STEM students use smart Legos

By Ellie Lybarger, staff writer

The Legos purchased last year for STEM classes are currently used in Mr. Jeff Patrick’s robotics and foundations of tech classes and Mrs. Melissa Statman’s eighth grade STEM class. In these classes, students are given a task and challenged to build and program the Legos to complete it.

These aren’t your average Legos that you can purchase at Walmart. These are LEGO MINDSTORMS® EV3 which allow you to build and program just about anything you can imagine. They are equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, Wi-Fi, sensors, the ability to link multiple units together, and even infrared. This kind of technology gives students insight into what industries today are using. “The difference is that the kids aren’t just building with Legos, they are learning how to object program them,” Mrs. Statman said.

In Mrs. Statman’s class, the eighth graders used five sets of Legos for nine weeks to work through a curriculum developed by Carnegie Mellon University that challenged them to program different behaviors, such as movement, sensors, and decisions. Students showed that they mastered the programming by completing a maze challenge, a Sensebot challenge, where a programmed robot moves to different spots and raises and lowers its arm, and an orchard challenge, where a programmed robot must move through three rows of fruit trees. “I liked it because it was a more hands-on experience,” Amber Costello said.

Mr. Patrick also uses these Legos for about nine weeks in each class and teaches his students the basic and intermediate concepts of programming and engineering practices. Most of his projects include the use of sensors such as light sensors, motion sensors, audio sensors, and distance. The robotics class also uses Legos to prototype their Battlebots, which cuts the cost drastically. “The Lego kits are vital to the Technology and Industrial Arts curriculum as well as the STEM classes,” Mr. Patrick said.

The cost for these Legos was approximately $8,000. This included the core set, expansion set, simple machines, hydraulics, and accessories. However, the National Tooling and Machining Association matched PENNCREST’s investment and cut the cost in half. The use of the Legos also saves money by replacing consumable materials like wood and metal. Currently there are twelve sets of Legos available to any faculty member to use in their classes as they see fit.

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