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Lego Brick Sculptures And Robotics In Education

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



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Page Numbers

4.369.1 - 4.369.7

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Paper Authors

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Scott McNamara

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Martha Cyr

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Barbara Bratzel

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Chris Rogers

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

Session 3353

LEGO Brick Sculptures and Robotics in Education Scott McNamara, Martha Cyr, Chris Rogers, Barbara Bratzel Tufts University / Shady Hill School


In an effort to increase the hands-on creativity for students, we have started to incorporate LEGO bricks in engineering education from kindergarten to graduate school. The versatility and natural appeal of these toys have led to engineering courses for elementary school students, new college advising environments, new college courses, and even a few engineering masters theses. Students at all levels have become excited about engineering and have become interested in learning math and physics through creating with the bricks. In this paper, we outline some of the courses that use the bricks and how they have improved the interest and education of students of all ages.

I. Introduction

For the past ten years, faculty members from the college of engineering at Tufts University have been teaching engineering to students ages 3 to 30. About five years ago, NASA funded Tufts to develop engineering curricula centered on aeronautics for this age group, starting the LEGO Data Acquisition and Prototyping System (LDAPS)1. Our main goal is to present students with a full engineering design project (construction of an airport, for example) and teach math and science - as well as reading and writing - along the way. We choose LEGO™ bricks as the engineering tool set because of its versatility and its computer interface2. To date over 4000 students across the United States have learned engineering from kindergarten to college through this program.

The LEGO bricks are used in college curricula as well, acting as the base material for introductory courses for freshmen and senior design projects3. Last year, Tufts formed an alliance with National Instruments and LEGO to develop the software for the next generation of LEGO bricks: the RCX™. The RCX is a LEGO brick with a microprocessor inside. This allows the students to leave the computer and animate objects and data acquisition remotely. The RCX led to a number of new courses, both in the college and in the precollege arena, that have caught student attention and have effectively taught engineering concepts with unprecedented student participation. The best part of it all, though, is that the college students and the kindergartners are using the same hardware and software. The materials have essentially no limitations on what can be done with them, but rather are designed to grow with the student.

II. College Designs

LEGO bricks and the RCX form the hardware backbone of a number of classes in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Tufts University. We use the bricks for advising, introducing engineering, teaching experimentation methods, prototyping senior design projects, and even for some masters theses. They have been used in the dorm room to play laser tag and

McNamara, S., & Cyr, M., & Bratzel, B., & Rogers, C. (1999, June), Lego Brick Sculptures And Robotics In Education Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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