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Teacher Grants: TeachNet Ready-Set-Tech
LEGO Robotics: Measuring Speed

Project URL: http://maureenreilly.com/robotics

Through these lessons, students learn to build and program a LEGO robotic car in cooperative groups, and measure and graph its speed. Using their own natural curiosity, students will acquire a basic familiarity with principles of construction, motion, computer logic, sense, design, problem-solving, and teamwork skills, all while reinforcing mathematics, science and technology skills. I created these lessons to give teachers and students a simple and straightforward introduction to the world of LEGO robotics, and to encourage other educators to integrate robotics concepts into the curriculum.

Subject Area
Math, Science, Technology, Literacy

Grade Levels

Students will: (1) Learn to identify what a robot is, what jobs robots do in the world around us, and how robots help humans; (2) Construct a car using LEGO Mindstorms in a cooperative group; (3) Identify the different parts of a LEGO Mindstorms robot; (4) Program a two-motor robot in a cooperative group using LEGO Robolab software, and learn how to change a robot's speed and time variables; (5) Measure and graph a robot's speed; (6) Compare a robot's speed
over two different surfaces; (7) Make predictions on the distance their robot will travel in a given period of time.

Internet Used
The students will use the Internet to conduct four WebQuests that introduce them to the world of robotics and robotic construction.

Materials Used
LEGO Robotics materials; at least one computer with Internet access in the learning setting
is required. We used the computer lab for the WebQuests and programming challenges, and print outs of building instructions in the classroom for the construction of the robots. Bringing wireless laptops into the classroom for all WebQuests, building, and programming lessons would be ideal.

Standards Addressed
New York State Mathematics Standards, 4th Grade: problem solving strand; communication strand; connections strand; representation strand; number sense and operations strand; measurement strand; statistics and probability strand. New York State Elementary ELA standards: Using language for information and understanding. New York State Elementary Science Standards: students will use answers and develop solutions. New York State Elementary Technology Education Standards: engineering design; technology systems; Tools, Resources and Technological Processes; Computer Technology; Management of Technology (http://emsc.nysed.gov).

Students' learning will be measured by a combination of assessments: (1) Ongoing teacher observations during tasks; (2) Observations of student participation in whole-class discussions and small-group work; (3) Student individual performance on assigned worksheets during WebQuests and group activities; (4) Student individual performance in reflective journals.

Students Involved
This unit was designed for a 4th grade public school class of 30 students in Brooklyn, NY. The students worked in cooperative groups of 5 students per group that were diversified in terms of academic ability and gender.

Teacher Tips
Learn the parts, how to build the robots, and the programming language before beginning the program--even build a few robots of your own to predict the potential frustrations your students may encounter. Create a LEGO center in your classroom, and recruit a few students to become "LEGO Librarians" to inventory the parts. Be prepared for student frustration; know that problem-solving and teamwork are two of the most essential skills learned in this curriculum. Encourage the process of working through difficulties and managing frustration with determination and team-building.

Overall Value
Technology is all around us, and LEGO Robotics gives students the opportunity to have an open-ended, hands-on experience with technology in a way that is accessible, grounded in real-world problem solving, and fun. Programming with the Robolab software and constructing robots helps build student confidence as they are able to use familiar materials, such as LEGO pieces and bricks, in new and exciting ways.

Maureen Reilly

Maureen Reilly is a 4th grade teacher at PS 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. She is a graduate of Bank Street College of Education with a dual Masters of Science in Childhood Education and Literacy.  She also holds a BA in Drama and English from the University at Albany, SUNY.

Maureen entered the teaching profession after a ten-year career as a writer and producer for commercials, and websites such as LEGO.com and Cartoon Network.com


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