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A Fun And Challenging Engineering Dynamics Project Using A Lego Construction Set

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Improving Statics and Dynamics Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.50.1 - 8.50.9



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Paper Authors

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Raymond R. Hagglund

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Eben C. Cobb

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William O. Jolley

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Joseph Rencis University of Arkansas

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2268

A Fun and Challenging Engineering Dynamics Project Using a Lego Construction Set

William O. Jolley, Joseph J. Rencis, Raymond R. Hagglund and Eben C. Cobb Mechanical Engineering Department Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA 01609, USA


This work seeks to integrate the theoretical development of a sophomore level course in engineering dynamics by incorporating a LEGO fourbar mechanism project. The fourbar mechanism is constructed using the LEGO TECHNIC Pneumatics Pack. Teams of two or three students learn how to model a physical dynamic system and apply the concepts introduced throughout the dynamics course to develop the kinematic and kinetic relationships for the linkage. The mathematical model is analyzed using a software package such as Mathcad, TKSolver or Matlab. Once the mathematical model has been evaluated, students are asked to interpret and verify their results by working with the actual linkage. Using a hands-on project to teach dynamics allows students to build associations between analytical calculations, and what is being observed during the operation of the device. Using a LEGO mechanism permits students to further develop an understanding of why assumptions are made, and when they are valid. This experience enables students to deal with problems that are more complex than classical textbook problems, thereby adding a new dimension to a traditional analytical course.

1. Introduction A first course in engineering dynamics brings together basic Newtonian physics and various mathematical concepts including vector algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, all of which can be very difficult for a typical undergraduate student. Furthermore, dynamic behavior is often non- intuitive. Magill [1] suggests that dynamics is “one of the more difficult courses that engineering students encounter during their undergraduate study.” A major reason for this difficulty is that dynamics has traditionally been taught without using a physical model. A conventional dynamics course requires students solve problems involving a particular state of motion for a particle or a rigid body at a given instant. Personal conversations by the authors with students reveal that students lack a complete understanding of the motion of a mechanism. Similar observations can be found in recent work [2,3].

In this paper, a real world problem is considered where assumptions have to be made, tested, and solutions verified. The kinematics and kinetics of a LEGO mechanism are explored based on planar rigid body mechanics. Our educational goal is to provide students with a better physical understanding for and experience with the laws of dynamics by considering a practical project activity. 2. Format of the Dynamics Course Incorporating Project Activity Dynamics (ES2503 Introduction to Dynamic Systems) at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a seven-week sophomore level course that meets four class sessions per week for a total of twenty-eight

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Hagglund, R. R., & Cobb, E. C., & Jolley, W. O., & Rencis, J. (2003, June), A Fun And Challenging Engineering Dynamics Project Using A Lego Construction Set Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12496

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