Students are experiencing what it is like to be an engineer and a computer programer through Lego Labs in the school’s Science, Technology, Reading and Math (STEM) Lab.
The Lego Education sets being used are specifically designed for use in a classroom.
“I was very intimidated by it the first time I was going to do it,” Hayes said. “I also thought it would be way too hard [because of] the complicated things that they are having to put together and gears and stuff like that. After that first one, I realized that they are very capable.”
The most recent project was creating spinning tops powered by the lab’s laptops.
“Ms. Hayes has some good ideas with Legos,” student Savoy Humes said. “I was kind of nervous at first.”
Hayes said she used the project as a way to integrate reading, math and vocabulary into the science lesson.
“In science right now we are studying force in motion, which includes friction,” Hayes said. “I created an article because there just isn’t really an easy way to explain how a top actually spins, so it’s a nonfiction text for them to read, and I added the vocabulary from science.
“Tops have friction on the bottom and they have gravity pulling them down to keep balanced,” student Isaiah McKee said.
Students worked in pairs to follow visual instructions outlining how to build the top and power device. When they finished constructing the tops, students wrote a computer program using the accompanying software to add background pictures and sound effects to play on the computer screen at different times.
“The cool part about this is it has its own motor, which is hooked to the computer which makes everything run,” Hayes said.
The top-spinning device also has a motion sensor, which trips the computer program to run the visual and sound effects when the top starts spinning.
Student Arizonia Sheldon said her favorite part of the project was successfully spinning the top for the first time.
To integrate math into the project, students timed the tops to see how long it would spin. Hayes said the class had just finished studying time in math.
Students have also constructed a model airplane with moving parts and a rotating kicker.
Several Park View teachers, including Hayes, attended STEM research training as part of a year-long grant. Hayes said this was how she learned about the opportunities.
When the class did its first Lego Lab project, the teacher was unsure if it really qualified as a STEM project. Hayes has been able to further develop the ideas and integrate more of the education standards since then.
“Integrating the vocabulary and talking about it before ... makes it very real-life, so they are not just reading it in a textbook, they are seeing it in action how friction is slowing that top down, “ Hayes said.
This integration and hand-on experience is helping students remember the information better, Hayes said.
The Lego Lab was made possible through a grant from the Eaton Corporation.