Thursday, January 7, 2016

Preparations for Simple Machines Expo

Since returning from break on Monday, the computer lab has been filled with focused middle schoolers, tinkering with tiny contraptions.  In just one week, they will be presenting their work to 63 2nd graders to demonstrate the mechanical advantages of simple machines.

It's serendipitous that this activity is happening at this point in the school year.  It briefly shifts the focus from writing computer code to design engineering, which will be crucial for the robots we build for the Robotics Track Meet, in May.  The Track Meet has events that require robots to have complex gearing systems, swinging levers, grasping claws, and projectile launchers.  LEGO Robotics is so cool because it draws on three distinct thought processes:

  • Creativity to imagine solutions to a problem
  • Design engineering, to make systems that are strong, efficient and redundant
  • Logic, to write clear computer code for robots to function as planned

Preparing for our Simple Machines Expo for the second graders will give the kids a crash course in design engineering.

It's great to see how excited these students are to share their work and higher level understanding with their younger schoolmates.  They are taking the task seriously, and are tailoring their seven minute scripts to make them accessible for the second graders.  They are all trying to remember what it was like to be a little kid!  

We are mostly using designs inspired by two excellent books by Yoshihito Isogawa.
He is an engineer, a professor of engineering,  and a LEGO expert with over forty years of experience building and designing models and robots.

I created "BINGO" cards for the expo, so the second graders will have the task of looking for and sketching simple machines in action at each of the six stations.

Stop by next week for a recap of how it went!

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