Detective- Civil Engineering


Name of Activity Detective Civil Engineer
Author Hannah Garfield and Kirsten Jorgensen
Keywords detective, mystery, civil engineering, structure, bridge
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Lesson 2 of the Detective Engineer: Intro to Different Types of Engineering unit – civil engineering.
Lesson Objectives: - understand what civil engineers do/design
- experience building neatly and conserving materials
Materials Needed: - Popsicle sticks
- rubber band
- masking tape
- string
- ruler
- heavy objects to test with (usually can use classroom’s textbooks)
- paper and pencils
Preparation and Set Up: - arrange students in pairs
- arrange students around classroom so each student has a 1.5′ gap (between desks or tables) they can work with
Procedure Now that the crime scene is illuminated, the students/detective engineers see that there’s a large hole in the floor in between them and the scene of the crime. Ask students how might they cross this gap and what kind of engineering knowledge would they need? Group discussion about what civil engineers do/design. Introduce materials students will use to create a structure (don’t necessarily call it a bridge) to cross the gap. Each group will receive:

  • two 1′ long pieces of tape
  • one 1′ long piece of string
  • 5 rubber bands
  • 20-30 Popsicle sticks (give all groups same amount)
  • paper and a pencil for planning (if they don’t have already)

Before distributing materials allow students time to plan activity on paper. Emphasize that you will not give them extra materials and they need to plan accordingly. Allow groups to build. When groups are ready test structures with heavy items like text books. With about 10-15 min left in class, bring group back together to have each group present their structure and test it in front of the class.

Extensions: - add more weight when testing
- allow students to re-design using even fewer materials
- allow students to re-design using same materials but a wider gap

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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LEGO Planet Rotation Structures





Name of Activity LEGO Planet Rotation Structures
Author STOMP
Keywords LEGO, ROVs, rotation, model, structure, planets, solar system
Subject NXT
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will assemble a rotating structure onto their pre-made LEGO ROVs.
Lesson Objectives: - To observe a model of planet rotation.
- To experiment with designing.
Materials Needed: Pre-organized LEGO kits
Pre-painted and labeled Styrofoam balls
Pre-made LEGO ROVs
Demonstration model with rotation structure
Preparation and Set Up: - Arrange students in groups of two.
- Distribute materials.
Necessary Background Vocabulary:
- Gears
- Bevel Gears
- Bushings
- Axles
  1. Students will work with the same partners as they did in “ROVing Away.”
  2. Review the solar system with the class.
  3. Tell the students that each group will be given a styrofoam planet.
  4. Each group will use a motor and gears, mounted on top of their rove, that will make the planet either revolve around the RCX or rotate around its axis.
  5. The styrofoam planet will be attached by sticking it onto a LEGO axle. That axle will be attached to a series of gears attached to the motor, through gears so that it rotates.
  6. Let students experiment with gears to create a planet that either revolves on it’s axis or revolves around the RCX.
  7. Tell students that they can change the speed of the revolutions by changing the gear structures.
    1. Ask students: what gear arrangement is faster? Which is slower?
    2. Ask students what speed is most appropriate for their planet.
  8. Come together as a class and let each group demonstrate their machine and how they used gears to achieve their goal.
Reference 1
Previous Activity (if applicable) Solar System Rotation and Revolution
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Solar System

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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