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Using Lego To Teach And Learn Micromanufacturing And Industrial Automation

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma in Manufacturing Education 2

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1344.1 - 13.1344.10



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Paper Authors


Susana Lai-Yuen University of South Florida

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Susana K. Lai-Yuen is an Assistant Professor of Industrial & Management Systems Engineering at the University of South Florida, USA. She received her Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. (Summa Cum Laude) degrees in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University, USA. Her research interests include computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided molecular design (CAMD), human-computer haptic interfaces, computational geometry for design and manufacturing, and manufacturing education.

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

Using LEGO to Teach and Learn Micromanufacturing and Industrial Automation


This paper describes the design and evaluation of two laboratory experiments that introduce LEGO® Digital Designer and MINDSTROMS® Education systems as meaningful means to reinforce concepts of micromanufacturing and industrial automation to engineering undergraduate students. The proposed laboratory experiments aim to complement the classroom lectures and to increase students’ conceptual understanding and learning motivation. The first laboratory experiment introduces the LEGO Digital Designer as a 3D design program to better understand the micromanufacturing process through the virtual assembly of LEGO blocks. The second laboratory experiment uses LEGO Mindstorms NXT systems to provide students with hands-on team projects to design and build an automated system while applying concepts learned in the classroom. Data from students’ projects and surveys is presented to evaluate the efficacy of the designed laboratory experiments on student engagement and conceptual understanding.

1. Introduction

Concepts in manufacturing can be very challenging for engineering students to understand in classroom lectures alone. This paper focuses on two particular areas of manufacturing: micromanufacturing and industrial automation. In micromanufacturing, the layer-by-layer manufacturing process for microdevices becomes a challenge for students to understand how these devices can actually be fabricated. In industrial automation, challenges in designing a control system can only be experienced by implementing an actual control system for a physical device or system. Therefore, it is necessary to provide students with relevant hands-on experiences to reinforce the material learned in the class lectures and to generate interest in these fields.

Active learning approaches are essential for college students to apply the material learned in the classroom and to stimulate their understanding, motivation, and creativity. Research in the adoption of active learning techniques in engineering courses has demonstrated several benefits to student learning outcomes such as increased student engagement, increased student retention of material, and increased conceptual understanding 2-4, 9. Providing active learning experiences is always a challenge for instructors requiring significant amounts of time, materials, and funding 6. In universities, LEGO kits have been successfully applied as a convenient and cost- effective active learning approach for prototyping designs, robotics, data acquisition, and chemical engineering problems 5-8, 10, 11.

The LEGO® MINDSTROMS® Education system has recently launched the latest version of its LEGO systems called LEGO Mindstorms NXT, which contains a variety of pieces such as gears, motors and sensors to build and control vehicles, robots, and systems. It contains a programmable microcontroller called the NXT Intelligent brick that can be easily programmed using a software environment called LEGO Mindstorms NXT to control the students’ mechanical designs. Little programming experience and technical support is required so it is

Lai-Yuen, S. (2008, June), Using Lego To Teach And Learn Micromanufacturing And Industrial Automation Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3124

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