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Creating Lego Prototypes For K 5 Using Functional Modeling

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Infusing Engineering Content Through Curricular Innovation

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.383.1 - 14.383.12



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Paper Authors


Austin Talley University of Texas, Austin

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AUSTIN TALLEY is a graduate student in the Mechanical Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin. His research focus is in design methodology and engineering education. He received his B.S. from Texas A&M University and M.S.E. from The University of Texas at Austin.

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Kathy Schmidt University of Texas, Austin

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KATHY J. SCHMIDT is the Director of the Faculty Innovation Center for the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. In this position, she promotes the College of
Engineering's commitment to finding ways to enrich teaching and learning. She works in all aspects of education including design and development, faculty training, learner support, and evaluation. Contact

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Richard Crawford University of Texas, Austin

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

Creating LEGO Prototypes for K-5 Using Functional Modeling.


With design challenges, often K-5 students imagine concepts to create, but find themselves unable to translate their ideas into prototypes. Teachers, especially K-5 teachers, often need assistance with prototyping for design challenges. This research addresses this student and teacher dilemma by providing a web-based tool that combines functional modeling with LEGOs construction. The tool is based on the extensive research in the engineering design methodology community to develop functional modeling to assist engineers in concept generation. The Functional Common Basis (FCB) is a common language that allows functional models created by different individuals to be directly compared and analyzed. In this study, the principles of the FCB are adapted to assist students and teachers in building prototypes with LEGOs. A limited set of functions for designing with LEGO Technics, called the LEGO Functional Common Basis, was developed. The “Design with LEGO” web tool is based on the LEGO Functional Common Basis. The tool has been evaluated during teacher professional development institutes (PDI) that provide hands-on introduction to engineering design. Survey analysis of the tool indicates that teachers exposed to the tool plan on using it in the future. This paper provides an overview of the research on functional modeling with LEGOs, how functional modeling for LEGOs was used as the basis for the web-based tool, and a discussion of the findings that indicate positive results when the tool is used to assist with building LEGO devices as a part of K-5 design challenges.

1.0 Introduction

The National Academies along with many other experts agree that the USA needs to produce more engineers and scientists1. Attracting more students to engineering requires improvements to pre-engineering education need. One program that has worked to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is Design Technology and Engineering for America’s Children (DTEACh), offered by The University of Texas at Austin. The DTEACh program, which is the focus of this paper, has worked for the last fifteen years to improve the way kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) math, science and engineering are taught. The program uses active learning with open-ended design projects to improve students’ understanding of math, science and engineering concepts. This research focuses on assisting students with generating prototypes during open-ended design projects. The research has its roots in engineering design theory and methodology research.

2.0 DTEACh Program

For over fifteen years, the DTEACh training institutes have instructed K-5 teachers in STEM concepts with active learning techniques2,3. The DTEACh program demonstrates to teachers how the engineering design problem-solving process engages students in learning mathematics and science concepts. DTEACh is offered through the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin ( The program provides guidance to K-5 teachers on how to use open-ended problems in their classrooms. The institutes include one week of instruction in engineering concepts through the use of everyday technology, directed laboratory activities, and design briefs. The institutes are designed to model the teaching

Talley, A., & Schmidt, K., & Crawford, R. (2009, June), Creating Lego Prototypes For K 5 Using Functional Modeling Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4917

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