Brief Description:

Students will build a sturdy vehicle using LEGO simple machines kits.

Required Background:

  • Students should be familiar with the Lego pieces with which they will be building
  • Recommended Prior Activity: Sturdy Structures: Introduction to Sturdy Shapes

Grades: K-3

Time: 1 hour

Concepts: sturdy structures, civil engineering, strong shapes, bracing, axle, bushing, pegs

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.


  • Lego Simple Machines kits


  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.
  3. Introduce the design challenge using the Engineering Design Process
    1. Identify Problem: Tell students that their LEGO people need a sturdy vehicles to transport them from place to place (over hills and mountains if doing ramp extension).
    2. Research: Research what different types of cars look like, how they act, and what their purpose is (three wheels vs. four wheels, front-wheel-drive vs. rear-wheel drive, Large trucks vs. 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 vehicle. 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 plan their design.
    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. Come together as a class and let each student show their design.
      2. Talk about difficulties the students encountered and how they solved their problems.

Extensions and Modifications:


  • Ramp extension:


      • Build a ramp out of cardboard
      • How will the design of the car change in order to go up a ramp? Allow students to experiment using different sized wheels. Students may need to weight their cars.


  • Snow Plow Extension:


    • The town’s people need a vehicle that can drive around and clear the roads of snow so that cars can drive on them. Set up a road on the floor and cover it with snow for testing. Challenge students to build a snow plow that will be able to move three types of snow.
      • Light Snow: The vehicle must be able to clear a path in the cotton balls
      • Medium Snow: The vehicle must be able to clear a path in the white LEGO bricks
      • Heavy Snow: The vehicle must be able to clear a path in the wet paper towels.


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