This lesson is a great way to begin any class that involves LEGO Technic bricks. Young students starting with WeDo or Simple Machines, middle-school students beginning their first robotics class or even upper level grades engaging in higher level physics through the EV3 Science Activity pack can all benefit from this lesson.
At the beginning of the year I’m often not ready to break out the big hardware: sometimes batteries aren’t charged, kits aren’t ready, my roster’s not settled or I’m just not up to the challenge of handing out expensive material on day one. 🙂 This lesson avoids this issue because it uses exactly four pieces per team of students:
The learning target I use for this lesson is: I can use observation and manipulation to determine the uses of various LEGO pieces.
Procedure: Tell the class to put the beams aside and just concentrate on the pins. Using observation only, partners should write down any differences they notice between the two color pins. In my class, the students write on the whiteboard tables, but you can have them take notes on a tablet, phone, computer, notebook or whatever you use. It’s important to get the brain juices flowing so I don’t tell students how to write their observations; invariably I get Venn diagrams or t-charts like the one below:
After they’ve all had a chance to write down at least 5 differences have the partners share out their observations.
Next, students should pick up the beams and now use manipulation of the objects to see if they can further determine the differences between the two color pins. If you haven’t done this yourself before, you’ll soon learn that the black pins have more friction – indeed they are called “friction pins.” When you attach a black pin to the two beams they don’t move very well, but when you switch out with a grey one, you can spin the beams pretty freely.
Have the students write word pairs to describe the two pins: tight/loose, stuck/non-stuck, etc. Ask them to share out their word pairs. Eventually you can lead them towards the concept of friction versus non-friction (or more accurately, less-friction.)
Ask students to summarize their discoveries and to theorize what they might use the different pieces for.
As a conclusion to the lesson I remind students that building robots is all about using our eyes and our hands (observation and manipulation) to discover what different pieces are used for and how they can fit together to make wonderful, amazing things!