Materials Testing





Name of Activity Materials Testing
Author Alana Lustenberger
Keywords materials, properties, building, sturdy, 4th grade, columbus, dipersio
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description This activity involves having students explore the properties of different materials so that they are familiar with them when they choose their materials for a future project.
Lesson Objectives: This activity can be used to prime the class for a long design project where the students will be responsible for selecting the materials they would like to use. It teaches them about the different properties of materials and helps them to understand that different materials are wanted/needed for different applications
Materials Needed: The materials we used were foam, paperclips, cotton balls, rubber bands, straws, and a worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up: You can distribute the materials beforehand into separate bags, or just gather them from the center. Also make copies of the worksheet.
Procedure 1. Explain that all materials have different properties and that in this activity, the students will be exploring these. Make sure to mention that they will have to use what they learn today to pick the materials they will be using for future activities. 2. Pass out worksheets (or show it on the projector). Explain how each test is done and also talk about the ranking system. We did if the material stretches the most, give it a 6. If it stretches the least, give it a 1, and then order the rest corresponding to how stretchy they are within the 1 through 6 range. 3. Put the students in groups and pass out the materials. Make sure you stress teamwork and that both partners should be writing and doing the tests. 4. Bring the class together at the end and have students tell which materials were the stretchiest, heaviest, ect.
Reference 1
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) This was used for the service learning curriculum

Build a Sturdy Vehicle





Name of Activity Build a Sturdy Vehicle
Author STOMP
Keywords sturdy, vehicle, drive, motors, pulleys, Simple Machines, Engineering Design Process, ramp climbing, wheels
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will build a vehicle that is sturdy and able to drive using motors.
Lesson Objectives: - Introduce students to building vehicles using prior knowledge of sturdy building, motors and pulleys.
- Use the Engineering Design Process to accomplish the task.
- Explore pulley combinations that facilitate ramp climbing (extension).
Materials Needed: - LEGO Simple Machine kits.
- Makeshift ramp (board and stack of books, poster board, wooden blocks, etc.).
- Extra Batteries.
- ‘Engineer’s Planning Sheet’.

- ‘Engineer’s Final Report’ Worksheet.
Preparation and Set Up: - Set up a ramp.
- Make enough copies of worksheets for the class.

- Arrange students in pairs.

- Distribute LEGO Simple Machines kits.

Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Battery pack
Procedure Procedure:

  1. Review how to connect the LEGO motor, wire, and battery pack and how to make the motor run backwards and forwards.
  2. Review Sturdy Building and pulleys. Talk about how to make the motor attach to the wheels through pulleys.
  3. Introduce the design challenge using the Engineering Design Process
    1. Identify Problem: Tell students that their LEGO people needs a sturdy vehicles to transport them from place to place (over hills and mountains if doing ramp extension).
    2. Research: Think about what students have done before and how it might help with this design challenge. Research what diifferent types of cars look like, how they act, and what there purpose is (three wheels v. four wheels, front-wheel-drive v. rear-wheel drive, Large trucks v. small cars). Talk about different ways to power a car (gas, electric, hybrid, hydrogen etc.)
    3. Brainstorm: Talk about how you might make a frame for a vehcile. Talk about attaching the motor to make the wheels move (and that it does not have to be attached to every wheel for the car to move). Discuss how to make the design sturdy.
    4. Choose and Plan: Have students fill out the ‘Engineer’s Planning Sheet’. Have each student circle the part they will build.
    5. Create: Have students build their cars.
    6. Test: Students must pass two tests
      1. Drop Test - The vehicle cannot break when dropped from the ankle.
      2. Drive Test - The vehicle must move using the motor and battery pack.
    7. Redesign: Have students rebuild after failed tests. Have them identify problems their cars may be having.
    8. Share: 
      1. Have students fill out ‘Engineer’s Final Report’
      2. Come together as a class and let each student show off their design.
      3. Talk about difficulties the students encountered and how they solved their problems.
Extensions or Modifications: - Have students use different sized pulley wheels to make their car drive up a ramp
without tipping back or falling off (smallest possible pulley on the motor, largest on
the axle with wheels). You will need to add the Ramp Test – the car should drive
to the top of the ramp. Students may need to add additional weight to their cars.

- Have students construct a cart that their car can pull. Have this cart pull something
(books, blocks, LEGO people, LEGO trash/brush/bricks).

- ADVANCED: Have students build a car that pulls a car up a ramp.

- Make rules about where the designs can be tested.
- Have a chart for who has completed what tests.

Reference 1
Reference 2
Reference 3

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.
Reference 1
Reference 2

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.
Sample Image 1
Sample Image 2

Switch to our mobile site