Asee peer logo

Teaching CAD Modeling Using LEGO

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Teaching Strategies for Solid Modeling

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1374.1 - 22.1374.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Derek M. Yip-Hoi Western Washington University

visit author page

Derek Yip-Hoi has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He has broad experience in CAD/CAM and geometric and solid modeling from research and teaching experiences at UM and the University of British Columbia. Currently he coordinates the CAD/CAM instruction in the Engineering Technology Department at Western Washington University.

visit author page


Jeffrey L. Newcomer Western Washington University

visit author page

Jeffrey L. Newcomer is a Professor of Manufacturing Engineering Technology at Western Washington University. He received B.S. (1988) and M.Eng. (1989) degrees in Aeronautical Engineering, a M.S. in Science and Technology Studies (1993), and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (1994) from Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute. He is engaged in research to improve instruction and assessment in engineering, with an emphasis on
engineering fundamentals such as mechanics

visit author page

Download Paper |


Teaching CAD Modeling Using LEGO® By Derek Yip-Hoi, Jeff Newcomer, Nichole Larson, David Pringle The use of LEGO® in engineering education is relatively common. One area of application involvesthe use of virtual LEGO® models. Lai-Yuen [1] describes the use of such a virtual assembly of LEGO®blocks to teach students concepts in micro-manufacturing. Kelley [2] describes a similar approach inwhich virtual LEGO® blocks are used to teach and implement Product Data Management (PDM)techniques. Pasek et al. [3] have developed automation to assemble LEGO® blocks from a virtualmodel as part of a CIM driven LEGO® Factory. While these cases involve students creating virtualLEGO® assemblies, none of this prior work requires the student to use CAD modeling techniques fordesigning or prototyping new LEGO® blocks. This paper explores the potential of using LEGO® to support teaching CAD modeling techniques toengineering technologists. There are a number of advantages to using this medium. First, LEGO®building blocks come in a wide variety of shapes from the simple standard forms to more complexspecial purpose blocks found in kits such as Racers or MindStorms. From a CAD modeling perspectivethe features used to model these blocks can therefore range from the simple pad/pocket type to moreinvolved sweeps and multi-section shapes (lofts). Students can learn and practice bottom-up assemblymodeling techniques by building models using libraries of standard blocks. They can also model customblocks using the design-in-context approach. This can support creativity in generating new LEGO® kitconcepts. Since LEGO® blocks and kits are easily available and affordable, it is possible for students tocreate a CAD model for which a physical prototype can be built. With the availability of rapidprototyping equipment (e.g. Stratasys FDM technology) or use of a service bureau, custom blocks canalso be included in these prototypes. This introduces students to Design for Manufacture and Assembleconcepts as these custom blocks must be designed with appropriate wall thicknesses and stiffening, andwith appropriate clearances and fits to assemble to standard blocks. The ability to do this adds to theappeal that LEGO® has for many students who are well familiar with their use. Experiences from implementing a LEGO® based CAD project in a freshman course that teachesEngineering Design and Graphics will be used to highlight the benefits of using this approach. Examplesof student work such as those on the following page will be given to show the scope of what is possibleand to identify where improvements in defining the project requirements are needed. Feedback fromstudents on their experiences with this project will be discussed. This shows a high level of enthusiasmand recognition of learning of CAD modeling concepts through this project. Finally, other possible areasfor using LEGO® to support training in CAD will be proposed. One such area is in the modeling ofmechanisms.[1] Lai-Yuen, S., “Using Lego To Teach and Learn Micromanufacturing and Industrial Automa-tion,” Proceedings of the2008 ASEE Conference and Exposition, Pittsburgh, PA, June 2008,[2] Kelley, D. S., “Assessing the Utilization of Virtual LEGO® Blocks within a Group Design Project,” Engineering DesignGraphics Journal, Vol. 68, No. 2, Spring 2004, pp. 26–31[3] Pasek, Z., Yip-Hoi, D., “Lego Factory: An Educational CIM Environment for Assembly”. The Proceedings of theAmerican Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition (on CD), June 15-18, 2005, Portland, Oregon,9 pages.Platform, Final CATIA Assembly with Custom and Standard LEGO® Blocks and Prototype for a Racing Car Pick-up Truck Theme with Platform and Custom Blocks

Yip-Hoi, D. M., & Newcomer, J. L. (2011, June), Teaching CAD Modeling Using LEGO Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18586

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015