This building challenge provides an opportunity for young students (e.g. 6-9 year olds) to explore concepts related to sturdy design, including balance, force, bracing, and strength.
Design and construct a sturdy chair for Mr Bear (a floppy stuffed animal).
The chair must be able to support Mr Bear from falling out of the chair in any direction. i.e backwards, forwards, to the left and to the right.
The safety of Mr Bear is in your hands!
Possible learning sequence
- Explain to the students that the engineering problem they need to solve for this lesson is to create a sturdy chair that will support Mr. Bear. The chair must be able to support the bear from the front, sides and back.
- Show the students the different pictures of chair designs and discuss the benefits of one chair to another.
- Depending on the age/experience of your students and the materials you have available, brielfy introduce the names of some key LEGO pieces and associated concepts, for example:
- Bricks and plates
- Show the difference between a weak and strong structure. You can have example LEGO structures to demonstrate this.
- Another basic LEGO building concept to introduce is the difference in shapes: triangle, rectangle, and braced rectangles.
- Demonstrate that 3 stacked plates = 1 beam/brick.
- This activity can also be used to introduce forces. Explain that while the Earth is pulling you and objects around you down, that many things are pushing up. Things that push up include floors, bridges, and chairs. These structures must push up with a large enough force to equal the force exerted down on them.
- Once you have introduced these concepts, introduce the activity: Mr. Bear sat on his chair and it broke. Now Mr. Bear has nowhere to sit. The students must build a chair that will not break when he sits on it and can support him from falling over.
- Students can begin by sketching their ideas for a chair. Have them label the pieces they think they will be using.
- After they have sketched out an idea, they can begin building. Give students about 10 minutes to complete their designs.
- Gather students to start testing their chairs by placing Mr. Bear in it and seeing if it is sturdy. If it breaks or does not support Mr. Bear, they should improve their design and test it a second time.
- Conclude the lesson by reviewing the methods of construction for the sturdy chairs. Discuss how people designed their chairs to restrain Mr. Bear from falling over.
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The Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) in Boston, Massachusetts, is dedicated to improving engineering education in the classroom, from Kindergarten to college. The Center houses faculty, staff, and graduate students from engineering disciplines and the education department.
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