classroom for examples of sturdy shapes and sturdy building.
Extensions or Modifications: - Introduce measurement and have the students measure their creations using different units.
- Build the widest/longest structure.
- Build the shortest structure using only 10 pieces.
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Pulley Wall





Name ofActivity Pulley Wall
Author STOMP
Keywords pulley, wheel, beam, axle, wall, driver, follower, tension, bushing
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Lesson Objectives: - Introduce students to pulleys and how pulleys work.
- Teach students new LEGO pieces (pulley wheel, pulley band).
- Show students how pulleys can be useful in engineering and elsewhere.
Brief Description Each student will build a 2-pulley wheel pulley using a beam, 2 pulley wheels, 2 axles, 2 bushings, and a pulley band. Each team of students will connect their pulley walls together so that one driver turns the other three pulley wheels.
Materials Needed: - LEGO Simple Machine Kit.
- ‘Engineer’s Final Report’ Worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up:
- Arrange students in pairs.

- Distribute LEGO Simple Machine Kits.
- Make copies of ‘Engineer’s Final Report’.

Necessary Background Pulleys consist of one or more wheels with a rope or band that wraps around the grove
on the circumference of the wheel. Pulleys are used in many different engineered designs.
A simple example is a well that has one pulley wheel and a rope, used to lift a bucket.
Other examples include, belt systems in cars, roping on sail boats, and in cranes.

Driver – the pulley wheel that is moved by a motor or person.
Follower – the pulley wheel that moves when the driver moves, a pulley system
can have more than one follower.
Tension – The tightness of the pulley band or rope.

  1. Introduce pulleys
    1. explain what a pulley is, show some example pictures of pulleys and how they are useful
    2. Show students the pieces they will be using to build their LEGO pulley (pulley wheel, band).
      1. Point out the different sized wheels and bands.
    3. Demonstrate to the class what they will be doing, by constructing an example pulley wheel in front of the class.
    4. Show the students how your pulley works and ask students to explain how one pulley moves the other pulley.
    5. Introduce the vocabulary and talk about the driver and follower (the one you turn is the driver and the one that turns as a result is the follower. The driver and follower can switch).
    6. Ask the students to observe which pulley moves faster when teh small pulley is the driver and when the big pulley is the driver.
    7. Tell the stuents that they will each build their own pulley wall consisting of 2-pulley wheels (one driver and one follower).
      1. If students have trouble show them how the tension of their pulley band may be affecting its performance, either too tight or too loose. This can be fixed by using different sized bands or moving the pulley wheels up and down the beam.
    8. Explain that once each student has constructed their own wall, they will attach their wall to their partner’s wall to make a long pulley with four pulley wheels (one driver and three followers).
    9. Give students hints about how to connect two pulley walls together with an extra beam and pulley band.
    10. When students are finished have students fill out the ‘Engineer’s Final Report’ and have them label the driver and the follower pulley wheels.
    11. Allow each group to demonstrate their pulley wall and how they work.
Extensions or Modifications: - Have students add a pulley wheel to make even longer pulley walls (teacher may need to supply extra wheels and bands).
- Let two groups work in a team of four to attach their pulley walls to make an 8 wheel wall.
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Introduction to Engineering





Name of Activity Intro to Engineering
Author STOMP
Keywords Introduction to Engineering, Compromise, share, respect, cooperate, evaluate, brick, beam, plate
Subject LEGO Building
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Lesson Objectives: - Introduce engineering and what an engineer does.
- Assist students in their ability to work with others.
- For students to learn how to plan, share, and discuss ideas, for building a simple structure.
Brief Description In this activity, students will be introduced to engineering and partner building. Students will work with a partner to build a design of their choice, but must cooperate, discuss, and compromise as part of the challenge.
Materials Needed: - 20 LEGO pieces in a small plastic bag (one bag for each pair).
- Engineer’s Planning Worksheets.
- Optional – What do Engineers Do book (available at Tufts CEEO).
- Optional – Books about sharing and taking turns (Dandelion Warriors or It’s Mine by Leo Lionni).
For Extensions:
- Extension LEGO kits (10 pieces in a bag for each student).
- Mystery number of LEGO pieces in a bag for students to count and name.
- Mystery pieces students must identify by feel.
Preparation and Set Up: - Arrange students in pairs.
- Distribute LEGO kits.
- Distribute ‘Engineer’s Planning Worksheets’.
Procedure Background: To properly refer to LEGO bricks, plates and beams of different sizes count the number of bumps on top of the brick/plate/beam widthwise by lengthwise. A 1 x 4 beam is 1 ridge wide and 4 ridges long. A 2 X 8 brick is 2 bumps wide and 8 bumps long.   Procedure:

  1. Introduce what engineering is and what engineers do, you may want to use picture representations, books, or examples.
  2. Introduce to the class that they will be exploring engineering through LEGOs
  3. Talk about the importance of teamwork, sharing and cooperation in engineering and discuss how students might work together by planning, compromising and taking turns.
  4. Introduce the pieces students will be using in this activity (brick, beam, and plate) and how to name each one and each size (e.g. 2 X 4 Brick).
    1. You may want to create a worksheet to enforce the naming system.
  5. Introduce the challenge — Tell students that they must use their bag of 20 LEGO pieces to build a structure with their partner. Before you distribute LEGOs , have students plan using their Engineer’s Planning Worksheet (attached to activity).
  6. When students have finished, come together as a class. Let each student share their design, one thing they like about it and one problem they had. Ask students how they worked cooperatively with their partners.
Extensions or Modifications: If students are having trouble working together, role model and discuss the following situations with another adult: grabbing pieces, working on separate projects without communicating, arguing
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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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