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Using Lego Bricks To Conduct Engineering Experiments

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Unique Laboratory Experiments & Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1380.1 - 9.1380.18



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Paper Authors

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Jeffrey LaCombe

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Eric Wang

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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 2756

Using LEGO® Bricks to Conduct Engineering Experiments

Eric Wang, Jeffrey LaCombe, and Chris Rogers

University of Nevada, Reno/ University of Nevada, Reno/Tufts University

Abstract When developing a new laboratory experience for undergraduates, the primary logistical requirements tend to be low cost and high availability. One popular method of meeting these somewhat conflicting requirements is to create on-line laboratory experiments. This paper explores another method that utilizes the LEGO® programmable brick (RCX) as a portable data acquisition system. Students both design and conduct the experiments at home. Students also have the ability to conduct personal engineering experiments to investigate phenomena of personal interest.

In this paper, we describe several experiments that we have conducted with the LEGO® programmable brick and Robolab (LabVIEW) that give students first hand experience with “typical” engineering concepts that would normally be covered in sophomore or junior-level laboratory courses. Examples on data acquisition, numerical methods, dynamics, statics, motor performance, fluid dynamics, feedback control, and strength of materials are presented.

1. Introduction

Whether it be a desire to incorporate laboratory experiences in traditional lecture courses so that the experiments are conducted at the same time the content is presented or simply the desire to revise an existing laboratory course, many universities are attempting to modernize undergraduate laboratory experiences. Coupled with diminishing budgets and increased accountability for expenditures, many universities are turning to on-line, virtual laboratories. Virtual laboratories are often cited as being cost effective and having high availability to the students. This method does not give students the hands-on experience, however. Our solution to address the issue of modernization bounded by economics is through using LEGO® bricks. We present several examples in this paper of how the LEGO® RCX programmable brick can be used to teach traditional engineering laboratory experiments.

These popular interlocking bricks are not new to the college campus. A cursory literature search of the ASEE and IEEE proceedings revealed over 200 papers concerned with the use of LEGO® bricks in some form or another. While many of the papers dealt with their use in a research environment, e.g. the humanoid robot that displays emotional expressions in response to direct physical contact [1], over half of the papers concentrated on the use of LEGO® bricks as an educational tool.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering

LaCombe, J., & Wang, E., & Rogers, C. (2004, June), Using Lego Bricks To Conduct Engineering Experiments Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13880

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