Integrating Lego WeDo with Balance and Motion

I Love My Job!

I initially came into this job thinking that I would most likely spend the year teaching coding and robotics in my sessions without further integration into the curriculum or the classroom. Boy was I WRONG!

Working with educators who really embrace technology and keep an open mind when trying new things has really inspired me these past few months.

Second Grade Scientists

Bob Kowalec (@bobk) from the second grade team came to me one day and explained that their unit in science on Balance and Motion was coming up. They knew that I would be teaching a robotics unit on Lego WeDo Spinners, so they thought, why not combine the two? Using the Engineering Design Cycle, students studied elements of balance and motion, and used their knowledge of code to build, design and redesign spinning tops. This all comprised of a series of four lessons:

1. Introduction to Lego WeDo Spinners

Building spinners

During this lesson the students worked in partnerships. They openned up the instructions for how to build the spinners and tops and worked together to put it all together. The next stage was a 'discovery time', where students then openned up the Lego WeDo program and tried to figure out how to use the block code to do the following challenges:

  • Learn what the different blocks of code do

  • Find a way to make the spinner spin the top

  • Figure out how to make the spinner stop after you release the top

    • Extension: Figure out how to use the motion sensor to make the spinner stop

Most of the students figured out how to create a simple program to make it spin and stop by using the blocks that make the motor turn then stop, but did not figure out how to use the sensor in all of it. After some time exploring, I showed them a program that we would be using for the rest of the lessions. Together we worked out what each block in the program meant and how it came together to not just make the spinner spin, but stop at the exact moment of release and start a timer.

Once we discussed it together, the students went back to their computers to rebuild the program on their own computers and test it out. This way they could fully understand how it all worked and practice reading the timer as well. Some students explored further and discovered how to change the background of their timer, others found different ways to start the program such as pressing a key instead of clicking play.

2. Testing variables

In between the first and second sessions, the class teachers introduced the 'problem' as a part of the ASK stage in the Engineerig Design Cycle. Students were challenged to try to build a top that was both stable and spun for as long as possible. They also went through the IMAGINE stage as they thought about what might work.

Class teachers went through a series of lessons and experiements from the FOSS unit on Balance and motion and we continued to test those concepts when they came back to the lab for their second session with the Lego WeDo Spinners.

Using the "Topsy Turvy" activity from the Lego WeDo curriculum, students tested how placing different bricks on different parts of the top affected its ability to spin. Students were given this sheet to guide them through which variables to test such as adding "two bricks on opposite sides" or "four bricks near the middle".

At the end of this class some conclusions were discussed based on the data collected in each partnership and the data was further discussed in class with their class teacher. Using this data, students came to the third stage in the Engineering Design Process and made a PLAN for their first top design.

3. Building the First Top Design

Design 1

For the last two I.T. sessions, all the second grade teachers pooled their time slots so that students could come to the lab two lessons in a row and would not have to totally break apart their designs.

For this third session, students went through the CREATE stage as they built their first tops based on the knowledge they had gained through both science lessons in class as well as the Topsy Turvy lesson in the computer lab.

Together as a class groups took turns testing their top and everyone collected data together. We compared each others designs and tried to figure out what made some tops spin better than others.

Students then spend the end of this class discussing with their partner how they would redesign their top to improve it.

4. Testing the Improved Design

During the last session, students redesigned and rebuilt their tops and we went through the whole testing process again. In every class the results improved, especially in terms of stability of each top. I was so grateful to have been a part of this collaboration with the second grade team where we all worked together to implement transdisciplinary teaching at its best! Here is a video compiled by one of the second grade teachers of the four lessons conducted in the lab.